Jayhawks face challenges next season

An early preview for the University of Kansas men’s basketball season in 2013-14.

By Josh Kurelac

ku_bkc_ellis_mly_t960Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks will face the difficult task of winning a tenth straight Big 12 Regular Season Conference Championship next year.  The Jayhawks will likely have to replace all five starters from the 2012-13 team, assuming that Ben McLemore declares for the NBA Draft.  Kansas will be young and inexperienced.  But, next year’s team will not be short of talent and potential.

Notable returning players

Naadir Tharpe: Tharpe will likely be the starting point guard for the Jayhawks at the start of the next season.  He averaged about 20 minutes per game last year, and provided a nice boost off the bench.  He averaged 5.5 points and 3.1 assists per game.  With Tharpe’s shooting and passing ability, expect his production to increase next season.

Jamari Traylor: Traylor played in all 37 games last season, averaging just two points and two rebounds per game.  He has unbelievable athletic ability, which should earn him significant playing time next season.  He has a lot of room for improvement, but if Traylor can add some offensive post moves to compliment his high-energy style of play, then the Jayhawks may have another great low post player in the making.

Perry Ellis: Ellis started to show signs of improvement at the end of last season.  He averaged 5.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.  Jayhawk fans caught a glimpse of just how good he can be, when he scored 23 points and pulled down six rebounds in a win against Iowa State in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament.  Ellis is a versatile post player, who has a pretty good mid range jump shot and the ability to finish around the rim.  Last season, Ellis showed the most promise of all the freshmen on this KU roster.

Andrew White III: White only averaged two points and one rebound per game last year.  But, as we saw in the game against Belmont last season, when he scored 15 points in just 10 minutes of play, he has the ability to catch fire from the perimeter.  If White can improve his ball-handling and defensive abilities, expect him to play meaningful minutes for coach Self next season.

Rio Adams: Adams rarely played last season, averaging just 3.5 minutes per game.  But, it’s hard to believe that a player with his athletic and defensive ability will fail to develop into a solid player in his time at KU.

Landen Lucas: Lucas redshirted for the 2012-13 season.  He is a 6’10”, 240 pound forward from Portland, Oregon.  After sitting out for a year, and getting a chance to observe every game from the sideline, Lucas should be ready to step into a major role for the Jayhawks next season.  He has the ability to score in the low-post, and he has a nice mid-range shooting game, as well.

Incoming players

Wayne Selden: Selden is ranked twelfth in the ESPN Top 100 for the 2013 Men’s Basketball Recruiting Class.  He is a McDonald’s All American, and was invited to play in the Jordan Brand Classic game.  Selden is 6’5” and weighs 220 pounds.  He’s a small foward from Roxbury, Mass. that has drawn comparisons to Dwayne Wade and LeBron James.  Expect Selden to make an immediate impact for the Jayhawks next season.

Joel Embiid: Embiid is a seven foot center from Gainesville, Fla.  with suprisingly athletic ability for his height.  ESPN ranks Embiid as the second best center in the 2013 Men’s Basketball Recruiting Class.  He’ll need to add some weight and muscle before next season, but his height and length will allow him to make his presence felt.  Embiid is a raw talent.  He just started playing organized basketball in high school.  He’ll need some time to adjust to the speed and phsyicality of the college game, but I think Self has found another player with the ability to be a prolific shot-blocker at Kansas.

Brannen Greene: Greene is a forward from Forsyth, Georgia.  He is ranked forty-third in the ESPN Top 100.  Greene can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court, and has the ability to create his own shot with the dribble.  He’s a good student in the classroom, as well.  Greene recieved a scholarship offer from Harvard.

Conner Frankamp: Frankamp, a six-foot guard from Wichita, Kan., is ranked forty-seventh in ESPN’s Top 100.  His shooting ability makes up for his lack of size and strength.  He will need to build some muscle before the start of next season, but he has the potential to be a solid guard for several years at KU.

Frank Mason: Mason is a six-foot guard from Petersburg, Va.  He has the ability to make shots from the perimeter, and penetrate into the interior of a defense, despite his small stature.  He might not be a major contributor to the Jayhawks throughout his stay at KU, but he will be able to provide a nice lift for his teammates off the bench.

The Jayhawks will have a solid group of core players returning next year and a lot of new faces.  Winning 10 regular season conference championships is no easy task, but next season will pose many challenges that past Kansas teams haven’t had to deal with, making it difficult for the Jayhawks to repeat once again as Big 12 Champions.  This team has the potential to 20 win games.  The rest of the season’s accomplishments will be a mystery.