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Freshmen impress in Jayhawk victory

How the men’s basketball team is gearing up for the new season

By Nathan Fordyce

Tuesday night started an era that Kansas Jayhawk fans have been accustomed to see: reload not rebuild.

For years now, the Jayhawks have lost key pieces from the previous season, but every year they reload with even more talent. This year, the Jayhawks bring one of the youngest groups the squad has seen in awhile.

And it was the youth, a mix of five — Jamari Traylor, Andrew White III, Landen Lucas, Perry Ellis and Ben McLemore — who helped the  No. 7 Jayhawks to a victory in their opening exhibition against Emporia State, 88-54.

The freshmen group went a combined 17-of-25 for 48 of the Jayhawks 88 points. Ellis led the charge with a game-high 15 points on a perfect 5-of-5 night. But it wasn’t just the offensive game that was impressive from these first-year Jayhawks, it was the defense and hustle on every play that stood out even more.

“It was good to see those young kids play well. We saw how athletic Ben and Jamari are,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.  “There were some good things that happened tonight.”

The five freshmen combined for 31 of the 43 rebounds, Lucas had a team-high nine, and they also came up with six of the eight steals. When the effort and production is that good by a group that has never seen the floors of Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks have to be impressed.

McLemore said the team just wanted to “bring energy and effort and that’s what we did.”

One of the key notes from the exhibition started with the starting line-ups, where there was no Elijah Johnson. Johnson, a senior from Las Vegas, was expected to start but instead sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe had that role.

Johnson did come in for 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting and also added five assists. Seniors Jeff Withey and Travis Releford chipped in for 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists combined.

Emporia State’s coach Shaun Vandiver said he was impressed by how well the Jayhawks played, especially since it’s not just one guy who does everything.

“If you sit back and look at the way they’re just so unselfish with the ball, it’s not about the ‘me,’ it’s about the ‘we’ with the  Jayhawks,” Vindiver said. “I think they’re very dangerous and very deserving of their ranking.”