We all know the story. Kansas men’s basketball started something back in the 2004-2005 season in Bill Self’s second year. It was Bill Self’s first Big 12 title and would go on to mark the first of the current 12 straight. Not to mention, Kansas won the Big 12 title in the 2001-2002 season as well as the next year in Roy Williams’ final two seasons in Lawrence, meaning that Kansas was the 2003-2004 squad away from 15 straight. It’s an amazing run, and it’s been filled with amazing players. Here’s the top 12 individual seasons for KU players during the 12 straight.
Thomas Robinson (2011-2012) – All-Big 12 & AP All-America First Team, Big 12 Player of the Year
Robinson carried one of Kansas’ thinnest teams all the way to a National Title appearance, and if not for Anthony Davis, may have been National Player of the Year and a National Champion. His statistics speak for themselves, especially his 14.9 rebounds per 40 minutes – and yes, I know per 40 stats can be untrustworthy, but when comparing all of these great players who had similar minutes played, it is a useful tool. Also keep in mind that Robinson even upped his scoring in the team’s 20 games against Big 12 opponents to 18.1 points per game with a .533 field goal percentage, contributing heavily to the Big 12 streak. Robinson has the added benefit of going down in Kansas folk lore too, as he recorded 28 points, 12 rebounds and a game-saving block in the team’s last meeting (at least for now and probably awhile) against Missouri.
Marcus Morris (2010-2011) – All-Big 12 First Team, AP All-America Second Team, Big 12 Player of the Year
One could make the argument that Morris deserves the top of this list since he was a better scorer, did it more efficiently than Robinson and was a bigger threat from everywhere on the court. However, Robinson had better stats in every other category.
Morris was still phenomenal though and is just one of three Jayhawks during the streak to win Big 12 Player of the Year. Morris was also part of a loaded frontcourt that guided Kansas to the Elite Eight but was arguably the best team in the country still after going 35-3. He brought a high-level of toughness to the court and contributed to the 2010-2011 Big 12 title in a big way, averaging more points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks per game while shooting at a higher rate in Big 12 play than the rest of the year.
Wayne Simien (2004-2005) – All-Big 12 & AP All-America First Team, Big 12 Player of the Year
Simien wasn’t quite as good as Morris and Robinson (the other two Big 12 Players of the Year during the streak) in per 40 stats and missed four games. He also didn’t have tournament success to be remembered by in 2005 and did not have as good of a regular season team, contributing to more minutes and stats than Robinson and Morris. However, Simien still has arguably the best base stats for Kansas during the streak. To this day, no one in the Bill Self era has surpassed Simien’s points per game output or even touched the 20 point per game plateau. Simien should also be credited because he was the best player on the team that started the streak for Kansas.
Mario Chalmers (2007-2008) – All-Big 12 Second Team, All-Big 12 Defensive Team, Final Four Most Outstanding Player
Per 40: 17.0 PPG, 5.8 APG (2.6 TO), 4.1 RPG, 3.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG
I would be lying if I didn’t bump up Chalmers for winning a National Championship and making arguably the biggest shot in Kansas basketball history. His stats were good though too, maybe not good enough to be four without his other notable instances, but his stats would have been even better if not for such a deep roster that spread the wealth on offense. The deep guard play that included Sherron Collins, Russell Robinson and Rodrick Stewart also bit into Chalmers minutes just a tad. Chalmers didn’t score as much as the other two point guards on this list but he had the most assists per 40 minutes and the least turnovers. Additionally, Chalmers was one of the best perimeter defenders during the streak (including winning the 2006-2007 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Award) and gathered a massive 2.5 steals per game in 30 minutes of play. His efficiency shooting the ball was also off the charts, which is a big reason he’s ahead of…
Sherron Collins (2008-2009) – All-Big 12 First Team, AP All-America Third Team
Per 40: 21.5 PPG, 5.7 APG (3.8 TO), 3.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Collins was actually named AP All-America Second Team in 2009-2010 and was part of a better team – although they didn’t go as far in the Tournament – that year. This year’s version got on the list instead though because the stats – including shooting percentages – were better and he took a worse team further in the NCAA Tournament. Not to mention that the reason he was AP All-America Third Team in 2008-2009 was because of some notable point guards in front of him: Stephen Curry and Ty Lawson.
Ben McLemore (2012-2013) – All-Big 12 First Team, AP All-America Second Team
Per 40: 19.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 2.6 TO
Losing Thomas Robinson to the NBA before the 2012-13 season could have signaled the end of the streak. It took a share for the title with Kansas State to get it for the Jayhawks, so the margin of error was slim. The streak is probably over without McLemore’s year, especially if you think of the three-point shot he banked in against Iowa State to force overtime and eventually win the game.
McLemore was one of the most athletic players in program history and combined it with a deadly shooting touch. Against Big 12 foes, including the conference tournament, McLemore shot it at a 52.2% clip with a 45.6% rate from three. He was part of a Sweet 16 squad and still put up big totals even in a team filled with other options.
Tyshawn Taylor (2011-2012) – All-Big 12 First Team, AP All-America Third Team
Per 40: 19.9 PPG, 5.7 APG, 2.8 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 4.2 TO
Taylor led the charge along with Thomas Robinson for Kansas all the way to the National Championship game. He was able to score while still balancing it out with his assists and shooting the ball at a high percentage. Not to mention that Taylor upped his scoring to 18.6 points per game in the team’s matchups against Big 12 opponents – and did it by shooting 51.3% from the field and 40.6% from three.
Andrew Wiggins (2013-2014) – All-Big 12 First Team, AP All-America Second Team
Per 40: 20.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 2.8 TO
Wiggins guided KU in a tough Big 12 to platoon the streak to double digits. He was the top scoring threat on a Kansas team that had to replenish its entire starting five from the previous year, and was vital in continuing the streak.
What kept Wiggins behind McLemore and Taylor was shooting. McLemore was more efficient and a bigger threat from distance, and also went further in the tournament. Taylor had better shooting stats and also went to a National Championship game. Still, Wiggins had a phenomenal year, especially considering he was a teenager.
Markieff Morris (2010-2011) – All-Big 12 Second Team
Markieff Morris got slighted because he had to share time with his brother Marcus and Thomas Robinson, leading to just 24.4 minutes per game. But what he did in those 24 minutes should not be forgotten, as he averaged just 0.1 points and 0.2 rebounds less per game than Jeff Withey had in 6.5 more minutes per game in 2012-2013. Markieff Morris also averaged more assists and the same amount of steals while shooting a better field goal percentage and knocking down threes at a high rate. If you compare the per 40 minute stats of the two, it’s really not close with the exception of blocks per game.
Rush had his most efficient year as a freshman the year before, but the team was not as developed and Rush was able be more of the go-to on offense. The 2006-2007 team was just as deep as the 2007-2008 squad because it also had Julian Wright. For Rush this was also his highest point per game output.
Although the year before was more efficient, Rush also had five more games in 2006-2007, mostly because of the team’s Elite Eight run, so he had to do it longer against better competition. The 2006-2007 year also saw Rush shoot at a higher percentage from the field and three than in the 2007-2008 National Championship year. Don’t forget about Rush’s defense either, as he is arguably the best on-ball defender Kansas has had during the streak.
Jeff Withey (2012-2013) – All-Big 12 First Team, AP All-America Third Team, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year
Withey was able to effect the game as one of the best shot-blockers the college game has ever seen. His defense was phenomenal, and was a cornerstone for the 2012-2013 team that earned a one seed and advanced to the Sweet 16.
One could make the argument that Withey should be higher based on his AP All-America selection. However the center position is a thinner spot than the others, so it’s easier to get on there. That’s not to take away from what Withey did though, as he had an underrated post game, was a strong rebounder and was the heart of KU’s defense for two years.
Perry Ellis (2015-2016) – All-Big 12 First Team, TBD
Maybe Ellis should be higher, maybe he should be below one of the guys on the Honorable Mention list. It’s kind of hard to evaluate how good the total of something was until it’s over and there’s perspective, so as for now, Ellis will sit at the 12th spot with a chance to even move up his legacy as the year rounds out. But what Ellis has done has been an amazing feat. He has a myriad of post moves and ways to score and is a legitimate threat from behind the arc. Ellis has amazing efficiency and will likely be an All-Big 12 First Team selection. If not for Buddy Hield’s amazing year, Ellis might be the conference’s player of the year too.
Honorable Mention: Darrell Arthur, Julian Wright, Cole Aldrich, Joel Embiid
All of these players had great years but just couldn’t make the cut. Darrell Arthur was hitting huge shots before Mario’s Miracle and was a good post defender. Julian Wright was a matchup nightmare and Cole Aldrich put up crazy efficient and defensive stats for two straight seasons. Even Joel Embiid put up mind-numbing stats if you look at the Per 40, but unfortunately got injured late in the year.
If anything, this list shows how many good players have contributed to the 12 straight for Kansas. There are countless other players not even mentioned here who contributed and were good players, which is really an attribution to the program and this insane streak of conference titles for Kansas.