Big 12 Summer Update: Kansas JayhawksPosted by dnspewak on July 12th, 2012
In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writers Danny Spewak (@dspewak) and Jeremy Pfingsten (@jeremylp21) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list– Danny’s update on Kansas.
2011-12 Record: 32-7, 16-2 (1st place)
Fresh off a Final Four appearance and an eighth-straight season with a shared or outright Big 12 title, life is good for Bill Self. In June, he watched the Sacramento Kings draft his star forward Thomas Robinson with the fourth overall pick, and he saw Tyshawn Taylor selected in the second round. It was a banner night for his program. Plus, to help reload after the loss of those two stars and others, he made a few late additions to his 2012 freshman class by signing Milton Doyle and Anrio Adams. So all is great in Lawrence, Kansas — for the most part. There is a small developing scandal right now after prosecutors claimed an alleged drug deal gave pot to some members of the 2010-11 squad. Nobody’s talking yet, but this is a story that could drag out for awhile and may not have any immediate (or significant) effects. Still, it’s probably not the kind of thing Self envisioned himself talking about in the summer months after nearly winning a National Championship.
Summer Orientation: Self’s freshman class grew in numbers this summer after the signing of Doyle, a 6’4″ combo guard out of Chicago, and Adams, a 6’3″ guard from Seattle, Washington. They’re both solid additions to this six-man class, but everybody’s waiting to see how five-star stud Perry Ellis fares as a freshman. Ellis arrived in Lawrence in early June, and he’s already acclimating himself on campus by attending children’s camps and rooming with walk-on Evan Manning (Danny’s son, of course). Power forward Zach Peters is also getting used to life as a Jayhawk. He and Elijah Johnson attended a camp at nearby Washburn, and he was quoted as saying he’s already indoctrinated into the culture of Kansas basketball. The other guy in this class to keep an eye on is Andrew White, a big-time wing from Virginia. He accompanied teammates, too, at a camp for kids. If you haven’t noticed, camps are a theme for KU this summer. The fullest summer scouting report available belongs to another player in this freshman class– big man Landen Lucas. According to Jeff Withey, Lucas has already impressed him in workouts with his ability to run the floor and rebound. Also, stuck in that gray area between “newcomer” and “returnee” are two players: Jamari Traylor and Ben McLemore, who both sat out last year because of eligibility issues. McLemore has already made an impression on Bill Self this summer, whereas one writer says it’s “conceivable Traylor could have the biggest impact” of any KU newcomer. As he points out, though, closed practices haven’t allowed us to get a great glimpse just yet.
Looking Good: As a junior, Jeff Withey transformed from “that random tall guy who played at Arizona” into Jeff Freakin’ Withey, the best defender in the league and a dominant shot-blocker. With one year of college eligibility remaining, Withey now has a chance to grow into a star. The Lebron James Skills Academy even invited him this summer after a strong showing at the Amare’ Stoudamire camp, a clear sign that his potential has not gone unnoticed. Point guard Naadir Tharpe may see an increased role this year, too, with Tyshawn Taylor no longer around. He spoke to HoopDreamsMag.com about his expectations for his sophomore year and his willingness to get in the gym and improve before fall practice starts. We’ll learn more about this team, including the newcomers, when it visits Switzerland and France during a Europe exhibition tour later this summer. It’s always difficult to judge these sorts of overseas tours, but it will provide Self’s team an opportunity for extra practices in the summer. With so many freshmen coming in, that’s always a terrific thing.
Roadblocks: No matter your moral stance on marijuana, the alleged pot dealer scandal involving the 2010-11 Kansas Jayhawks is not good news for anybody. Authorities have charged Samuel Villeareal III with conspiring to distribute marijuana in two separate counties, and they say he gave pot to “a number of” Kansas players during that season. There is even a charge that he sat behind the Kansas bench at the Sprint Center during the Big 12 Tournament. The athletic director won’t comment, nor will Self. Most of the players wouldn’t talk to the Kansas City Star, either, except Withey did say he’d never hard of Villeareal: “I’ve never heard that name in my life,” he told the paper. The fallout from this may not materialize until the legal process sorts itself out, and it may come out that no players ever had any interaction with Villeareal, but until this legal mess concludes, it will hang over the program. It’s certainly not the kind of thing Self ever wanted to be associated with, that’s for sure.
State of the Program: Other than the bad publicity with the Villeareal story, Self’s program could not possibly be flying any higher right now. After reaching the title game last year, Kansas is, without a doubt, one of college basketball’s most consistent winners. When it loses players like Robinson and Taylor to the NBA, it recruits new players like Perry Ellis. And when Ellis leaves for the NBA someday, Self will find another replacement for him. The cycle continues, year after year, and no matter how many players Self loses, he finds another way to win. Last year, he said he was the most concerned about the 2011-12 team in the preseason than any team before it during his Kansas tenure. And look what happened — a team lacking depth and McDonald’s All-Americans nearly cut down the nets in New Orleans. That’s the definition of a blue-blood program.