Observations From Early Morning in the Phog on Saturday

Posted by Kory Carpenter on October 20th, 2013

There is a reason Bill Self tries to get recruits to visit for the annual Late Night in the Phog each October. The event has led to a number of commitments over the years, most recently when Kelly Oubre, the #12 overall recruit in the class of 2014 according the Rivals.com, committed to the Jayhawks a few days after taking in Late Night festivities this year. But when the schedule didn’t match up with those of a pair of top recruits this year, Self decided to have a Late Night Part II. He opened the doors to Allen Fieldhouse Saturday morning for a scrimmage lasting about an hour, and an estimated 10,000 fans showed up. Here are a few observations from the informal (and raw) scrimmage:

Bill Self Teaching at Kansas' Open Practice Saturday Morning

Bill Self Teaching at Kansas’ Open Practice Saturday Morning

  • The fact that over 5,000 fans were turned away at the door before Late Night in the Phog earlier this month was surely one of the reasons for the open scrimmage, but more importantly were the visits from two of the best recruits in the class of 2014: Jahlil Okafor (C, #1 overall on Rivals) and Tyus Jones (PG, #5). Jones walked in with the team and Jones walked in 15 minutes later to a standing ovation. Everything points to the duo as a package deal to one lucky school next year, and both players have visited or plan to visit four of the same schools: Baylor, Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas. Best guess? Kansas or Duke.
  • The starting five looks to be set, with Naadir Tharpe, Wayne Selden, Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis and Tarik Black starting the first scrimmage for the blue team. The only real discussion seemed to be between Black, a senior transfer from Memphis, and Joel Embiid, a true freshman from Cameroon. It was no surprise that Black got the nod from Self this early in the season, especially after watching him play. He looked like a 21-year-old with three seasons of college ball under his belt and was strong around the rim, but…
  • Joel Embiid will be starting before the season ends. He has played only a few seasons of organized basketball in his life, but he has all the tools to be a great player for years to come: solid footwork, a soft touch, the ability to finish with either hand, and a legitimate 7-foot body. When things start to click, whether it happens in November or January, he will be one of the best big men in the country. There is a reason Rick Pitino said Embiid could be the No. 2 overall draft pick behind Andrew Wiggins in next summer’s NBA Draft. He is currently a mid-to-late lottery projection in most mock drafts.

  • Andrew Wiggins will be tough to stop on the perimeter. Whenever he decided to make a move towards the rim, he was there in a split second with a first step that went unchallenged among teammates. He also knocked down a few three-pointers throughout the scrimmages, a skill that would make him close to unguardable at this level. There were, however, moments where he seemed to disappear from the offense, as people have pointed out in the past. He scores so easily that it makes you wonder why he doesn’t do it every possession. Of course it isn’t that easy, but Wiggins does a good job of making it appear that way. But reading about his AAU days tells us that he tends to shine in big games, like when he burst onto the scene 15 months ago at the Nike Peach Jam. Before reclassifying into the class of 2013, Wiggins was the top recruit in the class of 2014. He went head-to-head with Julius Randle and“made him look ordinary,” according to Jeff Goodman. It wouldn’t be surprising to watch Wiggins finish with 10 points against a TCU or Texas Tech before putting up a triple-double against Duke, Florida or Oklahoma State.

  • Freshman guard Conner Frankamp will struggle to get open this season. Granted, he was guarded by Wayne Selden, who might end up being one of the best defenders in the Big 12, and when Frankamp is on the court this season he will be guarded by the other team’s worst defender. But it was obvious how much stronger and faster he will need to be at this level. He struggled to create separation with and without the ball, but he is still the best shooter on the team. Self will find ways to get him open, but don’t expect too much from him this season.
  • Expect freshman guard Brannen Greene or sophomore guard Andrew White to redshirt. There aren’t enough minutes to go around on the perimeter for both players to earn significant minutes this season, but either could have an impact on the team down the road.
  • Junior point guard Naadir Tharpe did what he needs to do this season, which is to distribute the ball. He doesn’t need to take 10 shots a game or spend too much time dribbling at the top of the key. There are enough offensive weapons on the floor that he won’t need to force bad shots, and if the freshmen get complacent for stretches of time, there is always….
  • Perry Ellis. The former McDonald’s All-American has flown under the radar most of his young college career but he was the most polished big man on the floor Saturday. Never flashy, Ellis knows where to be on the low block and will have 12 points before you blink. Don’t bet that Ellis leads the Jayhawks in scoring this year, but you shouldn’t be shocked if he does. He finished strong last season, averaging 9.4 PPG the final 11 games of the season.
  • Wayne Selden will be as good as advertised. He is quick, strong, and has a jumper that will keep defenses honest. He could also be the best defender on the team this season. Don’t expect him to be back next year, but do expect a lot of plays like this while Selden and Wiggins are in Kansas uniforms.
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