The chatter about next season began in Lawrence not long after Trey Burke led an improbable comeback against the Jayhawks in the Sweet Sixteen, and with good reason. Kansas loses all five starters this year. The four seniors — Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey, Kevin Young, and redshirt freshman Ben McLemore (who technically hasn’t declared for the NBA Draft yet, but there is a better chance of President Obama reading this article in the Oval Office than McLemore returning next season). He is projected to be a top three pick with many publications predicting that he will go #1 overall. Freshman guard Anrio Adams also announced last week that he had received a release from the coaching staff and was set to transfer, but he has since changed his stance and said he is staying at Kansas. It’s hard to guess where Adams will be playing next season, if anywhere. Either way, the Kansas roster turnover resembles that of the 2008-09 season, when most of the national championship team left and Self returned only two players with experience, junior Sherron Collins and sophomore Cole Aldrich. Collins blossomed into a star that season and Aldrich eventually left early for the NBA himself. Is there that kind of talent returning next season? No, but next year’s incoming class is better than that which arrived in 2009, which should help the transition somewhat.
Returning Players With Experience:
- Naadir Tharpe, sophomore point guard (19.4 MPG, 5.5 PPG, 3.1 APG, 34.3% FG): Naadir Tharpe is a shoot-first point guard who isn’t a great shooter. When he decides to play like a true point guard and looks to distribute the ball to open teammates, he’s not bad. And as the only point guard remaining with any real game experience, expect him to start from day one. But he needs to realize (or Self needs to be in his ear every day this summer) that at some point, he’s not a scorer. There was a three-game stretch in February where he went 5-of-22 from the floor. He was 2-of-15 against TCU, 2-of-11 against Iowa State and 4-of-17 in the NCAA Tournament. But that’s not all his fault. Self had no other options on the bench, and this Kansas team was sometimes timid. Ben McLemore should have taken 18 to 20 shots a game but also had a tendency to disappear. Elijah Johnson shied away from the ball in certain situations. Travis Releford wouldn’t hurt a mouse, and Jeff Withey was a defensive giant with limited offensive post moves. Tharpe is ever-confident, and you could sense that Self didn’t want to kill his aggressiveness even if it meant a few 2-of-11 shooting nights. Next season might be different, however. It might have to be different.