Is The Roster Apocalypse Upon Us?

  • Had enough of the UK game? Did you think that was the end of the world? Well, not really. The Recruiting Apocalypse may be upon us. These sort of things come a bit without warning.

    But the Roster Apocalypse, while not likely, and not worth betting on, is clearly a risk. The possible KU roster apocalypse is squarely rooted in the OAD era, and the OAD path that coach Self has chosen. It is fraught with risk.

    I first start with recent history that has little to do with OAD issues – our 2011-12 roster. But it is similar. Players turning pro, and recruiting misses. Odd, but the resulting carnage was a Final Four team. It was a near roster apocalypse. The only thing that saved us was health. Following the 2011 loss to VCU, we lost Selby and the Morris twins. Gone from the roster, as well, were Reed and Morningstar. But the key losses were Selby and the Morris twins. The players that left early. Self stated that the Morris twins turning pro surprised him. Maybe. But what was clear was that we had no big men to fill their spots. We has no recruiting haul waiting to fill the void. Then, as we headed into 2011-12, McLemore was deemed ineligible as was Traylor. Braeden Anderson did not pan out. Our 2011-12 roster was literally saved by Kevin Young – starting 5 of TT, EJ, Releford, TRob, and Withey. Bench KY and walk-on Teahan. Next, Justin Wesley. That is as near to a roster apocalypse as we’ve had.

    Let’s move now to 2014. We stand on the verge of the apocalypse once more. Again, not likely. But possible. Here are the Seven Signs Of The Roster Apocalypse. We have seen the first two signs:

    1. As we stand, we have no commits or LOIs in hand. None. No talent staged to replenish the roster. Zero. First Sign of the Apocalypse: No November Signings.

    2. In the spring, Andrew White left. Within days, we added Svi Mykialiuk. At the time, I expressed concerns that his roster presence could cause another casualty. I focused on Brannen Greene. But now we see that at least in part, Svi helped nudge Conner Frankamp. Regardless, Frankamp is gone. Second Sign of the Apocalypse: Conner Frankamp Transfers.

    3. Related to Svi’s signing is a speculative issue with Svi himself. My biggest concern was that as a foreign player, the possibility of being homesick, or something related to the distance from his home, could pull him back – particularly if he didn’t play much. I also mentioned that if he did well, the pull of getting paid in Europe or elsewhere could lead him to leave after one season. Third Sign of the Apocalypse: Svi Goes Back to Europe After 2014-15.

    4. Is Svi the devil? Svi is again the trigger for the next sign. Because Svi is such a stud, Self plays him. Brannen Greene again sits. He’s stuck behind behind Svi, Selden, Oubre, et. al., once again. Concerned that he might never get playing time, he follows Andrew White’s lead and transfers. Even though Svi has already announced that he’s gone, Greene doesn’t trust Self. He’s trying to bag Jaylen Brown. He Likes playing small with Mason and Graham. He’s not sure if Oubre is returning. He’s wasted two years and he’s done. Fourth Sign of the Apocalypse: Brannen Greene Transfers.

    5. Self has gone “all in” on the top ranked guys who are all waiting to sign until May. But commitments began to trickle in during April. None have chosen Kansas. Oubre had a so-so season, and that affects some of the perimeter guys who question Self’s handling of Oubre. Alexander had a great season, but KU returns 4 post guys, all upperclassmen. Meanwhile, six UK guys turn pro, leaving multiple roster spots on a team that just won the national title with a platoon system. UK grabs three more guys in the late period, all guys who were considering Kansas. Nothing is in the bag. Is it possible that none of the top guys choose Kansas? It is possible. In fact, many recruiting experts don’t see us as the leader with any of our final prospects. So it’s possible. Fifth Sign of the Apocalypse: We Miss On The Top Guys.

    6. When we signed Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander, we assumed they were OADs. We were hopeful that they weren’t, but all mock drafts rave about their talent. Oubre is the most likely to stay as his playing time an role have been ever changing. But in the spring, both are still projected lottery guys. They can’t turn down the money. Sixth Sign of the Apocalypse: Oubre and Alexander Turn Pro.

    7. We have lost Frankamp, Svi, Greene, Oubre, and Alexander. Compete roster carnage. We have no big recruits in the bank. Our roster is now Mason, Graham, Selden, Ellis, Lucas, Traylor, and Mickelson. It could be worse, right? Well, it just got worse. Selden, though not a sure first round pick, he’s highly likely to go there and decides to go pro. He’s projected in the 20s and thinks a guaranteed first round contract is worth it. Seventh Sign of the Apocalypse: Wayne Selden Turns Pro.

    The seven signs converge, and the Jayhawks’ roster for 2015-16 – a season many projected as a national championship season – just broke horribly wrong. The Apocalypse has occurred. Mason, Graham, Ellis, Lucas, Traylor and Mickelson. That’s it.

    Likely? No. Something to really worry about? Probably not. Possible? Maybe.

    Fast-forward to 2015-16. KU rebuilds after the apocalypse. Self brings in a late Juco transfer to play the three spot, and then snags an unsigned, unranked perimeter guy. We go with 8 scholarship players. Somehow, someway, we win the conference. Then, in March, the Jayhawks make an unlikely run to the final four, losing in the semis to, who else – Kentucky.

    Self wins national coach of the year, and simply says that this version of the Jayhawks achieved so much, with so little, because “they ran the system.”

    Somewhere, deep in the bowels of the site, a random, anonymous poster proclaims, “Self is God.” No one argues.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    Your best piece of writing yet.

    Rock Chalk.

    And I want to broaden this out just a hair.

    KU has squandered major resources on hiring a football oriented AD, paying huge salaries and buy outs to two straight football coaches, and they have spent years of scarce time and financial resources focused on the football stadium since the 08 Basketball ring team, while Self and KU basketball are trying to recruit against UK which has during the same period massively spent on and improved every aspect of its housing, its arena, and its marketing techniques.

    Thus as the recurring risk of recruiting apocalypse keeps rising, KU and KUAD have in their FINITE wisdom thought that adding a practice facility and some locker rooms and some freshening of poorly designed, hopelessly uncompetitive Jayhawker Towers was something that could wait.

    It is very likely going to turn out that signing with adidas for the fat contract, plus winning ten straight conference titles lulled KU leadership into thinking that it did not need to exceed Kentucky’s investments; that it did not need to compete with Kentucky, in order to continue the roll that KU has been on for 25 years; that the gravy train took the want-to out of them and seduced them into thinking football was how to really get fat.

    Every month that goes by that KU does not work out a shoe deal that guaranties 12 Mickey Ds flow rate into Lawrence, and that a spade is not breaking ground on KU basketball housing designed explicitly to exceed Kentucky’s is another month closer to roster apocalypse in the short term that is merely a precursor to long term mediocrity in KU basketball. It has been infuriating to watch and increasingly scary to contemplate.

    (Note: With Scholies at 12, 12 Mickey D’s on a team is where this is going to settle out as what is required to be an elite team. 12 Mickey D’s every year to play for the ring. 2-4 elite programs will follow UK’s lead, and the NCAA will have to establish some kind of rules that bias 2-4 elite programs getting these 12 Mickey D rosters. To much money is riding on it not to use regulation to ensure 4 teams with 12 Mickey Ds each season.)

  • Fun to read but I think almost everyone is back next year which means we don’t really have room for many recruits. Obviously it is possible that Oubre, Alexander and Selden flirt with the draft but at this point (incredibly early) I don’t see it happening. The draft boards at this point are a joke.

    Svi is here to stay.

    Greene is here to stay. Not sure why I think that but I do. Even though his playing time sucks. Perhaps it is just because I REALLY want him to stay. I don’t care if he can’t play defense or shoot. A 6’8 shooter should have room on any team. Remember Heslip? He can’t play defense or pass and killed us yearly and is now having a great run in the D league. I wish Greene could stay on just to bomb 3’s if he never turns into anything else.

  • @HighEliteMajor Ditto what Jaybate said about this being a very good post. Very thought provoking too, and not in a good way. All of it is scary, and could potentially come to fruition. Selden leaving? I think he might if he were to play his way into the top 10 this season. Oubre? Maybe he goes too if he turns it on. Rush would have gone early. He even said as much. I see Oubre being a lesser talent thus far than Rush was. But, its possible he declares if he, like Selden, plays his way to a good draft spot. This kid actually needs the money to support his fam. Kind of like Ben did. Ben didnt want to go but he did so he could help his fam. Now he’s a starter on the Kings roster, who arent that bad this year so far.
    The thing with the Bigs recruiting scares me. Some part of me wonders if it is somehow quantifiable how much we lost in recruiting edge when Manning left. I think it could be substantial. Of Course coach Self is known for prepping future NBA bigs. But, the majority of that work came with Manning on staff. Are we losing our Big Man U label?

    I dont know fellas, all this stuff is scary to contemplate. I try not to…

    What ever. Regardless of what happens, I love KU and I love college basketball. Thats not going to change, like, ever.

  • @Lulufulu I think the great thing is if Selden and Oubre play to their capability and are actually looking like lottery picks we are in great shape. If they leave and play to the level of B Rush and B Mac then fine because we will probably be in the Final 4 this year. I won’t hold my breath for this to happen. Not being negative but I just don’t see it. Rush and B Mac were pretty amazing out of the gate.

  • If, and I say if the so called “roster apocalypse” would happen next spring, would it be time to pull a Fred Hoiberg and find guys that are transferring and bring them in? Get two or three years out of them, use Self’s motivation to make them better and perhaps catastrophe averted.

    I’m not saying I want to see a bunch of run offs from other programs, but get guys who are looking to play and prove themselves (Jeff Withey), not clean up their act. No I don’t want those guys.

    I have been worried in the past about Self’s recruiting, and yet somehow he always surprises me with some really good pick ups along the way. He has never been left empty handed with his recruiting classes, maybe it won’t be top 10 talent, but I see a lot of guys on the boards say that he needs to go get 10-30 range guys and build the program around them.

    Is it Self’s recruiting style with the OAD’s or is it money muscle, saying he needs to keep getting big names? Remember Blue Chips? He didn’t want to have all those big name players on his team, but the money did.

  • Very interesting thread here.

    @HighEliteMajor - You have definitely painted the worse case scenario. I think we all (and you) find it unlikely to come to this.

    KENTUCKY WINS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS! We all are feeling this as likely. If it does happen, the ramifications will flow all the way to Lawrence. If Kentucky wins it is likely that most of their 9 AAs turn pro. That is a big bunch of talent, and it helps keep Kansas players in Kansas another year. I wouldn’t expect any of the Kansas guys to declare too soon right after the season. They will wait it out and see how many guys enter first. Surely Self can convince them to have patience.

    KANSAS REACHES THE ELITE 8! I can see this team reaching the Sweet 16 or Elite 8. Obviously, we could win it all or we could go out in the first round. But I’m projecting here… Reaching that spot would make it a wash on whether these guys go or stay. It’s high enough to think they may do better staying one more year, And it isn’t too high to think that another year would be a demotion.

    Svi ain’t going anywhere… unless?! Svi has definite incentive to stay in the USA, build his abilities and cred, and try to go to the real next level… the NBA. He definitely has the potential to make it. It seems unlikely he would want to return to his home country, which seems to be on the edge of war, unless he needed to for personal reasons, like take care of an ailing family member. That risk is there for all players. Svi is no dummy. He knows that every day spent at Kansas is a resume building day. I can’t see him leaving until 3 or 4 years.

    I am as nervous as everyone else. It wasn’t a good sign not signing someone in the early period. We have scholie openings even now, so there was no threat that we wouldn’t have been able to meet the commitment.

    I don’t see us winning any heads-up battles with Kentucky. Not after Tuesday. So we can scratch some of that talent pool further.

    Self needs to retool.

    His position in the recruiting world is one big contradiction.

    He’s known as a hi-lo guy and here we are without adequate bigs! Doesn’t that say plenty! Maybe the loss of Manning has something to do with this, or maybe the hi-lo just doesn’t help in recruiting bigs. Most of the bigs today don’t want to go to a school where they will be forced to spend it all in the low post.

    The game of basketball has changed. Look at the NBA… the game isn’t focused on interior presence. The game is focused on treysville. Pro teams want to recruit bigs that can shoot the trey. This not only helps them make more treys, it helps pull out opposing teams’ bigs to guard the trey line. This is probably the biggest reason why Self can’t sell the hi-lo to bigs anymore!

    A big strike against us recruiting Myles Turner was the fact that we didn’t have an offensive structure that could help Myles get to the next level. Myles would have been willing to leave Texas. Myles is not a big that should be restricted to the low post. His goal was to be the next Kevin Durant.

    The hi-lo does not help us recruit guards either. Guards like a dribble drive… motion offense… something to help them develop more than “catch and shoot.”

    I think we need to face facts, and the hi-lo offense is at the heart of our recruiting woes. That… and Kentucky!

    BTW: where in the heck is the BOUNCE we were supposed to receive for sending Wigs and Embiid #1 and #3 in the draft?

  • @drgnslayr AWIII and Frankamp jumping ship probably makes recruit think that even guards aren’t allowed to shoot the trey…

    I miss BenMac.

  • I guess I don’t really see the point of thinking this way. Obviously this is a worst case scenario and that can help in preparing for the future but honestly what is Self supposed to do. I’ve seen you advocate in the past that self go for the non AA 30-100 range recruit which is great. But just like with the top recruits, everyone else is going after those too, perhaps even more so since UK, Duke, UNC, Zone, and KU take all the top dogs. Even if KU jumps off the “merry-go-round” and attempts to get those “mid-range” recruits, it just seems like there aren’t enough to fully sustain a program. Especially when mid-range guys like McLemore alwyas have the potential to turn into one and dones (even if he was 2 and done).

    It seems to me that Self is doing a pretty good job recruiting these days even if it is too good with the OADs. If he doesn’t go after top talent than he isn’t really competing, especially after UK’s 2012 run. And while I don’t think self will ever have UK’s 9 AA, he can and does have the opportunity for a good mix of high level talent plus experienced players.

    So instead of focusing on the possible trouble that could come of overachieving individuals on an underachieving team, lets talk about the potential for this and next season to be approaching that perfect blend of OAD and 4 year players.

    Also, lets not jump to conclusions about KU losing its big man U rep. We still signed the No. 4 overall prospect at power forward this year. And most were thinking we would still have Joel so that probably kept the footers away.

  • I like that signing the #4 and #6 players last season is a recruiting lull…

    @jaybate-1.0 The Jayhawk towers renovations don’t affect the B-Ball team. Did you see the new luxury apartments that KU is building?

  • @HighEliteMajor

    You described a "perfect storm"scenario. Is it possible? YES; is it likely? NO. Good exercise though.

    Don’t discount Coach Self’s ability; he will uncover some surprises soon.

  • @dylans

    Are they really building basketball housing finally?

    Thank god almighty, free at last!!!

  • @HighEliteMajor Well, certainly all of these things could happen, but the perfect storm would be if all of them happened. The one that would really hurt would be if Svi decides to make $$$ overseas. Surely we can get at least one of the guys we are in on…especially if any of our guys declare.

  • @drgnslayr You mention the hi-low’s possible limitations in attracting bigs, but didnt Cliff choose KU/Self for our playstyle? And what about the Twins with their incredible faceup jumper & all around game? They went lotto. That helps w/top recruits. Embiid mentioned Self/KU’s style as a factor, and he goes #3 overall. Thomas Robinson watched enough of the Twins to be able to be emulate them to become a lotto pick.

    Cole, Darnell, Shady also hit FT-range jumpers.

    Either all these guys got alot of cojones for throwing up mid- & long-range jumpers…or, maybe Self does have something to do with it? YES, the face-up game has always been part of Self’s bigman play. Which is why I found it utterly odd & pecculiar, & frankly just never bought the stated reason for Padget transferring out because he “wanted to play a faceup game”. 10yrs later, I only have more proof that Self’s bigs can be versatile. Padgett was wrong.

    And Ellis needs to imitate Marcus Morris’s game at KU, especially since Ellis himsrlf said he would…

  • @ralster

    “You mention the hi-low’s possible limitations in attracting bigs, but didnt Cliff choose KU/Self for our playstyle?”

    Yes… I just think there are less Cliffs out there and more Myles. And look at pro ball. Hi-lo structured offenses are a thing of the past. HS recruits follow the NBA. The NBA is their dream. They see what is happening. The game has transformed away from grinding post games. It’s all about the 3s.

    To be honest, most teams would like to stop recruiting power bigs that can’t handle the ball and shoot from the perimeter. That’s the trend in the NBA.

    Think about it. Would you rather recruit a 6’8" to 6’11" big who can handle the ball, even bring it up court, and can run like a gazelle and shoot the lights out from 3? Or would you rather recruit a guy that weighs 25lbs more, can’t dribble, can’t handle the ball up the court, can’t shoot the perimeter shot… probably can’t guard his opponent who is netting 3s…

    Don’t get me wrong. I love Cliff. I love the power game. I love the inside schmack. But I"m a dried up oldie who is in love with a game that doesn’t exist the way it used to. Big players didn’t shoot outside the lane back in my days. It is a different game. The 3 has changed basketball forever, and it isn’t coming back to the old post game.

    Maybe that can change. I’d like to see it go back. I got a smile on my face when a banged-up Embiid was picked 3rd. But I have my doubts.

    The problem with the hi-lo is the spacing. It’s a game where you have to work the low post. You may shoot a high %, but your opposition only has to shoot 2/3rds of your percentage for a tie. The math isn’t there. It’s not the end of the 2-pt shot, it’s just the game pushing away from a low post offense.

    And fans love it. Fans want to see the dribble drive… motion offense… they want to see guys shake and bake. There are few of us left that can really appreciate a guy who can score with his back to the basket.

    One of the biggest reasons why I’m a Bill Self guy is his focus on the hi-lo. But I don’t think the hi-lo favors KU any longer. We are now perceived as a top school by top recruits, but we don’t land enough of the right players. We should be turning down talent. KU has respect. But many players want to come but don’t because we can’t help their game the right way. That’s why we lost Myles Turner. Myles Christmas list was to come to Kansas and run an offense where he could pop out and be the next Kevin Durant. Myles has a high respect for Bill Self, and he loved the idea of building his body with Hudy. But he didn’t come. I’m not buying the junk that he wanted to stay home. He didn’t want to be stuck in the low post and go to the NBA without developing more outside game and to be known for an outside game. That’s a fact that he has shared publicly for a long long time.

    I don’t see us landing Thon Maker. He’s a guy who can almost play pg. He won’t want to come and hang out on offense in a box. Not gonna happen.

    And how can we land the top shelf guards? What elite guard would want to play this hi-lo? Our hi-lo is about working out of the post, proper spacing, don’t let the ball stick, and work it until someone has an open shot. It’s called “catch and shoot.” Catch and shoot is a very basic talent of any guard trying to make it in the league. They also need to know how to handle the ball, alpha dog drive and finish or feed, and most, be a creator. Our offense isn’t about creating… it is about team sharing… sharing the ball at high speeds. Yes. our offense makes perfect sense to everyone except the recruit. We constantly get high efficiency out of the talent level we recruit. But it doesn’t help us land top recruits. That’s the rub. Then we had Mr. Wigs… but we didn’t have an offense where he could showcase or develop from. I still don’t know what our offense was last year. It wasn’t hi-lo or dribble-drive. It was a mess, then we’d feed Wigs and everyone would shut down and he would struggle with a shot.

    We are gearing up for top recruits. We are building fancy suites. We are mimicking Kentucky. The last step would be to partially mimic their offense. We have to be able to offer the same diversity in development that these guys will need at the next level.

    Compare D.Rose with Chalmers. I love Mario. We all do. But he doesn’t have the skill set Rose has. Rose has been hampered with injuries. But when he wasn’t he was blistering the league. He is a creator. Mario is a team passing guy. He’s not a creator. Mario fit in on a team with creators, like DWade and LeBron. Most teams need a creator.

  • @drgnslayr I believe Myles always wanted to stay home! Why else would he want to go there? Saw him play last pm against Iowa, he wouldn’t be helping us. I know, neither are our freshmen.

  • @drgnslayr Very well put. I definitely agree about not getting left behind in playstyle. I do think KY’s success has rubbed off on Self, coupled with having some PGs who could penetrate & dish or score (Sherron, Tyshawn, RussRob better at it than EJ or Tharpe). Nobody knows how good a healthy, experienced Selby could have been in Yr2…Self does want a PG who can drive to put pressure on an opponent. I still recall RussRob’s career high in a road game in TX somewhere when he went for 25pts, mostly from the FT line w/his dribble penetrations. Same thing for Tyshawn’s senior season. Problem is our PGs have problems sticking in the NBA. Which comes back around to Self’s combo guard thing. DRose is a combo guard, meaning he can score. But as the smallest guy out there…so he gets pencilled in to thd PG role. What else do you call a ‘scorer’? We just need more TT and EJsized guys…

  • Now that I think about it… Am I wrong on this… Isn’t Embiid the only guy we have in the NBA focused on back to the basket ball?

    I’ve seen TRob a couple of times and I couldn’t really tell what his offense was in the league.

    The twins both like to go all over the court and score, even Kieff.

    Seems like NBA teams want 5 guards out there, and the taller guys they call “post players.”

    I don’t know why the hi-lo can’t be adapted to a more hybrid offense. Why can’t we go into the low post immediately on possessions if our post player is open, and then he feed cutters, or perimeter guys who are there for more than catch & shoot and they drive on the feed out? It seems like we could run a lot more offense out of that set than we do.

    And we pull out one post player to possibly hit midrange or even threes. Give everyone a chance to do more. It seems like we kind of do that in exhibition games. Perry shooting 3s.

    I think we could run some hi-lo and turn it to a hybrid between hi-lo and dribble-drive. The ball can go into the post and come out and our perimeter guys can still drive the ball.

    I just think coaches like Calipari on the recruiting trail use our hi-lo offense against us.

  • @drgnslayr Withey and Cole, TRob some. I don’t think anyone of them are strictly playing back to goal bb.

  • @Crimsonorblue22

    Withey and Cole don’t play minutes. TRob, is limited, too. I’ve watched a few games with TRob and he wasn’t playing back to the basket.

  • @drgnslayr watched TRob last pm, Tarik also plays some back to basket.

  • Yes, its a beautiful thing to watch a true 7ftr, who is also athletic, and who also has bball sense & moves. Embiid was a dream. Okafor at Duke this yr is legit!

    But my bigger point is that such 7ftrs are naturally rarer than 6’10 or 6’9 guys. Imagine a real athetic 6’9 260+ lb guy like Tarik Black at KU for 3yrs. Embiid got pushed around/boxed-out by Texas big-widebody last yr in Austin, while the return matchup in AFH was the BigBlack show.

    Yes, this recruiting thing is ULTRA-important: just think, how many more seasons does Self or Izzo or Coach K have left? 5? 10? So thats 5 rosters or 10 rosters…with most of the players back for multiple seasons. So only a few more recruiting cycles left to load up/coach up for the F4 runs their fans/alums/boosters want. Sobering thoughts re: recruiting crapshoot. Time is ticking…

  • @ralster

    We have to keep in mind that KU went from playing a super experienced, senior laden team in 2011-2012 to very inexperienced teams that at one time started 4 freshmen last season and this season has already had 4 freshmen on the floor at the same time. UK, on the other hand, for all the talk about their OADS has an experienced team with 4 sophomores and 2 juniors that started or played heavy minutes last season and have Final Four experience, in addition to their highly touted Freshman class.

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