Is Cliff out of the Big Red Dog House?

  • To all the KU sportswriters and fans:

    Cliff’s performance in the game and his contribution to the team is directly linked to his time on the court. It is a nice spin to lavish praise on Coach Self as the master motivator and he deserves credit where credit is due. However…

    In the case of Alexander the Great, if his “lack of motor” was not related to effort or attitude, then his riding the pine in the second half of the ISU game had little to do with Cliff’s motor and a lot to do with Coach Self stubbornness.

    There is a direct correlation between Cliff’s minutes played and his production and the team’s chances of winning. There is not a direct correlation between his being benched and suddenly “learning his lesson” and “firing up his motor” to be more high performing in the next game against OU.

    If Cliff had played 8-10 min more in the ISU game, he would have had a double-double and given us a better chance to win that important road game. His performance in the OU game is linked to more court time, not motivational psychology, or learning his lesson on D or applying the coaching lessons of the Great Motivator.

    One of our head coach’s best (but also worst) qualities is his stubbornness. Make them play D as well as O and make them hustle at all times and play with passion. Great! Most of the dominant big men like Cliff have never had to exert such effort b/c they have always been so vastly superior at the high school level. This is a good thing to learn for the young players (remember the Morris twins as Freshmen?), and our Coach does it exceedingly well.

    However, in the case of the Big Red Dog, there is no problem of desire or effort or attitude or any of the classical problems prima donna athletes coming from high school to college might have as they adjust to the game at the next level.

    Cliff may have (like all of us!) trouble focusing at all times, on both ends of the court, in practice as well as in the games. One has to train muscle memory and concentration to go hard all the time and to understand where to be on the court and how to play each situation and individual opponent. Not every player, especially the bigs have the capacity to get it immediately like Jo-Jo did.

    But in the case of Cliff, he will **learn by playing **or with a quick sit down reminder - not an entire half in a key game! This decision is an illustration of Coach Self’s weaknesses, not his strengthes. And the new paradigm of OAD and TAD players, as opposed to the gradual lessons learned over 3-4 years in the program. Everything is now accelerated and the rookies are still the best players (even with a not yet maximized “motor”).

    Cliff’s learning curve will go up exponentially with more court time, in all aspects of his game, including his on-the-ball D.

    Production per minutes played is the key stat for Cliff, not psychology of punishment on the pine for :“lack of motor”. Look at this indicator: minutes played / O and D production. / KU chances to win the game, and you will see that Cliff is our best and only chance to over-achieve this year in the Big 12 and the Dance.

    Unless there is injury or foul trouble, we must see the Big Red Dog 25-30 min per game going forward. That is the key lesson of the ISU and OU games, and their outcomes.


  • @jayhawk-007

    I think you have valid points. And the main point is that Self should do what he has to do to get guys to speed up… however… was it necessary to sit Cliff down for an entire half in a crucial B12 battle just to prove a point or to motivate for the next game? Why not sit him and as he is sitting grab his jersey and let him know why he is getting some pine time? It seems like that might have not only worked to get him pumped up for OU, it might have worked to get him pumped for the rest of the game in Ames, which, btw, we should have won!

    I think you hit on a broader point, and that is about Coach Self’s game coaching technique. He seems to communicate little to individual players except on timeouts or while the player is on the floor, rarely (or never) while that individual player is on the pine. Sometimes we see assistants talking to players on the pine. I’m not sure why Self won’t take a few seconds and go down the bench and say a few words to guys when they need it! This could have been the difference between a “L” and a “W.”

  • @jayhawk-007

    My take is that Cliff’s problems are a constellation.

    He had early injuries.

    At some point Self committed to this green team running an offense as complicated as what a normal veteran team runs. That overwhelmed a lot of players, but particularly Cliff. It took him awhile to deal with information overload.

    When they tried to get him to stop fouling, they and he reigned him in so much that he quit being as aggressive as he needed to be.

    Then other coaches studied his game footage and schemed to stop him with his weaknesses. It worked.

    The length and intensity of the season began to hit him as he has now played as many games as a usual high school season. And AAU games are just show cases, not rigorous team activities.

    Then Cliff just got overwhelmed and demoralized from the cumulative stress.

    I don’t believe there ever was any attitude problem.

    There was an a confusion problem and a stress overload problem.

    When Self sat him, it broke the cycle.

    It was not really a punishment, rather it was throwing a circuit breaker to reset the system.

    He will play more and better, but there will be more backslides too.

    The more he plays the more the opposing coaches can find his chinks in his game in the game feeds, and scheme against them.

    Each new chink discovered requires some adjustment. Some adjustments are easy to make quickly, while others can take time.

    All in all, Cliff is really not very far behind what everyone should have expected of a 4 being asked to play 5 in his first season of D1 on a team without a bushel of OAD/TADs to help him out.

    At KU, Cliff is one of three OAD/TADs, and if he is going to play, he has to be one of the cornerstones of the team. That requires a lot of savvy, good fundamentals and reasonably good health. They are going to scheme against you when you play with only two other OAD/TADs. IT makes it very tough to develop, when they are paying attention to you even coming off the bench.

    At Nike-UK, Cliff would have been one of 11 OAD/TAD types. When he came in the game, no opponent would have been able to scheme against him in particular. He would have just had to do what he was already good at, play the 4, and play some AAU dribble drive for awhile, and depending on how well he did, jump, or come back for one more season of the same and then jump.

    But at KU an OAD/TAD has got to be a cornerstone to play. He has to learn a ton in a very short time, because he is only one of three OAD/TADs.

    The advantage to coming to KU is that Cliff really is going to be a much, much better basketball player at the end of this season than he would have become at UK, whether or not his season averages in all the numbers show it or not. It will help him in the pros, when he gets there.

  • These are good builds and astute observations.

    I think the baseline for Coach Self at the start of his career was inferior talent and 3-4-5 year student athletes, very tough D and everyone learning his system over time. No compromise, big 10 type ball, feed the post, always playing the percentages with extreme mental and physical toughness. Not a bad formula to be sure…

    The team and players have morphed over the past few years thanks to his great staff and recruiting and the KU brand to more OAD and TAD athletes.

    They do not always have time to learn the system on O and D, so we need a simplified, accelerated version, with a little more free lance to showcase talent. More 3s as everyone has noted (20/game?) and more variety (full court pressure, an occasional trap zone, exploit match ups, etc.

    We are getting there but we have a very stubborn coach and we like that!

    Cliff will be fine and the reset idea is more accurate than my idea of unwarranted punishment for being out of position on D, and being benched for confusion due to over-coaching.

    We all agree we have the best program and the best coach but we need to challenge the status quo on pressing D and stale hi-lo O and getting the most out of each player, each game to peak in Feb-March.

    We need that perfect mix of experience and talent, stars and role players, deep bench and not too much “system” offense.

    We need another conf title and final four and Sat’s game with UT will tell us if that is realistic or we will have to wait another year.

    Rock Chalk!

  • @jaybate-1.0 Who is the other OAD/TAD of the 3? Kelly, Cliff and who is the other?

  • @jayhawk-007 I feel like Coach already handled this in the OU game. It was Cliffie’s breakout game. I don’t have a good reason why he benched him in the Clone game, but I certainly can’t argue with the results.

  • @joeloveshawks


    I know he has not had an OAD/TAD career so far, but the injury last season, and the recovery this season, combined with what I expect will turn out to be a combination of over-coaching and a slump this season, have kept him from playing like one.

    But the guy is an absolute stud waiting to happen. It is hard to say when it will all come together for him. Tyson Taylor went from a serviceable 2 not asked to do much his freshman year, to a sophomore slumped 2 his sophomore season, to a bungling and incompetent point guard in on floor training his junior season, to an absolutely superior point guard his senior year.

    When things get fouled up, it is harder to get them back on track and harder to predict when they will get back on track. But Wayne has shown these flashes of brilliance last season early and once this season that cannot be denied. Self apparently has not unlocked the mystery that is Wayne Selden. We haven’t either. But when guys can do amazing things sometimes, and have NBA bodies like Wayne, or unprecedented speed like TT had, a coach has to take a deep breath and decide whether he can afford to commit to the long march of finding out how to birth the player into an every night monster. It can be a long, bumpy unpredictable ride as Tyshawn proved. It could be a long bumpy ride for Wayne, too. But before the knee injury last season, Wayne was a site to behold–a diamond in the rough.And after the injury, he was still so good he could start and play for a team that won a conference title, even on a bad knee.

    I think Self has to go with Wayne at least 25 minutes a game, even with his problems, because the upside is so huge.

    Devonte is progressing so rapidly that he might shortly be taking 20-25 minutes from Wayne. Wayne could get sideways for awhile. He also has Brannen breathing down his neck with his trey gun. Both Devonte and Brannen are very, very good. But Wayne is a load for a 2 guard and loads like Wayne don’t come along often. If he could ramp up his performance 15% he would become the quintessential Self combo guard.

    He is playing about as lackluster as he can now offensively and he is still a cornerstone of a Top Ten team in first place in its conference. Imagine how good he has to be to be able to play this poorly and still have the team accomplish what it is. Imagine what the team will become, if/when he finds his game.

    But time waits for no man, when he has bonafide competitors all around him.

  • I may be off, I often am, but I see Svi as a TAD. It is possible he will be back a third year but I think this kid is going to get it figured out sooner rather than later. When he does figure it out he is going to turn into something special. HCBS has been quoted as saying he has the most upside of anyone on the team. He has been wrong before, but then when he’s right, aka Jo Jo and others, he is very right!

  • I’ve been amazed at the media concerning Cliff.

    The media jumped all over Kelly’s rough early time as a Jayhawk. And now it seems all media pretext’s their description of Kelly as “a guy who didn’t get it when coming to Lawrence, but does now!”

    What about Cliff?

    I kind of recall that during recruitment Cliff was compared to Jahlil? I was expecting the media to be a constant thorn in Cliff’s side… but they have forgotten about Cliff. Usually the media loves to jump on any negative surrounding a Kansas player.

    I wonder if it would be helping Cliff more to have the media on his back? Or is it better that they leave him alone so he can avoid the chaos while he works on his game?

    Anyone have an opinion on this?


    I think Svi will be making a big impact next year. But I see him as being smarter and sticking it out longer in college. I don’t think he’ll dive for the fast bucks and prefers to work on his game more. Self sides with players going early if they can be 1st round picks and I think most players buy into that strategy, too. It will take a lot to get Svi’s game up to that level in one more year. I think he is more the 3 or 4 year guy, depending on not only how well he performs, but what the media does with it.

    On the other hand… I see someone like a Coach Pop telling Svi to go early (and unnoticed) because he wants to steal him as a late draft pick. Svi has “San Antonio” written all over him! Imagine him with Ginobili? Freakish… I hope he is Svi’s idol.

  • Perhaps this is wishful thinking on my part but I don’t see Svi or Selden leaving even after next year. I think Wayne is going to be like EJ and TT and will have a very good college career but will be a 4 year player. Hopefully I am wrong and Wayne has a monster junior year that gets him solid Lottery Pick talk. At the moment Wayne is not a great 3 point shooter, not a great slasher, at times a horrible finisher and a slightly above average defender. This could of course all change.

    Svi is only 17 and will be up against tough competition for big minutes again next year no matter who stays. Greene is back. Graham is back. Bill is not done recruiting.

  • Frank - best, most consistent player and best athlete, best dribbler Jamari - second best athlete and X factor energy guy, best post passer Perry - best all round player and best scorer and best g0-to-guy Wayne - best perimeter defender and best glue guy, best passer Kelly - best potential this year, best slasher, best confidence on D, disrupter Cliff - MVP on this team, best 6th man in nation, best rebounder Devonte - best leader and best point guard, best decision-maker Brannen - best shooter. best confidence on O Svi - best potential next year, best basketball reflexes Landon - best big man bruiser Hunter - best big man shooter

  • Svi is impossible for me to read right now.

    Great shooters don’t shoot this poorly…unless there is an injury.

    I don’t see an injury.

    His parents visited and it was reported they told Coach Self he is kind of up and down in his personality.

    Great shooters with as many opps as he has gotten finally make them.

    He hasn’t.

    Last game he came in and was so wild he smacked one off the backboard unintentionally and made it.

    Great shooters don’t do that.

    Something is going on with Svi.

    It could be the culture shock and living without being able to speak in your mother tongue for the first time. He is only 17 they say.

    There are lots of things it could be.

    But there is no more talk coming out from teammates, or coaches, about what a great shot he is.

    Something is up.

    He looked hellaciously good out of the blocks–like a can’t miss phenom.

    But then it all vanished.

    Twilight zone stuff.

    Until further notice, I am going to say I don’t know and I don’t get it.

  • I look at Self developing his players similar to parenting.

    With two children out of college and one in 5th grade (Whoops!), we don’t raise children to make them to be the best 5 year old they can be, but look to the future and have the presence of mind to make them the best 25 year olds they can be. Let me explain.

    Jackson (now in secondary education) was eight years old, he started mowing the lawn. There were times on Saturdays where he would throw a fit because it was “to hot” or “Saturday is supposed to be a day off”. He was always a good student and got along with everyone. It would have been easier in the moment to mow the lawn myself. But as parents, I was less interested in the process of developing a responsible adult then making a happy eight year old.

    Now back to Self and Alexander. He is more interested in developing a mentality beyond what the stat sheet says. Cliff had 6 points and 6 rebounds with very limited playing time. If Cliff plays 10 or 15 more minutes, I believe we probably win against ISU. But Self, like a parent, is more interested in Alexander being relentless later in the year. If Cliff didn’t sit, maybe he only gets 9 rebounds instead of 13 against OU. Maybe he doesn’t snap the ball out of the air on Kelly’s missed FT, then we don’t get the big trey by Greene (which was a crucial for the win).

    HCBS is doing a balance act of the now AND future. Is Self divinely inspired and without fault? Of course not. Doing this tricky balancing act could end up hurting KU more than helping. But we saw the fruits of benching Alexander the next game. It is an art more than an exact science and we will find out at the end of year if we can reap the rewards of Self’s “stubbornness”.

  • @jayhawk-007 BEST bet to save our fannies in a clutch situation, key contest: OUBRE!

  • I meant more interested in the process of developing a responsible adult. Sorry!

  • Whether Cliff has been cooped in the proverbial doghouse or no, he had sure as heck better lunge from the bench, even if it means snapping Self’s brass chain, for this upcoming Longhorn challenge. Without a solid 20+ minutes from Cliff Alexander, Jayhawks are in trouble…unless, of course, we keep it close in the closing minutes, when Self will once again outcoach or prove to have outrecruited Barnes for the win.

  • @jaybate-1.0 Man, I am puzzled about the Svi Factor, too. Is the Sviatislov Camp regretting entrance to Bill Self Jayhawk Basketball? Something is screwy with Svi’s hitting the wall. Gotta be some mystery factors at play somewhere behind this scene. If it is merely a matter of numbers (vying for playing time) then I’d recommend practicing him at point guard…as insurance against injury to Frank or Devonte. Selden might be able to cover, in a pinch; but why not prepare one of quickest thinkers, crispest passers on the team?

  • Svi will be a different person and a different player next year.

    The cultural and bb gap is huge and he just wants to be part of the team and fit it, like a lot of young guys (re what Self said about Wiggins fitting in and he as a #1 pick).

    We forget what it was like to be 17 (junior in high school)…to be the true Svi bb player, need to wait until next year!

  • PS the kid can shoot…believe it, but he can pass and play D too.

  • @jayhawk-007

    “We forget what it was like to be 17”

    I didn’t forget… I was the biggest dufus in the universe! I couldn’t reasonably dribble the basketball until I was 25 years old. I’m serious! A pretty girl walked by and I completely forgot the last two days of my life. Self would have to put blinders on me and discipline me with a bullwhip. Even under those conditions… I’d only fit in nicely somewhere between Coach kids Manning and Self.

    In my book, Svi is a talent… he’s 17 yrs old and he can chew gum and walk forwards, maybe even at the same time!

    I just hope he isn’t homesick for war. Maybe he wants to leave soon and the word isn’t out yet.


    I think you have it right on Svi and Wayne.


    “If Cliff plays 10 or 15 more minutes, I believe we probably win against ISU. But Self, like a parent, is more interested in Alexander being relentless later in the year.”

    I’m tending to agree with you. Could it be even a step further… Self almost preferred we drop this one in Ames just to keep the B12 tight and these guys with their minds sticking tight to basketball? Losing in Ames can only help us in March. I’m not talking about seeding… I’m talking about team toughness.

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