Jamari Traylor has a chance to step up for Kansas BY RUSTIN DODDTHE WICHITA EAGLE 03/10/2015 9:29 PM 03/10/2015 9:29 PM
KU’s Jamari Traylor let out a roar after slamming home a dunk late in the Jayhawks’ overtime win over West Virginia on March 3 at Allen Fieldhouse. RICH SUGG KANSAS CITY STAR Story Comments LAWRENCE Jamari Traylor is old. This may be an odd word to attach to a college junior, but in college basketball terms, Traylor might as well be approaching septuagenarian status.
He has been a academic redshirt, and a little-used freshman; a sophomore energy guy, and a junior starter. And he still has one year of eligibility left.
Can you remember, for instance, that Traylor is the only scholarship Kansas player remaining from the KU team that lost to Kentucky in the 2012 NCAA title game? It seems like ages ago now. And in some ways, maybe it was. But there was Traylor in the Superdome, watching from the sideline as Kentucky’s Anthony Davis kept swatting shots towards the front rows of stadium.
To put it another way, Traylor has been around the KU program so long that he is now starting to recycle his roles. Last season, Traylor was insurance for a future pro when Joel Embiid’s back went lame in the weeks leading up to the NCAA Tournament. This year, Traylor has been thrust into a similar situation, picking up the slack for another KU freshman big man who could be sidelined for the rest of March.
While the Jayhawks wait for clarity on the NCAA investigation into Cliff Alexander’s eligibility, Kansas coach Bill Self says he will make do with what he has, a group of frontcourt reinforcements that begins with a smallish, quick-twitch power forward from Chicago.
“Everybody has to step up,” Traylor says.
In the Kansas locker room, Traylor can play a lot of roles as well. He is part court jester, part stabilizing force, his well-documented backstory of childhood hardship providing the room with a quiet source of inspiration, a thick outer layer of grit. Traylor once spent nights sleeping in rusted-out cars on the south side of Chicago. He now spends his Mondays on the hilly KU campus, logging onto his Twitter account and documenting his various run-ins and selfies with Kansas fans in a series titled “Mari Monday.”
But as Kansas enters the most important stretch of its season, Traylor can perhaps be something more: He can be a veteran presence at a time when experience often seems to trump talent. A player starting to play his best basketball of the year, averaging 13 points and 5.5 rebounds in his last two games.
“Jamari,” Self says, “he’s gone through different things.”
Traylor, graciously listed at 6 feet 8, has started 17 of Kansas’ 31 games this season. But if Self was being honest, that was never really the plan. Traylor, a veteran, was always supposed to hold down the fort while Alexander developed and learned the contours of the Kansas system. But by March, Self envisioned a best-case scenario where Alexander would be taking up space in the middle. When Self inserted Alexander into the starting lineup at Texas Tech on Feb. 10, replacing Traylor, he offered a simple explanation.
The Jayhawks needed a physical presence.
“I’m pleased with Jamari,” Self said then, “but we need something a little bit different. We need some more girth.”
For now, though, Kansas will have to move on without Alexander’s presence. Traylor will play more minutes. So will sophomore Landen Lucas. Especially as junior forward Perry Ellis nurses a sprained right knee back to 100 percent. (Ellis will be a game-time decision for Thursday’s Big 12 tournament opener against the winner of No. 8 K-State and No. 9 TCU.)
“There’s a lot of basketball left to be played,” Traylor says.
At times, of course, even Traylor has been frustrated with what Self has termed an “inconsistent” junior season. Last year, while playing alongside Embiid and Tarik Black, Traylor’s lack of size was less of a liability. His speed, in small samples, could be hazardous to opposing power forwards. He shot better than 67 percent from the floor, and he was the Jayhawks’ best player in their victory over Eastern Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament. This year, often starting alongside the 6-foot-8 Ellis, Traylor’s offensive game has taken a step back. He is shooting just 48 percent from the floor, and his defensive rebounding numbers have suffered as well.
“He’s not big enough to do what he does,” Self says. “And so last year, I think the role for him was easier because you all had (Joel) or Tarik, and then he could back up Perry so he was our fourth big guy, and anything he gave us was a bonus.”
This year, Traylor has felt the weight of real expectations. Now, after four months, he’s starting to get used to them.
As the Jayhawks enter the Big 12 tournament, Self says he doesn’t need Traylor to be perfect — just another cog in the machine. But if there was a time to play your best basketball, Traylor might be reverting to form at just the right moment.
“He’s gotten better offensively,” Self said. “I still wish he’d defensive rebound the ball a little better, which he needs to, but I think Jamari has had a good year but it’s been an inconsistent year, but he’s on an uptick right now.”
Ellis practices — After practicing Tuesday, junior forward Perry Ellis is “on schedule” in his recovery from a knee sprain and could play on Thursday in the Big 12 quarterfinals, Self said.
“Perry was evaluated today and the doctors feel that he is right on schedule,” Self said. “He did some basketball activity on Monday. He practiced today, but is still on a limited basis.”
Self was hopeful that Ellis could participate during the Jayhawks’ entire practice on Wednesday and be ready for Thursday. KU plays the K-State-TCU winner around 2 p.m. in the Sprint Center.
“It will still be a gameday decision on whether or not he plays,” Self said, “but he is progressing nicely.”
Reach Rustin Dodd at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @rustindodd.
Careful you last edited by
Thanks for posting this. Jamari has always been a favorite of mine. I would love to see him do well in post-league play.
HawksWin last edited by
@Crimsonorblue22 Thanks for the post. Am I off the rockers thinking Jam could make a living as a back up in the NBA? He’s got the body, speed, attitude - reminds me of Black except the maturity and haven’t yet realized or learned what he can do with his athleticism. Am I off the wagon on this? Somebody with keen eyes for talent please tell me.
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Jam Tray could deliver if he had two legs, but he doesn’t so this continues to default heavily to Hunter and Landen, who are our most complementarydefensive bigs, but limited offensively. Still, between them and Jamari they can probably scratch out 15-20 of Perry’s missing points and Our perimeter players will have to pick up the rest. The dog will hunt, but it will turn more and more into a game of perimeter driving without a stretch 4 and big man stick backs, which should make our traditionalists more comfortable.
@HawksWin Only problem is Mari doesn’t have near the body of Black. Black is bigger, stronger, and taller. Add to that the Black can seal and score significantly better, defensive rebound, and hold his ground defensively with his weight and muscle. Traylor might be a little better on the offensive glass but that is debatable. He is quicker and can drive more effectively. But he is too short for that to work as a 4 in the league. He would have to be a 3 and 3s need to make 3s. I just don’t see him producing in the NBA. That does not diminish his potential to be a factor at the college level and maybe even make some money overseas. What is great for Mari is that he went from living in a car to most likely going to graduate with a college degree. Any money he makes playing the game he started as a junior is icing on the cake. Hope he views it that way too.
Jamari Traylor is another one of rare Jayhawks that Self takes under his wing, and really tries to fatherly-nurture. He had to develop a tough shell to deal with life on the street (I assume), and sometimes the swagger and body language I read (or mis-read?) in Jamari makes me wonder what % comes from on-court swagger of his own confidence, and how much is from pre-KU street swagger.
Either way, I’m hoping he can make some money overseas, and all his time at KU hopefully is a big, big positive for him, wherever his opportunities may take him. One of those few guys, where, yes it is a bit up-in-the-air where he may end up after college…so if I ever was in a position to help a fellow alum like him, I would absolutely try!
F.O.E. Jamari is part of us. And I hope he knows and feels that.
@ralster exactly how I feel!
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@Crimsonorblue22 Good write on Traylor. The guy needs to be even more killer the next 4-8 games. However much we can pull off. But then again so does Landen and Ellis and Mickey Its basically a forgone conclusion that we wont be seeing Cliff again. SO here’s to hoping our underdog and undersized front line can be the Marine platoons front line on its way to Mytikina in how eloquently @jaybate-1.0 describes our figurative and literal up hill battle in the Madness.
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We can get through the first round of Madness without Perry. Beyond that who knows? It all depends on how good Hunter actually is offensively and how foul prone. There is a pretty good chance Hunter can bring as much or more than Cliff brought the last month, except against the brawniest guys. The scout on Hunter will be to attack him and foul him up on the low block so he cannot come across the lane to block.
@jaybate-1.0 But seeing Hunter get comfortable again is a VERY tantalizing idea: He WAS a Div.1 starter x 2 years at Arkansas. Maybe he knows how to avoid fouling better than we give him credit for. I know his 2game stat-line was 7 fouls in 33 min…but I’d like more minutes for him to judge. He did fill the stat sheet. Certainly could clean up the fouls, and clean up the missed bunnies! It’s Easter season. Eat those bunnies!
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##KU’s Traylor has no hard feelings toward K-State – or really, any feelings at all
Sean Keeler - FOX Sports KC
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – No hard feelings, at least where Jamari Traylor is concerned.
Actually, no darn feelings at all.
“I was just like, ‘Damn, we lost,’ and I was walking to the bench,” Traylor, junior power forward at Kansas, recalled Wednesday after the No. 9 Jayhawks finished their shoot-around at Sprint Center in advance of the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament. “And (suddenly) just felt a bump.”
The “bump” in question happened at Kansas State’s Bramlage Coliseum back on Feb. 23, “Stormy Monday,” when a Wildcat fan in jeans and a purple top – now identified as Nathan Power – was captured in a now-infamous picture throwing an elbow into Traylor as the former stormed the court following K-State’s 70-63 victory over KU.
Power was one of thousands of Wildcat faithful who rushed down from their seats after the emotional win, overwhelming what security was assembled, pinning coaches Bruce Weber and Bill Self against the scorer’s table and interacting – in some cases, violently – with Jayhawk players, coaches and staff.
With Kansas State possibly on the docket for a rubber match Thursday afternoon in the Big 12 quarterfinals – the two rivals split their matchups during league play, each winning on their home court – Traylor was asked to reflect on the incident.
“And I just looked and he was just (brushing past me),” the 6-foot-8 Chicago native said. “And he just ran off. And I was like, ‘Hmm,’ and that’s it.”
Traylor didn’t swing back, much to the relief of Self – who praised his big man for keeping a cool head while getting bum-rushed by a wave of purple – and Kansas, Kansas State and Big 12 administrators. K-State officials dropped the ball as far as getting the visiting team off the court safely, becoming a national talking point the next day across the 24-hour sports news cycle. But if a Jayhawk player had been seen retaliating, the fallout would’ve extended beyond the wagging finger of talking heads and former coaches and players among the punditry.
And the Jayhawks might not have gotten what they’ve gotten from Traylor, who’s averaged 13 points, 5.5 rebounds and 28 minutes per game over the past two contests, his role expanded because of the suspension of freshman power forward Cliff Alexander (NCAA investigation) and the health of junior power forward Perry Ellis (knee).
“That’s just what we do,” Traylor said. “When guys go down, other guys got to step up. That’s just our mindset.”
Meanwhile, Kansas State officers posted the picture of the student bumping Ellis on social media, crowd-sourcing the locals for information. Power came forward the next day, writing a letter of apology to the Kansas State Collegian student newspaper and being issued a notice for disorderly conduct by campus police.
“I kind of was (surprised),” Traylor said. "I was surprised people cared so much about me getting bumped.
“But it’s all right – I mean, I take, on average, probably a fall worse than that in a game anyways. So it’s all right.”
More or less, anyway. Point guard Frank Mason III intimated before Wednesday evening’s Wildcats-Frogs game – the winner gets top-seeded Kansas in the second quarterfinal Thursday afternoon – that he’d like another crack at K-State, given a choice.
Self was more, um, diplomatic.
“Well, you know the thing about (us), we’re competitors,” the coach offered, grinning mischievously. "And they beat us at their place last time. So whomever we play, it’s going be a tough game, because TCU gave us all we wanted. And of course, K-State gave us more than we wanted the last time we played them.
"To me, really, I really don’t have a preference – at least publicly.
“I do think that whoever we play is (probably) a team that will certainly give us everything we want and more, even if we play well. Because both of those teams are very capable.”
KU proved at Oklahoma last Saturday that it’s more than capable without Ellis, who sat out the contest with the Big 12 regular-season crown already clinched. But Jayhawk fans would feel better with the junior post standout in the fold, considering he averaged 17.8 points and 8.25 boards in four matchups with K-State and TCU.
Extending the Sunflower Series another afternoon would be special for Ellis, a Wichita native. As to whether it also means a little something extra for Traylor, well …
“Naw,” Traylor replied. “I’m looking past that. So, naw. I just want to win if we go out there and play.”
##“If the guy (who bumped me) was suiting up for (K-State), maybe I would.”
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@RockChalkinTexas Translation: Self wanted a chance to kick K-State’s ass.
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Still, between them and Jamari they can probably scratch out 15-20 of Perry’s missing points and Our perimeter players will have to pick up the rest.
We got 30 points and 20 rebounds out of our three backup bigs last game. I’d take that again.