Without Elite 5s and Elite Point Guards, KU Is Probably Doing as Well as It Can

  • Some have suggested surprise at our early outs the last two seasons. I did not feel much surprise at an early out, when Embiid quit playing, and Naadir Tharpe was our point guard. I also did not feel surprise at this year’s early out, when Landen Lucas was our starting 5, Perry Ellis was injured going into the game and got punked during the game, and Frank Mason, much as I have grown to love him, was headed to Towson State before coming to KU.

    But let’s focus on this season as a microcosm of the problems facing Self and KU for many seasons.

    And lets try to get past the surprise of some, and let’s get to the probable cause of the problems some found surprising.

    If Self had the weakest front court this season out of his eleven years, and it appears reasonable to say that he did, and if an OAD 4/5 in the weak front court not only struggled to perform even adequately as a substitute the entire season, and he did, and also then has to be removed from suiting up for the team the last month to remain in NCAA compliance regarding eligibility issues, then why would one NOT expect for this team to have had more troubles than any prior team in the Self era, especially when it apparently played as tough, or tougher, of a schedule than any other team in the Self era?

    It appears to me that board rats are letting the mind-stings of “inconsistencies” and an early exit obscure the trigger the team’s problems.

    The trigger from which a problem plagued season cascaded, does not appear to me to be either how Coach Self schemed and coached the roster he had, or what his players injured and not, suspended and not, did with the schemes he provided them, but rather the roster of players he had to work with.

    It was the players, or put more accurately the players he did not have.

    This lack of players hardly exonerates Coach Self on its face, for he is, after all, responsible for the players that he attracts to the roster, and those he in effect drives away from it.

    But what Coach Self is not entirely responsible for is the players that choose to go elsewhere for reasons unrelated to Coach Self and his staff and facilities.

    Self and his staff had a reputation of being exceptional at recruiting, when he and his staff were hired at KU some eleven years ago.

    During his tenure, he has attracted some very talented rosters of players to KU and rosters of players that included most of the “pieces” needed for successful teams. The team he inherited his first season had some good, but not NBA grade returning players, but then some obvious missing pieces–players not up to replacing the likes of NBA grade players like Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison. It showed, though Self made the best of it and won a conference title the first season.

    But as the years ensued and more and more of Self’s recruits populated the roster, his teams improved to 27 to 30 game winners going deeper and deeper in the Madness despite some early round upsets by mid majors not at all inconsistent with early round upsets of other elite programs, like Duke.

    If I recall correctly, somewhere along there KU shifted to adidas, a Petro ShoeCo sponsoring a small minority of AAU teams where elite players play, and from which agents and agent runners apparently informally influence recruits toward certain of those programs (see Rick Pitino’s comments this season). KU shifted from Nike, a competing PetroShoeCo sponsoring the lion’s share of the AAU teams that elite players play for, and which it is reputed that agents and agent runners also informally influence recruits toward programs for.

    KU basketball made a windfall of cash for switching from Nike to adidas–for KUAD. And it shortly won a ring in 2008 with a great deal of apparently originally Nike-leaning talent, something that might not have been necessarily consistent with Nike management’s marketing strategy. After all, why would Nike have wanted players it might have hoped to groom as endorsers to win a Ring for an adidas school instead of for a Nike school? And if I have the chronology incorrect, and KU switched to adidas after the 2008 ring team, why would Nike wish for players it hoped one day to endorse the Nike brand, to continue going to KU, when KU became an adidas contracted school? Do you see the problematic nature of the issue either way?

    Regardless, winning the 2008 ring was a moment, when it was logical to expect Self would have a windfall in recruiting. A ring finally allowed Self to be considered among the game’s elite coaches by recruits, at least if recruits valued winning rings, and conference titles, and winning 82% of games played.

    And, indeed, Self and KU did appear to start to get recruiting “access” to more highly ranked recruits than before. KU appeared increasingly to make the lists of the most highly ranked players. Most KU fans were cheered by this prospect and readied for Self having as many draft choice grade players as schools like UNC,Duke and some other elite programs were then regularly getting.

    But, instead, of a recruiting windfall at this moment, Self began to manifest trouble signing 5 star 5s and 5 star point guards, especially OAD grades of either, that he gained access to recruit. It was around this time that Self also began to have to rely as much, or more, on 3-5 year players, and on formerly highly ranked transfers that either did not like the schools they initially signed with (e.g.,Jeff Withey), or backed out of programs imploding because of scandal (e.g., Xavier Henry, Josh Selby). Though Self was obviously open to recruiting and signing the best 5s and the best point guards, he consistently failed to sign them.

    Conspicuously, these elite 5s and point guards did not always sign with other elite programs. Sometimes they signed with less storied and then recently less successful programs and coaches than KU and Self.

    These failures were always rationalized one way or another, as KU not having enough PT, or as Self not being willing to promise PT, or Self being too demanding of a coach. This of course contradicted the facts that many of these players were going to play for certain elite programs, like Duke, that had every bit as demanding of coaches, and had lots of talent on hand, while others were choosing to play for all manner of coaches–demanding, not demanding, older, younger, more successful, less successful, nearer their homes, farther from their homes, and so on.

    These explanations and rationalizations, whether accurate, or not, in a limited sense, appeared to tend to ignore, marginalize, and rather incompletely explain the dynamic, if any, of Petro ShoeCoes and agents and agent runners on the recruiting process, even though books had been written between 1990 and around 2000 documenting, at least partially, a highly problematic influence of both shoe companies and agents on the recruiting process previously, and there having been no apparent reform of that process broadly engaged in in the years since those books had been written.

    Self and KU were hardly without recruiting successes in this period, as the number of draft choices Self and KU produced during the period suggests. But these draft choices conspicuously still did not include a steady flow of elite 5s and elite point guards signing originally with Self and KU that were among the most highly prized recruits both by colleges and the NBA.

    KU’s front court players that were high draft choices were exclusively 5s like Jeff Withey and Cole Aldrich that had to play for a number of years to develop into players the NBA wanted to draft with high draft choices, and 4s like Thomas Robinson and the Morris twins, that also had to play 3 years before attracting the interest of the NBA.

    KU’s point guard position produced no Top 15 draft choices at all, and few first round choices.

    KU’s wings produced first Xavier Henry as an OAD high draft choice, but he reputedly had only attended KU as a second choice to the then imploding Memphis, and even then reputedly entertained the notion of decommitting to KU and recommitting to Kentucky (to which former Memphis Coach John Calipari had moved shortly before the Memphis ineligible player scandal) before finally settling on KU. After Henry, KU then attracted Josh Selby apparently avoiding the impending UTenn implosion under Bruce Pearl, but Selby turned pro and failed to be a high draft choice, then failed to make it in the NBA. Next came BenMac, who had to sit out a season, because of high school academic defficiencies. He blossomed and played brilliantly one season and was drafted highly.

    On the heels of BenMac, Self had his one great recruiting class of reputed OAD grade players. Andrew Wiggins, a reputed Nike lean in AAU ball, who signed with KU, starred one season for KU, was drafted Number 1 overall by the NBA, and then signed with adidas as a pro. The second reputed OAD was Wayne Selden, Jr. Selden played, but reputedly struggled with injury, his first season. He played wildly inconsistently his second season. It is unclear at this writing whether he will go pro, but it appears he might not. Joel Embiid, who was signed not as an OAD, but as a probable 2, or 3, year project with a very high ceiling, surprised many and played well enough for the NBA to draft him Number 3 after only one season and with an injured back, too.

    The thing to keep in mind about Self’s “best post ring recruiting class” is that even it only included two reputed OADs, while other elite programs were signing 5 or more.

    This past season Self had another 2-OAD/TAD recruiting class in a year when Calipari added 5 OAD/TAD types to five returning reputed OAD/TAD types for a total of 10. And Coach K at Duke achieved 9 total OAD/TAD players on his roster.

    Self and KU are aligned with adidas.

    Calipari-UK and Coach K-Duke are aligned with Nike.

    Frankly, Self has never been able to amass enough OAD/TAD recruits that played to a draftable level in a single season to be remotely as talented of a program as UK and Duke since Cal moved to UK.

    Self has proven that he can, with less talent, and with the pieces fitting well together, and with favorable match-ups in the Madness, go deep in the Madness one in three or one in four years, which is about as good as anyone does without having the elite 5s and elite point guards on his roster year after year.

    It is NOT comparing apples with apple to compare Self with Calipari, Coach K, Roy Williams, Sean Miller, Billy Donovan, Rick Barnes (most seasons) and the last two seasons, Bo Ryan, because they have elite 5s and/or elite point guards on their rosters most every season, while Self does not.

    Even Joel Embiid was not an elite 5 while at KU. He just had an enormously high ceiling. And even when he improved dramatically, he was injured a third, or quarter of the season to go and Self had no elite 5 to back him up, as, say, Calipari has three to call on in the event of injury to one this season.

    It is even hard to compare Self with Tom Izzo, because though Izzo has struggled in recruiting, he has often landed an elite point guard.

    Elite 5s and/or elite point guards are pivotal to being a powerful team likely to go deep in the Madness. They don’t guaranty it, but they are the best insurance. There are exceptions, like KU’s own 2008 ring team, where there was neither. But the pieces have to really fit together well, and there has to be a whole lot of talent on such teams to go deep go deep.

    Self has to be compared with other coaches that are coaching without Elite 5s and elite point guards. When he is compared in this way, I would argue that he probably stands head and shoulders above all coaches in this class.

    My hypothesis here is this: Self’s problem is that he cannot get enough elite 5s and elite point guards to sign with KU consistently (or at all), because KU is an adidas school with adidas related agents and agent runners that do not provide the right linkages to attract elite 5s and elite point guards.

    Now, if a board rat thinks Self SHOULD be able to sign elite 5s and elite point guards, and increasingly an OAD/TAD type player two deep at every position, as Kentucky has done, and Duke has nearly done, then Self needs to be fired immediately, because Self has never shown an ability to do this in his eleven seasons.

    To conclude, I think the entire debate about schemes and so forth is intellectually stimulating but utterly inconsequential to solving the problem of making KU make deep runs in the Madness on a more regular basis.

    Nothing but a steady run of elite 5s and elite point guards will make that happen consistently. Without them, and with 2-3 OAD/TAD types at the 2, 3 and 4 positions, 1 deep run every 3-5 years is the best we can hope for.

  • @jaybate-1.0 Provocative and entertaining, as always. And, usually educational and insightful. As you know, as I addressed it at some length in another thread, I agree with your premise that we had a (unexpected) talent deficit this year, which, with the benefit of hindsight, helped explain the struggles and inconsistencies and early exit. Yes, if Landon is your starting 5, a 100+ ranked player is your starting PG (and I love Frank too) and probably best player, then it is probably unrealistic to expect great things.

    But I didn’t go into the reasons for the talent deficit as you have. You have expounded often and at length about the Petro ShoeCo conspiracy. While I certainly think that is a major factor in the “allocation” of OADs, I also think that is overplayed and I respectfully disagree in part with your conclusion - that is, “nothing but a run of elite 5s and elite point guards” will lead to deep runs.

    How many before the fact OADs are there each year 10-15? How many frosh are actually going to be first round draft picks this year? 9-10? And, we have one of them. Maybe 4 from UK, and 3 from Duke? Russell, Anderson and Oubre? Not much beyond that. So, it may well be that this year, the OADs carry the day - if UK and Duke, you might throw in a Arizona into that mix, end up winning.

    Sure, having elite PGs and elite 5s and 2-3 OAD/TAD types at 2.3 and 4 would probably lead to consistent deep runs. But, the history of the tournament over the past 15-20 years, including very recently, suggests that are other paths to success. 3 of the 4 past champs were not populated by OADs or TADs - UConn twice and Louisville. The common denominator was elite PG play, but they weren’t close to be OAD elite - Kemba Walker with UConn (and frosh Lamb and Napier), Russ Smith and Peyton Siva with Louisville, and Napier and Ryan Boatright with UConn. Not all of them even NBA caliber talent. Louisville did have Dieng up front (and Harrell as a frosh), but the tournament MVP was Luke Hancock for heaven’s sake. UConn had almost no real talent up front. Izzo has had 6 FFs since 1999 and I don’t recall that he has had many, if any, OADs or even TADs.

    So, I think there are other paths to sustained success and more than periodic deep runs. And, I think Self is a good enough recruiter and coach to make that happen. But i am also concerned that it is somewhat binary - you either have to decide that you are going to rely on the 15-75 guys who will be with you for 2/3/4 years who can ably execute “our stuff”, or you go the multiple OAD/TAD route, in which case you better in fact get multiple ones, and make sure they aren’t the “draft busts” - otherwise you are more likely looking at 9-10 loss seasons and first weekend exits.

  • @jaybate-1.0

    Always a good read! Glad to see your passion burning past our last minute of game play!

    When you think about it… Cliff may or may not have helped us this year in conference play. But we definitely felt the sting in March. He accrued a lot of bench minutes, but he also played a lot of minutes that could have helped season Landen and Hunter more, which might have made a difference in March. Both of these guys have responded well to minutes, and are on the upswing.

    We definitely will need to recruit some help in the post, but at least we have a base to go from. What we have will improve next year, and what we had was good enough to win #11. I’m not convinced our post play was our main problem why we lost on Sunday. Obviously, yes, it could have been better and helped us more, too.

    In the coming weeks we will learn about a lot of “free agency” transfers becoming available. It will matter if they have to sit a year or not. I believe we should be looking through the 2-yr schools, too. It would be great to bring in one or two pieces that aren’t complete rookies. I agree with others… how many years are we going to play with “one of the youngest teams in America!”

  • @DCHawker

    I don’t see a PetroShoeCo conspiracy. I have been hypothesizing something similar to the process that Rick Pitino described–a process involving ShoeCos, agents and agent runners–what I have called a SHOECO-AGENT complex. I have used this term in the same way Eisenhower used military-industrial complex; I.e., not a conspiracy at all, just a constellation of working relationships that may or may not produce a desirable outcome.

    I believe all the characterization of what Rick Pitino described that you refer to as a conspiracy started with others, not me, or Rick Pitino. And if I recall correctly, Rick Pitino’s remarks indicated he understood that the NCAA had indicated it thought nothing inappropriate was going on.

    The question in my mind is not at all about legality, but rather is a fair and equitable recruiting outcome occurring from KU’s POV?

    But thanks for responding.

  • @drgnslayr

    Yes, down the line, and the issue of youth is big. It seems Self either has to get up to 10 draft choices, or start thinking more about maturity. It was interesting to see UK get a little shaky against an older UCINN, even without UCINN having anyone that could shoot.

  • @jaybate-1.0 Apologies - poor choice of words - complex is much better and the MIC is probably a pretty apt analogy for the constellation of working relationships, as well as the seamier aspects of that network.

    The point I was more focused on is that that, and I use the term loosely, allocation, of the OADs/TADs really comes into play with the top 10-15 ranked HS players. It may be the case that one or two of those will be the kinds of transcendent talents that you can ride to a championship - Anthony and Syracuse; although he needed McNamara draining 3s at the end? Maybe UK and Anthony Davis. Durant didn’t make it happen. Rose almost did. Didn’t happen with Griffin. You look at the UConn, Louisville and even Florida championship teams in recent years - I don’t recall that any of them had OADs or even TADs that played any major role. In the case of the first two, freshmen rotation guys, but they were veteran teams.

    In terms of going after 5s that can fit into the H/L, maybe a Turner would have, maybe a Bragg and Diallo, but it strikes me that Rico Gathers or Devin Williams type, not top ranked, but big body, high motor guys, who are around for 3-4 years could just as well enable deep runs with the rest of the talent we do and typically have. Perhaps you have a different view on that?

  • Self is going to go after the best talent he can get, in order to assemble the best team he can for next year.

    No way is he going to deliberately choose a 3-4 year guy over a 1-2 year guy so he can strike gold down the road.

    Especially not as long as the streak is alive.

    I understand this conversation is hypothetical: in theory, how best to get a real chance to win it all the most often? And I agree with @DCHawker that you probably need either mucho experience or mucho talent, not just some of each. And I surmise with @jaybate-1.0 that getting mucho talent seems more likely for Nike schools.

    In practice, we shall continue to go in circles, panting, with one foot on the OAD Merry Go Round and the other trying to avoid potholes and poo.

  • @jaybate-1.0

    “Yes, down the line, and the issue of youth is big. It seems Self either has to get up to 10 draft choices, or start thinking more about maturity. It was interesting to see UK get a little shaky against an older UCINN, even without UCINN having anyone that could shoot.”

    I don’t know why we don’t go after more 2-yr college guys. They are instant experience… at least, maturity. Maybe because they don’t have March experience.

    Even though WSU is really small and not quite as good as they were when they last faced Kentucky, they could easily give Kentucky fits. Kentucky really misses Young and also Randle. Those guys gave them a lot of offensive punch and especially Young could carry them through lows. They do have more add-on talent this year, but it’s more of the same kind of guys.

  • It looks like 13 of the top 20 HS kids from the 14 class could be going pro. I think Lyles & Tyus Jones have hard decisions and I included them in the 13. Jones could come back and run Duke but his boy is gone so why would he? Lyles could be the guy in Kentucky if he stayed. Funny that 3 of the 7 I believe will stay all play for UNC.

  • March is about being able to get your own shot, and get shots for others.

    By the time March rolls around, there are too many good coaches left in the field with too much time to scout out all of your weaknesses, know every single one of your plays and gum up all of your standard sets.

    Simply put, you cannot run your plays the same way you have all year come March because everybody has seen that stuff too many times.

    I agree with @jaybate-1.0 that we need elite 5’s and 1’s. But more than that, we need guys that can create their own shot off the bounce, and that will be allowed to create their own shot off the bounce.

    This is where Malik Newman and Jaylen Brown become suddenly more important to Kansas than they are to any other program. Both guys can get their own (or get something for someone else) when necessary. That doesn’t matter as much in December, but that matters in March when you’re facing the best remaining teams in the country, and they know what you run.

    Selden cannot get his own shot consistently. Kelly could sometimes, but again, not consistently. Frank could, but once the defense started clamping down, his size made that difficult. BG can’t get his own shot. He needs a creator.

    As an NBA coach once said, plays don’t score points - players score points. We have been too reliant on plays to score us points instead of letting players do that for us. The most famous play in Bill Self’s playbook (the “Chop” play) is famous mostly because Sherron Collins tripped and almost turned the ball over. That single trip led to Derrick Rose sliding about six inches out of position, which was just enough to let a big time player - Mario Chalmers - hit a big time shot. The play itself really didn’t work, but the players saved it by being better than the play. And the play became famous because the players made it work.

    If we had tried to run that play this year, could we have made it work? Would a handoff between Mason and Oubre have made that play work? Would Selden have been able to hold his man on the other side of the floor, or would that guy have cheated to the middle because he didn’t respect Selden’s shooting like Memphis respected Brandon Rush? Would Perry have been able to keep his man inside like Darrell Arthur did, or would that guy have left Perry and cheated up? Would Landen have set a solid enough screen like Darnell, or would he have been a step too slow on the screen?

    Beyond all of that, would we have had someone like Mario that not only could make that shot, but wanted the ball to make that shot. Was there someone with the speed and power of Sherron that could take the bump and still execute, and command attention because, hey, he could have canned a corner three just as easily?

    That’s players - not plays. We need guys that can (and want to) create off the dribble.

  • New to comment…not to the board. Enjoy the discussions here very much.

    @justanotherfan I think you’re spot on with the comment on the ability to create shots. The goal of offensive basketball is to try to create good shots. Without multiple guys who could regularly get in the lane off the dribble or someone in the post who could demand a double team, this KU team couldn’t create good shots as easily as past KU teams. There are a lot of reasons for why KU lost as they did, but the fact that WSU created good shots for themselves (which led to a high shooting 😵 while KU didn’t may be chief among them.

  • @justanotherfan Agree 110% with your first sentence - but I don’t come to the same conclusion that it has to be OAD like Newman and Brown. Great PGs are the key - they have to have the ability to create their own shot or create for others - and recognize when to pull up, when to take it to the hole, and when to distribute.

    Frank can get by his man, but he hasn’t learned how to distribute. In the first minutes of the WSU game, he demonstrated that he could blow by VanVleet and take it to the bucket. But, WSU adjusted, collapsed the defense into the paint and Mason kept dribbling into a clogged paint with predictable results. But, part of it is having teammates that recognize and get themselves into a position to receive a pass that will lead to a good shot. Mason has to evolve, but I think he can get there. I definitely think Graham can. Whether we have enough BBall IQ on the rest of the team to be in the right position is another matter. Russ Smith and Peyton Siva could penetrate and pull up - but they also made a hero out of Luke Hancock. Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier could create their own shots, but they were also very adept at penetrating and dishing to relatively no-name bigs (and not that big) for dunks and layups.

    Fine, if we can get the elite wings who can score the ball themselves, but I think we have guys that can get the job done as they get more experience.

  • @DCHawker great pts!

  • @DCHawker

    You make some fine points. It doesn’t have to be Newman or Brown, but they are current targets that have that skill. If there was a lower ranked player with that skill, I would list them, but I haven’t seen another KU target that has that ability.

    As for the ability to distribute, that is on both the driver and the pass recipients. As a driver, you have vision “windows” that you can pass to when you drive. The responsibility of your other guys is to get into a window when the defense collapses. Too often, our guys stand when players drive rather than either moving into a window for an open jumpshot (for shooters like Greene, Svi, Graham, Oubre, Perry, Hunter, etc.) , or cutting into an open space for a drop off pass for a dunk (for big guys like Cliff, Landen, Jamari, etc.).

    Too often, we didn’t get that man movement on the drive, so we end up with the defense collapsing, but the kick out not going to a wide open shooter, or there not being a cutter filling in where the defense shifted.

    The positives are that Devonte and Frank seem to have developed a nice chemistry on drives and are able to find each other. They understand what the other is seeing on the drive and have done a good job finding those windows for each other. We need more guys to do that.

  • @justanotherfan

    Newman & Brown are the only KU targets we have left. Unless some other kids back out of LOI’s or some transfers pop up we have put the eggs into 2 baskets. The problem with Spring recruiting but also the beauty. We didn’t think we would get Devonte & Svi at this time last year.

    Wayne better stay and not leave us or those 2 listed become even more important. Frazier from Florida just declared pro, and the only pro career he’s got ahead of him is Europe. Can’t believe that kid left.

  • @jaybate-1.0 What I wonder when I consider the shoeco alignments and possible runners-recruit complex is…why not just switch to Nike? Bill Self is a stubborn coach, but surely his competitive nature would seek out every edge on the recruiting trail. Hard to believe that chasing $$ for the AD would outweigh a big head start on the yearly pursuit of top ten talent. And doesn’t winning the in the NCAAs generate huge amounts of revenue anyway?

    Seems like if Self and co were aware of the Nike pipeline being such an advantage, it would be incredibly short-sighted to maintain the Adidas connection merely for short term gain. Or am I missing something?

  • Graham can create his own shot. Svi might become proficient at it. Greene and Selden can’t cut that mustard. If Svi becomes a dependable long- and midrange shooter, Greene will be a wasted pawn in SelfBall for a 3rd season. Selden will play and start. Self will make only miniscule changes to his offensive philosophy. For recruiting’s sake, best scenario for Greene to announce transfer. Pronto!

  • @jaybate-1.0 Here’s what I get out of this in a nut shell. KU is no longer Big man U. Especially with Manning gone. Thus far into the shoe co deck stacking, Coach Self is basically still on par with the other coaches as far as success goes, not recruiting. From what I understand also, is that Adidas is not keeping their contract with the NBA so as to get more competitive in the NCAA. One would think that this is good news for KU, one of the best Adidas linked schools out there. Adidas might be trying to limit and even detract from Nike’s monopoly of college ball. Based on that assumption, could it be fair to assume that Adidas will have more influence over five star 5’s and 5 star PG’s through the path of least resistance?

  • @REHawk atleast bg and his dad believe in Self ball or he would leave. I thought that was a positive sign!

  • @Lulufulu

    I am not sure how this will pan out. I just don’t know enough yet. But its a good question about adidas.

  • @REHawk

    What you are suggesting makes some sense, but it implies a considerable irony.

    Self spent several years trying to amass open look, make it on the kick out, three point shooters.

    And now you are saying he is shucking those to shift to drivers that can create a shot off the drive and get a foul.

    What a world!!!

  • @jaybate-1.0 Well, your shoe fodder is going away. Adidas is pulling out? Now what?

  • @DCHawker

    The thing to remember is that the nucleus of the 2008 ring team had a lot of 6-8 to 6-9 bigs and 6-11 Kaun. They had no high first round draft choice point guard. And in the first three years they had flame outs their first three years.

    The teams cornerstoned by the Morri were 6-7 to 6-9 bigs and they flamed out fairly early, and no high first round draft choice point guard.

    Aldrich, who after the fact was revealed to be only 6-9. had 4s for help, and no high draft choice point guard, and had teams flame out early.

    I’m not trying to be argumentative here.

    Gathers is a great player to have.

    But to go deep on an annual basis, I really think you have to have the high draft choice point guard and/or elite true 5.

    Without one or the other, and preferably both, you have to wait several years for the stars to align and the pieces to fit for deep runs.

  • @ParisHawk

    You have nailed the operational end of the constraint set I identified. Thanks.

    Self is going to go for the best players he can get.

    This recruiting is kind of like Salmon fishing on the Rogue River in Oregon.

    There are a lot of elite boats lined up out there with a lot of lines in the water waiting for the elite salmon to come up the river toward you.

    But there is this additional constraint. It is like the river is divided 3/4 where the Nike salmon swim and 1/4 where the adidas Salmon swim.

    So: Self has to park his KU boat in the 1/4 part of the river designated for adidas boats, and then he has to catch the best of what swims toward him. even though he cannot see clearly which adidas program they are leaning to.

    But every once in a while a Nike salmon swims close to the divider, and once in awhile, that Nike Salmon jumps over the divider. So: Self has to keep two lines out for possible Nike Salmon like Andrew Wiggins that jump the divider. One for those that have jumped into the adidas one quarter, and one that he tosses out over the divider on a long shot for those that haven’t jumped yet, but might like to.

    He will keep the best of whatever he catches, and try to juggle needs the next season with keeping the best of whatever he catches next season.

    In between salmon season, he will go fish the inland lakes for some smaller fish, and maybe go trolling out in the ocean in hopes of landing some big foreign catch.

  • @truehawk93

    I hardly think we have heard the end of adidas, that just spent $45M on Louisville, at either the college, or pro level. I would suspect we are, rather, seeing a restructuring of their strategy, wouldn’t you?. 🙂

  • @jaybate-1.0 you are crazy! Glad we hooked wigs and Embiid!

  • @Crimsonorblue22

    To paraphrase you, you’re crazy!! 🙂

    Or maybe you have had a little too much late night espresso and have misread me.

    I am happy we got Wigs and Embiid.

    I would like to have all ten of UK’s draft choice players.

    I am a recruit and play the best players, if they are better than what you already have.

    We probably would have won it all last season with Embiid healthy and Naa laying off the wild thing for six games.

    If Embiid had been able to play in the tourney, Wigs would never have protected the merchandize against Stanford.

    Rock Chalk!

  • @jaybate-1.0 I know, just think u r still crazy!

  • @Crimsonorblue22

    Same here! 🙂

  • @jaybate-1.0 Not trying to be argumentative either. And, I agree that an elite PG and/or big can yield a deep run. My question is this - what is more likely: Consistently being able to land prospectively elite OADs + who will actually turn out to live up to the hype + who can mesh with the rest of team + learn “our stuff” well enough to yield consistent deep run OR consistently landing 15-75 types guys who will probably give you 2-4 years and who earn their PT and form a solid core of veteran guys who know “our stuff”?

    Self has had 2 of his best 3 recruiting classes the past 2 years, and we’ve had 2 of the more challenging seasons during the Self era. Given that there won’t be more than a dozen or so truly elite prospects each year that UK, AZ, UNC, Duke and hometown schools will also go after (only half or so of whom will turn out to be truly elite), given the challenges of adapting to Self’s system, and given the Petro Shoeco complex issues you’ve identified, I’m just highly skeptical that the former approach is consistently achievable.

    Not saying that the latter approach is easy, but we did have a string of 30+ win seasons and 1 NC/2 FFs before Self seemingly fell into what I would characterize as the OAD tar sands. Maybe that’s the real Fool’s Gold?

  • @DCHawker

    The issue goes deeper than just the great recruiting classes. We’ve clearly struck out on kids who weren’t OAD’s that robbed this team of experienced depth. As it’s snowballed, we had to rely so much on last years class and this years class because half the kids we signed years before were gone. That’s why I posted in another thread that Self has to stop the bleeding. Keep most of this current team together and add pieces here and there that will help both next year and in future years.

    He could have had Ron Baker & Buddy Hield, 2 Midwest recruits, not all the HS school hoopla attached that wanted to play for KU. Self pursued other higher ranked kids across the nation trying to convince some who may have had interest in KU but weren’t practically begging to play for KU. He got 1 already in Bragg this year. He could get another in Diallo. Beyond that I’m not sure the interest levels of the others are that deeply rooted.

  • @BeddieKU23 said:

    that wanted to play for KU.

    I really think that is KEY. Think of all the kids over the years who were not highly recruited who turned out to be invaluable to our program because of their heart for KU. We’ve had major discussions on here - and other places 👎 - about the OAD’s, but I think the kids that bleed crimson and blue and will be here 3 or 4 years are the ones that make us special.

  • @BeddieKU23 as far as getting baker, he explained that. Self invited him up to play and try out for a walk on. Marsha didn’t recruit him either. WSU asst coach saw him play in the state tourney and talked Marsha into looking at him. He had no schollies left, so he walked on and red shirted his first year. Baker said he hadn’t picked up a ball for months so he didn’t think he would do well enough to try KU. All coaches miss out on great talent, hard to be perfect every year. I would say Self and assts have been pretty darn good at it!

  • @DCHawker I guess posters say it’s an excuse, but the injuries at the end of the season the last 2 years have left us in an awful bind. I would have loved to see what we could have done w/Embiid. Tharpe was our biggest downfall last year, and he was a veteran.

  • @Crimsonorblue22

    Yes you are right, it is hard to be perfect and we’ve benefited from our share of diamonds in the ruff (Mason, Graham, Taylor) the list goes on. I was using Baker & Hield as examples of kids we could have had but struck out recruiting others. If I remember correctly we waited too long on Hield, Baker’s story is remarkable that he got that good.

  • @Crimsonorblue22

    Embiid’s injury will forever haunt us won’t it. The behind the scene’s story on Tharpe has slowly surfaced. Mason has alluded that he wasn’t a mentor to him and didn’t teach him the things that he might have needed. Tharpe must have felt threatened by Self bringing him in. Good thing he did.

  • Kevin durant said “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” I think that explains a lot, portrays Ron baker too. Some players hustle down the court, others run, baker sprints! Problem w/some highly talented kids, they don’t see that, yet. I think our guys saw the tape of ISU game, there, and saw what they thought was hustle wasn’t even close. I see that same thing in bakers D, he plays uphill one pass away, hand out and jumps out at any pass. He anticipates well. I’m assuming his hs program is outstanding, they play in the state tourney almost every year. Maybe if Marsha leaves, and baker does graduate this year, he’ll come to his and our dream school. I’m really not a Baker lover, but I love his toughness.

  • @Crimsonorblue22 Baker must be OK. I heard he still has a poster of Kirk Hinrich on his bedroom door.

    Or maybe that should worry me…

  • @ajvan That’s a great point. Part of the “sell” to switch to Adidas is that they were a much better “value” as they outfitted EVERY athletic team at KU, not just basketball and football. But, seriously, just how expensive, I ask, is it to outfit sports team’s uniforms for a $60-70million dollar athletic dept budget.

    Personally, I think this adidas sponsorship needs to GO. A bunch of Lew Perkins’ hooey. Maybe even KU football attracts a few more recruits for Beatty, as well as our discussion here for Self’s recruiting. Or at least UArmour?

  • Questions for everyone at large:

    Was Arthur + Jackson an “elite” post presence? Was Kaun or frosh Cole off the bench an “elite” 5?

    Was Markieff + Marcus “elite”? I’d say Marcus played like an elite college 4man his jr season, we all saw it. Nor did he disappoint vs VCU with 20pts.

    Was Withey elite? Was Thomas Robinson elite in '12? (Yes on TRob.)

    PG’s: Was RussRob in 08 “elite”? (probably, as we’ve used him as a standard since). Was Sherron “elite” in 08? How about Sherron in 09? (Yes). How about senior season Tyshawn in '12? (Yes).

    Personally, I feel Frank Mason this season as a whole played at a near-elite level. True he had an occasional bad game where he took it 1-on-3 vs the trees, but he could get his “own shot” anytime, and against almost anybody. Frank Mason is not the problem, and actually, we should be scheming to get the tough little dude some help. Mason gets an A-minus for the season. And now, seriously, Towson has nothing to do with judging Mason, as clearly he was better-than his 70ish ranking. Tightest handles since Sherron Collins, period. Honestly, we needed his scoring. Our BEST, most consistent player, all season.

    Devonte Graham: OMG, this kid is gold. Like Frank, another “rare find” kid that simply makes the AppalachianState-thing a REAL head-scratcher. I’ll say it again here, as I have felt the last 3-4 weeks: Devonte Graham as a frosh is slightly better than Mario Chalmers was as a frosh. It must be remembered that after half a season of experimenting with Chalmers as the main PG, Self moved Chalmers to the SG/2G spot, since he failed as PG. And RussRob almost transferred when asked/forced to become the “distributive” lead-guard, because that required shelving his own offense (a top25, 22ppg h.s. scorer). Graham is also 6’2, 185. He isn’t skinny. Graham has a 40% trey gun. Graham can hit the midrange pullup-J. Graham is an unbelievable find, and is putting “Pretty Eyes” Selden to shame. Graham, of course needs work on passing to the post, and improving defense, and also avoiding a few bonehead passing mistakes.

    Selden: Another classic Self MickeyD who turns out not to be a true OAD. Nothing wrong with that, as we got to keep Shady, Rush, Chalmers, Sherron for multiple years: they ALL got better in Yr 2 or 3. Selden will too. He truly looks like an NBAer at times, but then O-fer other times. Send him to DWade’s academy, if there is such a thing, in June, prior to the Korea trip, and then turn that big boy loose to try out his thing. Love to see Selden explode next season for us!

    Agree with all those who believe KU should switch back to Nike. Jesus, we can pay for the softball and volleyball and rowing uniforms ourselves, seriously. Quit servicing and living by Lew’s stupid spin job!!


  • Thinking about the Nike/Adidas thing can actually make your head spin: There’s a ton of Div1 lowly programs that are “Nike”. Oh, but high and mighty Univ. of KS has to get stuck with Adidas??? What on earth is going on there!?

  • @nuleafjhawk Got no problem with Ron Baker (favorite player on WSU), nor do I have any issue with WSU players. Just don’t care for Marshall’s attitude towards KU. As a coach he’s a good one. But he also saw against NDame, that size and versatility do play a role, and WSU was outmatched from the 3wing, 4, and 5 positions. They were better with Hall at the 5 and Cleanthony Early at the 4.

    My biggest beef with WSU is with about half their fanbase, losing their class just like KStaters routinely do.

  • @ralster

    1. I think the combination of all of them was an elite post presence. Each man brought such a different skill set that they just went together like PB&J.

    2. Morris twins were elite, Marcus knew he was the man and they had a toughness about them.

    3. 2013 Withey was better overall, obviously T-Rob was one of the best we’ve had ever at the PF.

    4. I’d say yes on all, those guys set the standards for Self guards. Mason is getting there.

    5. I agree with the A- grade. He might have got the A+ had we still been dancing. He was that good and it gets somewhat lost with how the season ended. I’m sure the coaches will continue to work with him on PG skills, he would do good to attend the camps this summer and watch film on PG’s. We knew he can score and we know he can handle the rock. If he was 6’2 he’d be on NBA radar’s.

    6. Devonte has eerly similar #'s to Mason’s freshman year. The only issue with Devonte making the same leap is where are his minutes going to come from. Would Self entertain using both PG’s with Selden/Greene/Svi at the 3? Offensively and defensively that could be the best lineup. If Devonte is coming off the bench, hard to imagine he can improve as much as starting.

    7. Selden has to work on quickness & ball-handling. 2 major keys for him making a NBA roster. He has to learn to be more than a straight line driver and he could do some good maybe losing 10 pounds and adding quickness. His body is never going to go away but he could refine it to maximize skills. And lastly shoot 1,000 FT’s a day!!!

  • @BeddieKU23 I think Dg is leaps better than frank last season.

  • Great intra-squad competition on PGs to have Graham pushing Mason. Plus, since their skill sets are similar, as are their 40% trey guns, when one is off, the other is available. Relentless pressure on opponent. That’s what we had with RussRob/Chalmers/Sherron, then later, finally with EJ+Tyshawn together, and now, finally with Mason+Graham. That’s simply Self’s old concept of multiple threats from all positions, and multiple ball-handlers on the floor at almost all times. Clean up some turnovers, and Mason+Graham is a helluva combo.

  • @Crimsonorblue22 I certainly think Embid would have made a difference in the Stanford game, but I’m not sure how much further we would have gone. The team didn’t mesh well, and, as you note, we lacked good guard play, which is critical in the tournament.

    But, your injuries point raises another issue - were we just a bit unlucky with injuries the past couple of years, or is something else at work? This year, at least, it seemed like all our guys were at least a bit nicked up, esp. at the end of the year. Certainly, no one seemed fresh. Part of it might be that we weren’t using our pretty deep bench enough (IMHO, Hunter and Svi should have been getting consistent 8-12 minutes pg), but many teams have short rotations. Maybe it was the grind of the B12 season? Maybe the conditioning approach? Or, maybe just anomalous?

    Injuries are a part of the game, and you have to learn to live with or work around them. Worth noting that Wisconsin was without their starting senior PG most of the year - including the last part of the season - but is still going to the E8.

  • Svi showed us some real flashes this year, especially in his ball handling and his overall instincts. I’d be careful not to get in the “fashionable-to-bash-Selden”, as that kid could have his light-bulb moment literally any day now, as could Svi, as obviously I think 5star Svi is almost like a savant-type of uber talent. Imagine him after Huditioning, and just plain old mother nature (age) maturation.

    Part of Selden’s offensive inconsistency was him deferring to teammates, clearly trying to involve everybody, and also “trying hard” defensively. But, here’s a kid, McD-level talent, who’d showed enough over time to earn such a ranking…but most definitely in the Rush, Sherron, Arthur, Cliff, Cole type list of McDs who aren’t OAD-good, but do get better every year. Selden saved our butt in a couple of games this year, but hasn’t learned to be closer to that ceiling most of the time (consistency). I sincerely think Selden needs to let his inner alpha show. He definitely has it. Maybe he is trying to balance with Mason, who most definitely is a clear alpha.

    So I credit Selden for trying to be part of the team. But he needs to improve his consistency of production, as his team needs that from him also. The time is now.

  • @BeddieKU23 and @ralster I don’t think any of them were projected OADs coming in (Arthur maybe a TAD) and none were elite as freshman. They became “elite” college players and could execute the H/L only with experience. And, none are really elite talents, i.e., NBA all-star level, although Kief might end up making a couple of all-star teams. That’s been my point about trying to go after the elite bigs out of HS - Cliff supposedly was one. How many of those guys can really contribute out of the box, esp. in Self’s system - maybe 3-4 a year. And, if we get one, and they leave, can we replicate that the next year? Sure, I would love to get Diallo in addition to Bragg. But, does anyone believe they are going to have the back-to-the-basket skill set in year 1 to execute the high low??? So, Lucas at the 5 while they develop? I’m sorry, but while he battles and can give you some solid minutes, he really can’t execute in the H/L - doesn’t have much of an offensive game, has weak hands, has no hops and lacks quickness. He is a back-up.

    The PGs weren’t elite coming in, although Mario was fairly highly rated. Sheron was clearly the earliest to develop - was a significant rotation contributor from his first year.

    I love Mason and what he brings to the table and I would give him a B+/A-, esp. relative to everyone else, but he is far from an elite PG at this point. Not saying he can’t get there. But, he was scoring guard in HS and he just doesn’t have PG instincts. While he can get by his man, score reasonably well off the glass, and with occasional floaters, he doesn’t dish or distribute effectively when penetrating - he is on a mission. Simply put, he doesn’t, at this point, make it easier for him teammates to score; make others around him better. You really see it on 2 or 3 on 1 breakaways - he usually just takes it all the way himself.

    I’m really high on Devonte. I think he showed the most well-rounded game as a guard on both sides of the ball as anyone since Sheron. Yes, he made his share of freshman mistakes, but he’s got some swagger and IMO the highest BBall IQ on the team (along with Svi). I think he will continue to get better. Selden is another matter. I’m afraid he has peaked - hope I’m wrong, but he is what he is. He has no handle at all, absolutely no left hand. Doesn’t have much court awareness. As @beddieKU23 notes, just straight line drives in the paint. I would start both Mason and Graham in the backcourt (with DG as the 1) and have Selden split time at the 3 and 4 (depending on size and matches of other teams).

  • @ralster So, I was typing my other reply and missed this one. I hope you are right and I am wrong about Selden - nothing would make me happier. He seems like a good kid and great teammate. But he didn’t just not progress this year, he actually regressed. His numbers were similar to last year’s, but he had more TOs and was much more inconsistent. And, last year, he was clearly deferring to Wigs, Embid, and Ellis. He was expected to be the alpha this year, along with Perry. But, after watching him for a two years now, I’m not sure he has the full complement of skills sets to take it to the next level.

    You are right, there were 7-8 games this year where he really stepped up and arguably carried us. But, there were 28-29 games where he was a non-factor or worse. You mentioned defense and I didn’t in the above post. I don’t think he is a good defender, but another poster on another thread dissected his issues on the defensive end much better than me.

    Again, I hope he proves me wrong.

  • @DCHawker Great discussion! I’m just really curious to see a lot of our returnees become juniors and seniors, which was an underpinning to a lot of past Self team’s success and toughness. And let’s see what lessened amt of roster turnover does for us. I can hope Cliff and Oubre come back, purely selfishly for the above “experience” reasons…but I’m not holding my breath. I’m actually a little worried for Cliff, where exactly is he going to go? He clearly is not lotto material at this stage, and has a lot to learn about “real” post play at the next level.

    Good observations on Selden (they are calling him “Seldom” over on the other site), and we all saw that. My angle is purely a hopeful one, and hope the consistency-thing shows up (finally) for him as a junior.
    These guys could really gel in the summer Korea tournament, and just plain ole “get better”. Knowing about Cliff will help, as putting a 6’8, pissed off, 240lb, MichState-style banger in the paint, which Cliff could easily become, would be good for all parties.

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