Team Photo: Morphology Analysis

  • (Author here–DFW RIP–Many will start. Few will finish. What we see is not always what we get, but it is often enough to evaluate it. 🙂 )


    So: now its time to analyse the team photo to see what can be gleaned from it relative to the physical attributes of this year’s Jayhawks.

    Morphology in this case refers to body form.

    Some acronyms are used for the morphology analysis to expedite typing.

    SH = standing height from floor to top of head. SH is evaluated relative to position and is usually characterized as AASH (above average standing height for position), ASH (average standing height for position), BASH (below average standing height for position)

    NL = neck length, usually characterized as AANL (above average neck length), ANL, (average neck length), and BANL (below average neck length)

    LL = leg length inferred from relative belt height among those standing, or, in the case of those seated, shoulder height given standing height among those seated. LL is a surrogate for a rough proportional relationship between length above the belt and length below the belt.

    EH = effective height, usually characterized as AAEH (above average effective height), AEH (average effective height), BAEH (below average effective height), refers to SH adjusted for LL.

    EMA = effective morphological athleticism is a crude concept that assumes longer legs and shorter trunks allow a player to have a longer first step on offense, a greater ability to slide and drop step rapidly on defense, a greater ability to hook and cut off an opponent on either end of the floor, and a longer stride that could make one faster at running the floor, and also faster to get to rebounds, and in some cases jump higher given equivalent fast twitch muscle mass and tendon/ligament elasticity, due to greater leg leverage relative to trunk length.

    WYSIWYG = an acronym borrowed from computer software, hardware and monitor design and engineering that means WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET. It is used here to say that a player’s SH is truly indicative of his height, after indexing for NL and LL.

    MUA = Match-up Advantage, as in a player has body morphology that gives him an edge over most other players he faces.

    (Note: all observations assume no one is on tip toes in the picture, which, as @drgnslayr has noted, may be a questionable assumption.)

    The morphology analysis seeks to index reported standing height for variables of approximated neck length (NL) and approximated leg length (LL) to arrive at a crude quantitative characterization of effective height (EH) for position. Effective height refers not only to effective height (standing height adjusted for neck length to find a shoulder height more indicative of a players reach (the picture does not allow wing span inferences, which would significantly contribute to effective height, also), but also to effective morphological athleticism (EMA). Thus EH is actually a compound variable of EH and EA. Would that we could disaggregate these from the picture, but alas it is not possible, without resorting either to further purely subjective estimation–the very thing photo analysis seeks to minimize, or photo analytic software an FBI lab has, but that yours truly does not. 🙂

    In any case, the idea is to clarify the length and athleticism of our players in this crude morphology assessment.

    (Note: crude, or coarse grade, QA is not necessarily a bad thing. Degree of crudeness should fit the data. Never try to be more refined than data permits. And if differences stand out at a crude level, then one has perhaps more reason to rely on them than less.)

    The analysis starts with Vick on the top row left and moves left to right player by player assessing individual morphology attributes.

    Vick–6-5 Vick probably has slightly AASH for his position at the 2, and appears to have ANL, AALL (a belt line as high as 6-7 Brannen Greene implies long legs on a short trunk), which mean Vick’s EH is slightly above his standing height because of long legs. If one recalls that Vick has AASH, and notes also his AAEH, one infers Vick could with skill development hold significant skill and strength development hold significant MUA.

    Self–ASH for a guard, but AANL and sharply BALL; this translates to sharply BAEH.

    Greene–at 6-7, Greene has AASH for the 2 but only ASH for the 3. He has ANL and slightly AALL, which means he is close to WYSWIG in EH. So: for Brannen to hold MUA he has to play the 2 and hope he can improve his quickness. At the 3, he will hold little or no MUA in most cases. Self likes for players to hold MUA, whenever possible and that is why he plays players out of position so much. Players can hold MUA with EH, or they can hold MUA with superior quickness despite shorter SH. The way to get the most bang for the buck out of Greene is to play him at the 2, teach him to guard better, and hope Hudy can improve his quickness and flexibility, so he can use that long first step on short guards, both to get past them, and shoot over them, but also to use a long drop step to neutralize their superior quickness and cut off their drives, while using his EH to block or alter their shooting. Thus a hip injury poses a very critical risk for Greene performing well, because it directly impacts on his quickness and flexibility–his two most vulnerable variables in exploiting his MUA at the 2. Without a great drop step, Greene is toast at the 2. And if reduced flexibility forces him to the 3, then he probably holds no MUA there.

    Svi–morphology analysis of the picture makes starkly clear why Svi struggled last year despite pre-season hype and despite the early and late opportunities (playing opportunities first with little practice experience and later with much practice experience) and why he could have problems long term. Svi’s AASH for the 1 and 2 is highly appealing given his deftness with ball handling and his reputed good shooting eye (though that was not in evidence last season). But he has sharply AANL and sharply BALL (notice his belt line in comparison with the inch shorter Greene and the 2-3 inch shorter Vick is much lower indicating a much longer trunk) that make him in some ways a taller, more celebrated version of Tyler Self and Evan Manning in terms of morphology. Svi has short legs and a long neck for his AASH; thus he has BEH, unless he plays point guard, which so far, Self has appeared not to be inclined to do. Why? At 17, he simply lacked the leg strength to slide quickly enough to cut off shorter legged offenders, or stay with them over screens. But even with improved leg strength, he faces something of a predicament. At the 2, he appears likely to face many players with similar leg length and less upper body to drag around, while at the 3, he appears likely to face many players with GREATER leg length. Thus the AASH can ONLY create MUA at the point, but he appears not quick enough to play point, so far. Svi seems one of those gifted basketball players that may not have the morphology needed to flourish with MUA at any particular position in American college and professional basketball, where the top athletes seem mostly to possess AAEH. It will be up to Svi to create a quickness, foot speed and strength that can give him an edge his BEH cannot.

    Bragg—here we have someone near a basketball coach’s morphological wet dream. Apparently now 6-10, he is either ASH, or AASH for his position 4-5 position, but his short neck and his high belt line yield sharply AAEH. Compare him to 6-10 Landon Lucas. He and Landon share a high belt line, but Bragg’s shoulders are at least an inch above Landen’s. We need say to more to understand why Bill Self says there is really nothing Bragg cannot do, if he will just stick around two seasons, muscle up, and skill-up. At a certain point of development, Carlton Bragg is a walking MUA.

    Landen—there is a reason Self took a flyer on Landen. Average standing height for his position with a high belt line mean he can run the floor very well. And his ANL means, while his shoulders are not above Bragg’s, they are above a lot of goose necks his height playing in the post. Brandon should rebound well against all but long legged no necks like Bragg. And Landen working on positioning and strength can help him battle the Braggs, too.

    Colby—one look short neck and high belt line, which are comparable to Braggs, plus his girth, make clear why Self pounced on Colby. Colby, if coached up, and provided a money move, is an MUA in waiting, as surely as Bragg is. Colby just doesn’t reputedly have Bragg’s touch. Fine, he can rebound and stick back Bragg’s out side Js.

    Diallo—Cheick has ASH. long neck, low shoulders, and a low belt line. He isn’t going to be a star due to the MUA of his body morphology. Compare Cheick’s shoulders to Bragg, and Colby in particular. And compare his belt line with Bragg’s and Colby’s. Cheick is going to have to do it all with a big cardio vascular motor, the great rebounder’s sixth sense of where the ball will come off, and more than his share of fast twitch muscle. Cheick reputedly has all of those in spades. Let’s hope so. Because from here on out he will increasingly play against players taller than him, just as strong as him, and with much more advantageous body morphology.

    Selden—he looks so powerfully built and so athletic that those looks obscure some underlying morphology short comings that make him player smaller than has SH. Wayne has a long neck, a low belt line, implying a sharply BAEH. Compare Wayne to LaGerald Vick. Wayne is an inch shorter than Vick, but look at that bleacher line behind both their heads. The bleacher line is almost even with the bottom of Wayne’s chin and is almost halfway between Vick’s chin and his lower lip. Then compare the belt line. Vick’s is an inch higher than Wayne’s. The vertical line of Wayne’s arms starts a good inch and a half lower than Vick’s. Vicks legs are way longer than Wayne’s. From the morphology, its clear why Self wanted to play Wayne at the 2. He was short for his size. But Wayne really struggled driving on 2s. His short legs couldn’t carry him past the 2s and he was carrying way more bulk up top than the 2s, so he basically could not get to the iron. When Self moved Wayne to the 3, suddenly Wayne got to play an up and under game with most 3s that were taller and willowier than Wayne. Wayne could use his greater quickness to get a step on a 3 that he could not get on a 2, then he could turn the corner and use his great brawn up top to muscle around them and over them at the hoop. It is a bit counter intuitive at first. But once one understands body morphology, it makes good sense. Wayne will have trouble with quick strong 3s with a couple inches on him. But he should be okay as long as he plays up and under against most, the same way Frank Mason and Sherron Collins used to have to play up and under on point guards. Of course, the best defensive roll model for Wayne is Brady Morningstar, who was the master of up and under against long 3s. The good fortune for Wayne is that if can master Brady’s up and under and combine that with Wayne’s great upper body strength, Wayne will not just contain opposing 3s, he will dominate them. But even in Korea, he has a way to go to match Morningstar’s quick feet. But by losing weight and decreasing body fat, Wayne is making his feet have to move less. And the plan apparently is to get his feet fleet and retain that muscle on top to create a lock down man. Travis Releford of course is the ideal type for Wayne to emulate, but Wayne lacks 2 inches of standing height that Travis had. So: Brady’s defensive style, from the waist down, counterintuitive as it may seem to some (are you scraping yourself off the ceiling yet, @HighEliteMajor), is really the way for Wayne to go in modeling, and then model Travis from the waist up. Do this, and Wayne Selden can be a strikingly good up and under 3.

    Frank—Mason is the exception that proves the rule on body morphology. Frank has BASH for his position. Frank has ANL and a slightly low belt line, which means slightly short legs . Therefore he has BAEH. But Frank compensates for disadvantaged morphology in many, many ways. The guy is awesomely, beautifully muscled. His cardio vascular is stunning. He is basically fast twitch muscle attached to tennis shoes. He can jump out of the freaking gym. He is literally quicker than some cats. He also has the best rebounding knack I have ever seen in a guard. He is without exaggeration the Bill Bridges of guards. Fans are not going to really grasp his freakish greatness until many years from now, because there is really nothing to compare him to. There haven’t been any great rebounding 6-0 guards. EVER. And to take unprecedentedness into the stratosphere, Frank has an after burner speed above fast that is frankly hard to believe until you actually see it. He has learned not to use it much, because he outruns everyone on his team at the D1 level. If Frank were to learn to play under control at his after burner speed, he would become some weird variation on Steve Nash. I have a hunch that Frank can learn to play under control at that speed if he can just get a fair shot in the NBA. Nash did not play at blinding speeds until he got to the NBA where he was eventually given teammates that could keep up. I believe Frank falls somewhere between Steve Nash and Tiny Archibald in pro potential. Frank will look like a very good point guard in college, but he will not burn the place down, or score 40 points, just as Nash and Archibald did not do that sort of thing in college, much if at all. But when Archibald and Nash got to the pros, where they could air it out end to end with players capable of filling lanes and handling their passes at incredible speeds, Frank could blossom in the NBA as they did. Frank Mason is an athletic freak. He violates all the norms. He’s even a great outside shooter. And he’s supremely tough mentally. He is Self’s true unfair advantage and the exception to the morphology rules I’m working with here.

    Devonte—Graham has ASH for the 1 and is probably slightly BASH for the 2. His neck is about average. He seems to have ALL. But he guy is powerfully muscled and cat quick. He is WSYWIG. He is 6-3 an plays that height. He strength is not morphology, or freakish speed, freakish jumping, but great court vision, the keen anticipation of great passers, an all around athleticism. He also possesses the gift of high emotional IQ, which will in coming years be better and better understood as a critical attribute to recruit.

    Number 21—I don’t even recall this walk-on’s name. Call him Curtain Beard. Next.

    Jamari—Traylor is an explosive jumper. He can get a block. He has even developed a 2pt J form 17. He is listed as 6-8 and 220 so he has ASH for 4 and BASH for the 5. He is cut and buff. He is tough. So: why can’t this guy buy a rebound? Well, the biggest factor is probably an absolute lack of the rebounder’s knack of guessing correctly where the ball will come off. That has nothing to do with morphology. But I think there is a morphology component to Traylor’s rebounding problem. First, he is probably 6-6 instead of 6-8, so in fact he has sharply BASH for the 4 and the 5. But the photo implies still more morphological disadvantage. Compare Jam and Mick seated side by side. Mick is listed at 6-10. Mick could be overstated, too. But however you slice it, Mick is 2-4 inches taller than Jam in terms of SH. But notice that seated, Jam’s head height seems even to slightly above Mick’s!!! One might call Hunter Mickelson Daddy Long Legs, or one might call Jamari Traylor Daddy Short Legs. My hunch is that the reality is some of both. Now forget Mick for the time being and focus on the implication of this for Jam. Jam is severely SH challenged to be playing the 4, or 5 to start with, but it also appears that he has short legs and a long torso. Those short legs are so well muscled that they don’t impair Jam Tray from jumping tall buildings in a single bound. But those short legs do mean that he is taking vastly shorter first steps and ensuing steps to get to rebounds that most other bigs that he is playing against. If you get to a rebound late, it really doesn’t matter how goddamned high you can jump. The other guy has it already. Mick may not be able to jump over pancake, I don’t know. But I can tell you that Mick’s first step to a rebound will put him their quicker than Jam’s will. And when Jam is going against an explosive jumper with long legs, well, he really hasn’t got a prayer of getting to a rebound first. Some will no doubt ask, yes, but why about little Frank Mason? Well, Mason has the great knack of guessing where the ball will come off, and Frank is usually rebounding from outside against other guards that often are not even thinking about rebounding. Frank is not going up against dedicated rebounders in the 4 and 5 positions. He is generally doing the rebounding equivalent of cherry picking. Jam has to keep them on his butt, or he is being kept on their butt, and so the first step takes on sharply greater significance in the outcomes of rebounding. Or so the hypothesis goes.

    Hunter—Mickelson has ASH for the 5 and just maybe slightly AASH for the 4. But he mostly plays the 5. As already noted, he has AALL. But he is cursed with a long neck. Result: he is quick to rebounds but his BAEH and his modest hops make him a so-so rebounder. This is why Self made the somewhat cryptic remark about Hunter: he has finally learned how to play hard enough to get to play, or something like that. Translated that meant, Hunter is not a jumper, even though he has a nice knack for reaching tall, not leaving the floor and blocking shots a la Jeff Withey. But he cannot rebound well relying on a long first step, because he does not have an explosive jump. So: Hunter had to become a constantly revving cardio vascular motor in perpetual horizontal movement in order to use his Daddy Long Legs to get to rebounds first in order to tap them away, rather than go up and get them. There are just too many guys in D1 that can combine bodying and explosive jumping in ways that could offset Mick’s long first step to the ball and preventing him from grabbing it on a consistent basis. But when Hunter doesn’t focus on trying to grab the ball, but rather on getting there first and slapping it, or slapping whomever out jumps him for it, then Hunter keeps the ball alive for KU’s other superbly quick players to go get. Put another way, Hunter Mickelson is not so much a guy who is supposed to get the 50/50 balls as he is supposed to create 50/50 balls off rebounds for other KU players to get.

    Perry—Perry has BASH for a 4. He has a looooong neck. BUT he has freakishly short torso and relatively long legs for his height. Perry also has elf hands. Perry tries to make up for the disadvantaged morphology with hops and impressive quickness for his size. Nevertheless, Perry is not equipped to rebound the 4 against big athletic 4s willing to put a hurt on him. But he can make life very miserable for those same kinds of 4s on the offensive end of the floor, and 20 or 30 minutes of chasing Perry doing his spins, and long cuts and outside shooting, and drives, and, well, you get the message. Perry, as a stretch 4, can wear down a lot of blue meanies, if he can survive their punishment the first 20 minutes or so. Perry has BASH and BAEH, and doesn’t like to dish out punishment, and so he really takes a beating. But he keeps on coming. And he frankly has a cornucopia of offensive moves now that make him very hard to guard despite his morphological disadvantages at the 4.

    Evan—Manning is a 4 above the waist, and a 1 below the waist. Look at Evan in comparison to Jam, Hunter, and Perry. Long neck. Long torso. Short legs. Whew!!!He is the same freaking size sitting down as three of our bigs. There may be a little trickery involved with Evan. He might be seated farther forward.

    So that is a summary of the KU players’ morphologies and some remarks triggered by study of them in this picture.

    Body morphology doesn’t tell how well you play the game.

    It tells how much MUA you could hold physically if you can get to where you play the game well.

    Play ball !!!

  • @jaybate-1.0 Never underestimate the impact a large booty can have on seated height…

  • @Makeshift


  • Your belt line could be anywhere from your butt crack to your nipples, depending on how cool you are. I’d be cautious about interpreting waist height from belt line in a photo.

    Fascinating analysis, nonetheless.

  • @tundrahok

    Thx and Yes it is a bit like drawing inferences from aerial photography. Appearance can vary considerably from reality.

  • @tundrahok i’ve seen belt lines WAAAY below the butt crack! Unfortunately…

  • @jaybate-1.0 I agree with your signature line about Snacks vs Aaron Miles!

    We could change our team-coaching “Morphology” in a hurry by throwing Snacks out of the cupboard. His high-point with the Jayhawks was when he did that dance on that genuinely FUN lockerroom video with the 2012 Jayhawks (that Justin Wesley engineered) which was all over social media and YouTube.

    Aaron Miles could be the guy. He played in a NC game for KU. But he isn’t hanging around Roy or UNC, no…he is here at KU, learning from the master coach that he wants to learn from.

    My coolest recollection of the Miles/Langford era were the Nike/Jordan (white & blue) basketball shoes the KU team wore. I still wear Jordan’s to play bball in, along with my usual KU bball attire. Very occasionally will wear TRob’s KU-model Adidas, and the current DRose 2015. They are the only Adidas worth playing ball in (for my feet and playstyle). The only other Adidas was the early “Pro Model” that B.Rush and Cole Aldrich wore in 2008. Now wearing those shoes + the 2008 NC shorts is a SPECIAL feeling…!

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