The Ugly, Necessary Choice: Greene over White

  • Andrew White came to Ku as the 51st ranked player in the nation. White had a lot of promise. He leaves with little to show for his two years of blood, sweat, and effort given to the program. We know it’s not fair.

    When White signed, he said he chose KU primarily “because of the opportunity. It wasn’t because of the hype that comes with Kansas. Seeing them play on TV, I see an opportunity to play as a freshman, and their style fits my strengths.”

    But this came down to a simple competition – Andrew White vs. Brannen Greene. Coach Self had to project which player would be the better long term player at Kansas. And he had to ensure that we did not lose both White and Greene to transfer.

    Three things set the Andrew White transfer into motion.

    First, Andrew Wiggins’ signing claimed minutes that White could have reasonably assumed where his, assuming he could beat out Brannen Greene. That was easy to see. If given the opportunity, White could have conceivably seized the three spot for years to come. Wiggins’ signing robbed him of that chance.

    Second, Kelly Oubre signing in November. A kid of this ranking isn’t coming to sit. Oubre – according to Oubre – was told by Self that he would come in and take Andrew Wiggins’ spot. Perhaps a necessary semi-promise to snag a top 10 guy. And top 10 guys don’t come to sit.

    But third, and very importantly, I firmly believe that Self understood his roster limitations and the dynamic of his players. I believe that last November, after Kelly Oubre put his name on the dotted line, Self understood that he had a choice to make. And it wasn’t pretty.

    So Self had a choice. It is the same choice we talked about here – White vs. Greene. We discussed it many times. The roster composition required that choice. Self was going to lose either White or Greene to a transfer. He had to choose. If Self didn’t choose, he could have two unhappy guys, no real pecking order, and risk losing both Greene and White to transfer. So Self chose Greene – a “future NBA” guy as Self has now touted. It was pretty clear that Self made that choice in early December. He committed to Greene, who is probably the guy that Self sees as most talented (as do most of us here). Perhaps he had a bit of a feel, too, that if Greene felt he was behind White, he was a big transfer risk. That makes sense. If Self had played White and White had actually performed as well as he did to open the season, Self would be stuck, wouldn’t he? So Self shut him down – a clear way to commit to his choice. Self could not risk that White would perform, or outperform Greene. Wildly unfair to White? Of course.

    Here’s why it was unfair – White actually performed and demonstrated that he was ready for a full rotation role. Against UL-Monroe, first game of the season, White played 19 minutes, went 4-6 from the field, and 3-5 from three point land, scoring 12 points. Then, against Duke, he only played 4 minutes. Next game out against Iona, White only got 8 minutes of playing time but went 2-3 from the field (1-2 from three) for 6 points. Then, against Towsen, White played 14 minutes, 4-6 shooting, 2-4 from three. At that point, he was clearly our team’s best three point shooter and really was the most productive player giving minutes played. Against Wake, he played 17 minutes, scored 4 points, going 0-3 from three point range. Even then, he was a 40% three point shooter (6 of 15).

    That’s where it ended. His playing time over the next 8 non-conference games? A total of 22 minutes. His playing time significantly decreased prior to the hip-pointer, that White says really only caused him to miss “a game or two.” I’m quite confident that the “hip-pointer” had nothing to do with it.

    It was the tough choice that Self gets paid to make. It was really a shrewd and tactical roster decision. Self has to determine which players will make KU the best possible team. In this case, it was Greene over White. Perhaps the best long-term decision. It’s just as simple as we made it in our discussions here at

    Andrew White deserved better. Self said during White’s freshman season, “Does Andrew deserve from a talent standpoint to play more? Absolutely. No question.” But in the end, like Clint Eastwood said in Unforgiven, just before putting a rifle shot between Little Bill’s eyes, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”

    I don’t think anyone likes seeing Andrew White go. Personally, I’d rather have just gone with White and Greene and let Wiggins and Oubre go elsewhere. But that’s another discussion.

    Self made the hard decision – Greene over White – to ensure that he did not lose both players. It wasn’t pretty. If a choice had to be made, and I’m convinced that it did, this was the right decision. Self couldn’t afford to risk losing both. Tough decision, perhaps unfair, kind of ugly, perhaps harsh. But in the end, a necessary decision.

  • @HighEliteMajor Good post, HEM.

    Maybe it’s just the biased KU fan in me, but I can’t help but think, if it’s all the same (White having to sit out a year) why not just red-shirt at KU?

    Do you think it’s just a matter of the OAD trend continuing at KU in the coming years? This of course leads to a larger debate, but at some point you would have to think that because Self’s system just isn’t conducive to OAD system, he would eventually see that and go back to the way things have always been ran at KU. White and players like him have typically been the best for KU.

  • @HighEliteMajor Good post. I do have a question for you. You say you’d personally rather have just gone with White & Greene and let Wiggins & Oubre go elsewhere. I guess, first of all, do you think that stance is at all premature? I know how you feel about Wiggins, but we haven’t seen Oubre or how his Kansas career will play out. Say Oubre stays two years. It’s not out of the question; we’re getting Selden for a second year who was slightly higher rated than Oubre. So three years of Wiggins & Oubre or the last 3 years of White’s eligibility? (I say three years, as neither Wiggins or Oubre had anything to do with White not seeing the court his freshman year).

    As I said, it’s premature as we don’t know how Oubre will perform or how long he’ll stay. We also don’t know how well White would have performed. We have some glimpses, mostly against the bottom feeders of our non-conference opponents. However, taking an initial look, I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say we got more production and good play out of Wiggins last year than we would have with White. I draw this conclusion if for no other reason than we know Wiggins was our best perimeter defender, whereas White seemed to be held back by his defensive deficiencies.

    So after 1 year (again, discarding White’s freshman year which is largely irrelevant in this discussion), we were better off with Wiggins on the court than White. Now I know you’re fond of saying that now that Wiggins has “shuffled off to the NBA” that we have nothing to show for his time here. But that’s not exactly true. Without Wiggins, and his subsequent departure, we likely don’t land Oubre with two rotation players (Greene & White) entrenched at the position. So for me, as much as I like AW3 and agree it wasn’t “fair”, the true evalution of this roster move by Self won’t come until after we see how Oubre pans out. We will also have to bear in mind that in this evaluation, we are judging Oubre against what we think we would have gotten out of a junior and senior year White with 1 year rotation level playing time heading into next year. It will be a tall order for Oubre to out-perform at least what my expectations of White’s game would be, although I do think back to White’s weakness - his defense - and think it can be done as Oubre is supposedly a plus defender.

    The truth is, we’ll never know if this was the right move since we don’t get to see both paths played out and are only left to speculate. But if Oubre stays 2 years and performs admirably, would you still be in favor of White over Wiggins & Oubre?

  • why not just red-shirt at KU?

    @MoonwalkMafia The answer is because there is no guarantee of playing time after sitting that one year. There are just too many variables working against him. Best case scenario for White if he were to redshirt would be Oubre is an OAD, Self doesn’t recruit over him again, and he comes back and backs up Greene for two years. That’s two “ifs” that would need to break his way just to be a back-up.

    Oubre isn’t a guaranteed one and done. If White were to red-shirt and Oubre comes back, now he’s getting no playing time as a junior, hoping Oubre turns pro after his sophomore year, and now he’s a senior backing up Greene for one year.

    I make the assumption that White would be backing up Greene based on Self choosing Greene this past season.

    Basically, White couldn’t afford to burn that year sitting out at KU hoping the situation improves. If he were to redshirt and the situation didn’t improve, he couldn’t transfer without burning a year of eligibility. He needs to go somewhere that the situation is more in his favor.

  • I think it is situations like AW3 that make it tough to be a college basketball coach. Sometimes, decisions are tough, and coaches have to make decisions comparing chances of winning versus friendly decisions.

    AW3 was a “hump player” in the regards that he was on the edge of being a rotation player but never crossed over Self’s hump.

    I’m satisfied that Self told him an honest answer on his chances of playing in the future. That was the least he could do.

    I don’t agree that AW3 “got nothing” from coming to Kansas. He will get the “Kansas bump” moving forward… meaning… he’ll carry a solid reputation as he moves to his next phase in college basketball. He also had excellent coaching which did help him develop, especially in the area of physicality.

    The “Kansas bump” will always be there. Maybe AW3 has aspirations to coach some day. Having Kansas (and Self) on his resume will be a big help.

    Last… I believe AW3 still has a solid relationship with Self and his staff. And I believe Self will help guide him to his next opportunity. There will definitely be solid opportunities for AW3.

    Using his red-shirt year as his transfer sit is not a bad thing. I bet AW3 will walk away from his college basketball experience with a diploma. And the extra year he can use to build his game more, especially tweaking it to his new opportunity.

    I’m betting AW3 will “make some noise” before leaving the college game! He’s just too good, too focused, and he has a great attitude.

    I wish he would stay a Jayhawk, but only if he would get lots of valuable PT, and there won’t be a guarantee of that if he stays. He feels the same way… he’d like to stay, but he has to make the most of his one chance at D1.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    Bravo to a well-written, thought-provoking post!

    Here is the thought it provoked in me.

    What if Self were no longer entirely able to call the shots about who has to play?

    What if in order to get any OADs, one had to agree to take whatever OADs one could sign, no matter who else one already had?

    Just speculating hypothetically, of course.

  • @HighEliteMajor good post!

    I would love to be a fly in the wall for those conversations Self might have had with AW3 or BG, or even Oubre (ok, with EVERYBODY, ha).

    I wonder if BS played BG over AW3 last season because he already made up his mind that one of them had to stay and BG had more upside, or if he just thought BG was playing better and wasn’t thinking of the off-season consequences of his actions. So for Bill Self was it an ugly necessary choice consciously made in the middle of the season, or did it happen just at the end of the season here?

  • HEM, ict, slayr, outstanding posts re this issue! Such in-depth speculations keep me returning to this site almost daily. A nice tribute to Andrew White that some of the very best fans and posters keep his name and game in their thoughts. I look to see Andrew complete his eligibility in style, hopefully at a prime opportune location. And I hope to hell Greene and Oubre stay healthy this season. Next potential logjam: Frankamp, Mason, Graham. That could be resolved if Frankamp relaxes to the extent that he regularly hits better than 40% of his 3s; becomes an insert specialist. But as we have conjectured, he might need considerably more playing time in order to settle in with such focus and results. He had ever so much to learn last season, with only scant minutes to put it all together. His specialty suffered.

  • @REHawk And, of course, there is the Alexander, Lucas, Mickelson logjam, too. Or maybe even an Ellis, Alexander, Traylor jam…if Mickelson or Lucas should take wing and soar at the post. Selden appears to be the one player whose position and big minutes would seem secure.

  • @HighEliteMajor Bravo. You nailed it. When AW3 got hurt, I got to thinking Coach wanted him to play through it, and maybe he refused, and ended up in the doghouse or something. Your theory makes much better sense. Very nice post.

  • I, too, theorized that the hip pointer was AW3’s death knell. Still think that Self might have, at least subconsciously, glawmed onto that incident as his point of decision. That said, HEM’s missive makes good sense.

  • @MoonwalkMafia - I agree with your OAD statement, certainly. I’m just wondering if there is anyone other than the two of us who are not pro-OAD. Maybe a better way to say it is that most are “pro-recruit the best player regardless of presumed or potential OAD status.”

    @icthawkfan316 - I kind of wish I would have left my backhanded OAD reference out of it. But I can say right now, as I sit here today … unequivocally … if I could rewind, I’d rather we missed on Wiggins and Oubre, and were simply left with White and Greene. I think our progam would be stronger, and I think our overall results would not be different. And actually, here’s wild speculation – I think we beat Stanford (assuming we had the same matchup), mainly because as a team, we wouldn’t have been so reliant on one guy (Wiggins), who Stanford took away. Again, wild speculation that I admit is probably worthless.

    My opinion on White/Greene over Wiggins/Oubre is with the assumption that Oubre ends up just as good as Wiggins was in his freshman season. I think White would be a very sound 3, and Greene would have gotten much more PT, and would be further along as well. Compare that to a freshman coming in, new, learning the system. But I admit that there is a chance that either White or Greene would have crashed and burned.

    I also see Greene still as a potential casualty here depending upon how Oubre, playing time, and new potential OAD recruits play out, thought not a lot of potential OADs at the SF spot. We had two high level 3s that could have been a core of our program. After seeing White’s performance early in the season, I asked whether we’d have just been better off without Wiggins at that point. And the defense item you cite has questionable validity on White. Self never said White’s defense was deficient – now, does that mean it wasn’t? I don’t know. But it would seem that Self would have at least referenced it as some point as he’s done with others to explain lack of PT. I thought White’s D looked fine in his early season games. I don’t recall him ever getting yanked because of it, or any huge flub.

    See, I agree with your " we don’t know until it all pans out" perspective – when you’re looking back. But as a coach, deciding on your program, and priorities, and structure, you don’t have that luxury, as you know. You have to evaluate and speculate. Plainly, Self has decided that we’re better off going this way. Peons like me dare to disagree. I like Travis Releford and what he brings to a team his junior and senior seasons, instead of Wiggins for just one. I just think you create better teams that way.

    @drgnslayr - I’m not sure what you mean by a “Kansas bump.” I guess I know what you are meaning, but I haven’t seen it with any of our transfers – Appleton, Peters, Adams, Thomas, Lindsey, Woolridge. Actually, I have always kind of felt that guys don’t end up too well after transferring.

    @jaybate - Ah, the shoeco thing. Is that what you are referring to? So, you think Wiggins is signing with Adidas then?

    @BucknellJayhawk3 - Maybe Greene was the more volatile of the two, and White the more level headed? Maybe Self felt that he needed to show Greene he was higher in the pecking order? Self has gone out of his way to compliment Greene. I don’t for a minute discount that it was simple competition and that it was simply Greene being better than White. I think that Greene being better than White in Self’s eyes was the core of it all. But my speculation is that Self shut White down so as not to further complicate matters – meaning, Self wants Greene, strongly believes Greene is better, but if White outperforms him? Greene then may see that as a transfer flag. I don’t think this all came up late in the season. I think it was and is ever-present. Always part of the thought process. All the time. And I think Self might have different levels of “caring” about it, just like we might speculate. The better the player, the more he cares.

    @REHawk I guess I am totally confused by the point guard deal (meaning who will start – I lean towards Mason), but you’ve nailed it on the logjam thing. It’s a continuous competition. And I would not be surprised if one of the three transfers after next season. Competition, survival of the fittest. Imagine if we sign pg Brunson? Or SG Newman? There are really 4, maybe 5, rotations spots that get PT among the perimeter positions (1, 2, and 3). But in 2015, there don’t appear to be any presumed OAD point guards. If I were betting either way – at least one transfers or none of the three transfer after this season – I’d bet one transfers.

    @KUSTEVE - Interestingly on the injury thing, White said it only caused him to miss “a game or two", not to fall off the face of the earth. But maybe it was a crucial time in Self’s decision making? That was a time when Self had said on Hawk Talk that he had to decide on his 5 perimeter guys. Perhaps it all added up, and Self just moved on from White. Meaning he eliminated him at that point. That appears to be what happened.

  • @HighEliteMajor Excellent points. What we don’t know is how those guys performed in practice. Presumably, Greene outplayed White in practice which was the basis, in addition to Greene’s higher upside, for Greene getting the minutes (which weren’t much).

  • @HighEliteMajor

    " I’m not sure what you mean by a “Kansas bump.” I guess I know what you are meaning, but I haven’t seen it with any of our transfers – Appleton, Peters, Adams, Thomas, Lindsey, Woolridge. Actually, I have always kind of felt that guys don’t end up too well after transferring."

    Sure… Peters ended up at Arizona… not too bad. Didn’t Thomas go to UNLV? Lindsay to UNM? I think most these players do well for themselves. Adams seems to have some personal issues.

    I mentioned it as much for potential to coach later. It seems half the coaches out there today have run a path through Lawrence.

  • @Hawk8086 The practice thing is the great unknown. I do recall Self saying that Greene was struggling in practice last November. But heck, guys can struggle and still be better than the guy next to them. I have no doubt that practice performance is a part of the equation, and that may vary player to player.

    @drgnslayr Ok, I thought you meant that they excelled. And I spelled Lindsay wrong, didn’t I? Seldon would be proud.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    Funny misspelling Selden after a misspelling correction. 🙂 Not sure if it’s intentional or not, but funny none the less.

    It seemed to me that Greene was already equal to White on offense as a Freshman. Greene and White both had fair to poor handles. Greene had concentration issues, White was a work out warrior. Greene’s lateral quickness exceded White’s by far, so he has more defensive potential. And the trump factor, since all other things are pretty equal, Greene has one more year of eligibility.

  • @dylans Maybe it was intentional …

    I agree with the Greene choice over White. We had discussed this a bit back in late November when we were hoping Self would settle on a perimeter rotation. Greene just seems to have more going for him from an all around game perspective. I love his fire, too. And you hit on another good point. All things being equal, Greene had three more seasons left.

  • @HighEliteMajor Agree with your post. Agree on the OAD thing also, although I definitely liked/enjoyed Andrew Wiggins. But its a hard thing to judge, contextually, since Andrew’s team was very inexperienced, ran a simplified offense as there wasnt time to learn all of it…and the team struggled defensively. All of these things naturally get better for a BillSelfteam in Yr2…but we dont get Wiggins for Yr2, which illustrates why the OADs dont really impact at KU, except for that RARE occurrence when the KU team is experienced, and we are just adding 1 newbie of OAD-calibre to the lineup. Maybe then the OAD could be a net positive even on top of all the positive that an “experienced” Bill Self veteran team is already doing.

    Stated another way: Wiggins was a positive, but in an uneven way…he was the best player, but very inexperienced & very young. His good or bad nights became our good or bad nights…and even when he had his best night (@WVU), his team still lost that game.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    Nice article. The only comment I would make is that regardless of what Oubre said, I seriously doubt that Self guaranteed any playing time. One common thing on the interviews contained in the “Beyond the Phog” book is that all the players, without exception, indicated that Self did not guaranteed playing time and told them they would have to earn it; I just don’t see him changing his ways for Oubre when he did not even do that for Wiggins.

  • @JayHawkFanToo I think Oubre’s statement is highly credible. But I agree that it is not equal to an unconditional guarantee. Self would be smart enough to choose his words. Here’s what Oubre said in an interview:

    “Of course [Wiggins is] going to the league [after this year], so they just need another big wing to come in and just fill that spot,” Oubre told “[Kansas coach Bill Self] pretty much told me everything’s there for me.”

    Even Oubre says “pretty much told me …”

    But I think we’re all pretty comfortable with the fact that Self sold Oubre on the idea of coming in and taking Wiggins’ place. Let’s call it an assurance that if everything went as planned, that’s his spot. Nothing wrong with that.

  • @HighEliteMajor Good copy HEM. Your insightful thoughts on BS making the choice late last Fall may very well be correct. And it may be Wiggs vacancy, but I’d be tickled pink if Greene could be better coming back instead of Oubre coming in. BG went against Wiggs daily all last year in the gym, so I definitely think his level of play could be more developed early on. Either way, the competition level at the 3 should be PDG. Let’s hope it’s there at the 1, 4, & 5 spots also. The 2 is locked up for Wayne if he can stay healthy. I can also forsee a greater maturity level of the entire supporting cast instead of standing around waiting for “one guy” to take over a game. It frosted me thoroughly when Wiggs was taken out of a contest & no one else, including coach, acted as if we even had a plan B or C. Of course, JMO.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    “Of course [Wiggins is] going to the league [after this year], so they just need another big wing to come in and just fill that spot,” Oubre told “[Kansas coach Bill Self] pretty much told me everything’s there for me.”

    Even Oubre says “pretty much told me …”

    You have to agree that this different from what you had in your original post:

    "A kid of this ranking isn’t coming to sit. Oubre – according to Oubre – was told by Self that he would come in and take Andrew Wiggins’ spot."

    I will guess that Coach Self told Oubre…Wiggins is leaving so the position is open and yours for the taking…which is quite different than…Wiggins is leaving so the position is open and yours. The first indicates he will have to earn the position, the second indicates that the job is his, period. Based on everything I have read about Coach Self from previous from highly ranked players, he has never promised anyone a starting position or guaranteed playing time, only a chance to earn the position and playing time; even Wiggins said that much, and I seriously doubt that he would change for Oubre.

    In any case, the only competition for Oubre seems to be Green and I am anxious to see how much Green improves in the off season; having one year in the system gives him an advantage. Both players seem to have big upsides and should be fun watching them.

  • I feel that you have to maximize the potential of each team in college basketball. There’s just no guarantee that things will come together for that one great run in any four year span.

    Let’s take the White/ Greene question to the extreme.

    Let’s say that there is no Andrew Wiggins, that he chooses Florida State instead of Kansas. Andrew Wiggins was absolutely the best player on this KU team. So what happens if he’s in Tallahassee instead of Lawrence?

    Well, for one, you can forget about beating Duke early in the season. Wiggins play in the second half basically bailed us out as he guarded Parker and upped his offense down the stretch. So we lose a major marquee win if we don’t have Wiggins. At best, we can say that we get 80% of Wiggins production from a White/ Greene combo. Neither was the rebounder or defender that Wiggins was. I think that ultimately costs us a win or two in addition to Duke.

    That probably means no top 2 seed and it may change the Big 12 race, although I think KU still had enough to win the second thumb without Wiggins. That probably means we get bounced in the Round of 32 anyway, and possibly in the Round of 64 (remember, we would be a 4 or 5 seed, not a 2). And our offense could be even worse than it was because neither Greene nor White was a get your own shot guy. They would have needed drive and kick opportunities from Tharpe. We didn’t get those. Our offense may have been a mess, especially once Embiid was banged up.

    And then we have the question of whether a White/ Greene combo is good enough to draw Oubre and make him feel like KU is a potential title contender. No Wiggins changes the dynamic because you don’t have a big time player on the wing and in addition you have the point guard questions that we are still trying to answer.

    We had Tharpe here and hoped that he would develop. We made it to his junior year and found out that he did not have the skill to be the PG of an elite team. We put three years into him and discovered that his ceiling is as an effective PG off the bench. I’d rather have the upgrade in talent than discover that White can be effective at 17 mpg, but is overexposed at 24 mpg.

  • @JayHawkFanToo I cannot locate it, but Oubre sent out something on twitter too. But it’s pretty much along the same lines. I don’t see the two statements being that far off.

  • Hmm…did we just call Brannen Greene ugly? (lol!)

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