The Andrew Wiggins ERA is underway, no matter how brief it may be, for the Kansas Jayhawks. In an exhibition game against the Pittsburg State Gorillas Tuesday night, the Jayhawks cruised to a 97-57 win in a sloppy, choppy contest.
Although it is always fun to win by 40 points, Kansas should be beating Pittsburg State by 40 points. To be honest, the opponent in these exhibitions don’t matter as they are a way for the players to acclimated to the big college atmosphere that is prevalent in Allen Fieldhouse.
Despite the inequity of talent on the floor between the two schools, it was great to get the opportunity to watch our beloved Jayhawks, complete with the eight new players (counting Landen Lucas, who red shirted last season).
One thing to keep in mind, for many of these kids, the adrenaline was really pumping and the butterflies were a fluttering. All of the newcomers showed various levels of nervousness. Andrew Wiggins, who ended up with a team high 16 points, and Wayne Selden, Jr., both had poor first halves, and Selden never really got on track. Even veteran big man Tarik Black looked like his nerves were jangling early on in his new home arena.
The veterans, as they are, seemed unfazed. The team ran smooth when Naadir Tharpe was at the helm. Tharpe dished out 9 turnovers while not turning the ball over. Perry Ellis looked relaxed and effective as he netted 16 point to tie Wiggins for the team lead. Andrew White III probably looked as good as anyone , scoring 12. Jamari Traylor was active was active with 6 points and 5 rebounds.
The freshmen will rather quickly learn to just let the game slow down and come to them. They are not used to having 16,300 screaming fans urging them on, cheering or groaning en mass on every play.
There were some very positive first impressions from the exhibition. The Jayhawks moved the ball well in their half court offense, especially early. This is a trademark of Bill Self teams, and the more successful squads figure this out early in the season. It was encouraging to see that ball whip around the perimeter so crisply in this initial appearance.
While there were some on-the-ball defensive problems, Kansas’ length and athleticism was a positive in covering the passing lanes and around the rim. These things won’t come as easy against Duke or Oklahoma State, but they will wreak havoc on many teams this season.
There was a lot of hustle on the court. Little is more pleasing to a serious basketball fan than seeing a 7-footer diving on the floor after a loose ball, not once, but twice on one play. Freshman big man Joel Embiid was not lacking any effort as he went played hard on every play.
A quick side note on Embiid. While his potential and heart are obvious, he is definitely a work in progress. This is not meant as a negative but as an obvious fact. Embiid is still quite raw, and lacks some polish. His future is bright but the worries about him going pro after his first season may be premature. He is going to be terrific for the Jayhawks but he will need at least a couple years under Self’s tutelage.
Tarik Black is going to be the blue collar banger the Jayhawks need. He is a 100% effort guy on defense, and on the boards, just the kind of play that will endear him to fans. He needs to improve his bleak free throw shooting but watching him play, it is obvious how much pride he takes in playing hard at all times.
Brannen Greene looks way too good to be considered a red shirt candidate. He possesses a beautiful long range stroke, and he dropped in 11 points in his debut, including going 3-4 from 3-point range.
Landen Lucas also made a good first impression. His upside looks gigantic. We are going to have a lot of fun watching this kid develop and improve over this season. He looks like he could evolve into a dominating college big man.
The least impressive newcomer was Conner Frankamp. Maybe it was just the jitters, but it looked to be a little more than just the nerves. He actually looked a little out of his depth. Keep a close eye on him during next week’s exhibition, because if Kansas red shirts anyone, he was the obvious candidate based off of last night’s performance only.
This team looks to be a full 11 players deep. Everyone knows Self probably won’t play more than 9 in a close game, but the 10th and 11th players, no matter who they are, they are still going to be pretty darn good.
Self may need that depth. This season, teams will need to play defense with their feet more than their hands more than ever. The Jayhawks struggled with that last night as they were whistled for 27 fouls. Having that much depth seems like an unfair luxury but there will probably be games when the coach may have to dig a little deeper than 9.
Last night, against a scrappy, yet inferior opponent, the young Jayhawks looked like one would expect – nervous and unpolished. Both will improve over time.
It’s basketball season folks! Rock Chalk!
Tags: Kansas Jayhawks