With the first exhibition game out of the way for Kansas Jayhawks basketball team, and the official start of the 2013-2014 season is just a little over a week away, it is time to start taking a look at the players who will make up this season’s Kansas Jayhawks basketball squad.
Over the next few days, KC Kingdom will finish its feature series of player profiles, taking a look at each player on the team and where they may fit in.
Naadir Tharpe’s profile is here, Perry Ellis‘ is here, Jamari Traylor‘s is here, Andrew White III’s is here, Frank Mason’s here, Landen Lucas’ is here, Tarik Black‘s is here, Conner Frankamp’s is here, and Brannen Greene’s is right here.
A big guy who is very talented but is a little rough around the edges, and needs some polish to his game, as well as some improvement in strength. Does this description sound familiar? Well, it should. There have been about a dozen, if not more, big men who walked onto the KU campus over the past 20 years or so that could be described in this manner.
Meet Joel Embiid, the latest such big man. Embiid, who stands at 7’0″ and weighs 250 pounds, is from Cameroon, and didn’t take up basketball until he was 16 years old. He is as far from a finished product as Bill Self has ever recruited.
Despite his lack of experience in the game, Embiid played himself up to the number 6 recruit in the country last season. As a senior in high school, he averaged 13 points a game, and almost 10 boards, and 2 blocked shots a contest.
From his performance Tuesday in the exhibition game against Pittsburg State, the talent, athleticism, hustle, and desire are there with Embiid as he ran the floor well and was diving after loose balls. It was also obvious he needs a lot of work. Embiid needs coaching and basketball playing experience. He will get both at Kansas under Bill Self’s tutelage.
At least one opposing coach is a huge Joel Embiid fan. According to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, the head coach of the reigning NCAA National Champions Louisville Cardinals, Rick Pitino, loves Embiid. From Goodman’s article:
Pitino said he felt as though Kansas freshman Joel Embiid was the most impressive high school player he saw in the Class of 2013.
“I think Kansas could have the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the draft with [Andrew] Wiggins and Embiid. [Embiid] does everything,” Pitino said.
Now, this is certainly hyperbole and speculation on Pitino’s part. Anyone watching Embiid on Tuesday could see the potential and athleticism Embiid has to offer. To say he will be ready fro the NBA is quite another things. He needs a look of work and development, as do most kids coming out of high school, and an increase in his understanding of the game itself.
While it is quite possible Embiid will bolt for the NBA, it is apparent at this point an time that he is nowhere near ready for the professional league.
That does not mean he won’t be a huge asset for the Jayhawks as a freshman. It is probable Embiid will be the primary back up for the two starting big men, Tarik Black and Perry Ellis.
He will offer a different look for teams than either of those two. He will also split some minutes with two other reserve forwards in Jamari Traylor and the improving Landen Lucas.
This fivesome gives Coach Self an embarrassment of riches in the big man department. That is 25 fouls he has to give in any given ball game. The Jayhawks should be able to challenge any front court in the country.
Embiid, because of his relative newness to the game of basketball, will be kind of a clean slate for Bill Self to work with. This is the kind of situation the Kansas coaching staff has excelled in the past.
Joel Embiid will probably improve rapidly as the season progresses as he learns more and more about the game, and the coaches help build his basketball fundamental foundation.
This kid is going to be an exciting player to watch. He enthusiasm and hustle, combined with some fine tools, should make him an ever improving force off the Kansas bench. Let’s enjoy it this year and hope we get at least one more season to watch him grow as a player.