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April 19, 2010
KU reloads after departures
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Just weeks ago, the Kansas Jayhawks followed a disappointing end to their season by saying goodbye to stars Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry, who opted to jump into the 2010 NBA draft, joining senior Sherron Collins. With plenty of returning talent, Bill Self has plenty to work with, but with the addition of star freshman Josh Selby, Kansas is once again in position to compete for not only a conference crown, but also a national championship in 2010-2011.
Saturday night capped of a stressful and often times confusing couple of weeks for Kansas fans.
It became clear after Selby's announcement that he was nearly 100-percent sure he was headed to Kansas, for some time, yet the rampant rumors and speculation made it seem like talented guard may have decided to head elsewhere.
Now that Selby, the No. 5-ranked prospect in the class of 2010 has signed and faxed his letter of intent to Bill Self and the KU basketball program, the Jayhawks can look towards next season feeling that much better about their chances.
There is no question Self and his staff will once again need to battle egos and mold a team full of talented individuals into a cohesive unit, but with the depth on both the perimeter and low post, plus even more athleticism, KU is in the national title hunt once again.
Despite the loss of Collins, Aldrich, and Henry, the Jayhawks have possibly more overall talent than any team in the country. The biggest question mark is leadership. There is plenty of experience with Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, and guard Tyshawn Taylor, but at least one of those listed will need to step into the leadership role created by the loss of Collins and Aldrich.
It's not a knock on the two KU legends, but the Jayhawks are now a more explosive and athletic team. Collins was an incredible playmaker, but too often did the team rely on their senior to make the big play. In certain situations, it was either feast or famine with Collins.
As for Aldrich, he may have been one of the more talented big men to play at KU, but he lacked explosive athleticism, and never truly provided a big offensive spark.
Now, the Morris twins, sophomore Thomas Robinson, and true 7-footer Jeff Withey take over the low post duties.
Self may also add freshman Terrence Jones, which would give Kansas five legitimate inside players with unbelievable amounts of athleticism and diversity.
At center, Withey is a less experienced player than Aldrich, but possesses more athleticism, as well as a better overall offensive game. Furthermore, reports from practice consistently pegged Withey as the better shot-blocker, if you can believe that.
If Self is to add Jones, the Jayhawks have more depth and talent than the 2009-2010 version, mainly with the availability of Travis Releford and Mario Little, who are coming off red shirts, as well as the expanding role of super-athletic sophomore Elijah Johnson, who has the makings of a star at Kansas.
A backcourt of Selby, Taylor, and Johnson is easily the most athletic in all of college basketball, but will be extremely young, thus won't propel Kansas to where they should be, which is top five in the preseason polls. Instead, Self's team will likely start the season as a top 10-15 team without any further additions to the roster.
A player like Jones may push them more towards the top five, and would put to rest any feelings of Self losing his recruiting touch, which has come into question recently due to the lack of top 10 players coming to Lawrence. Back-to-back years with Xavier Henry and now Josh Selby have proven otherwise.
Depending on how summer workouts go, the starting five will likely include Selby, Taylor, the Morris twins, and a fifth that will come down to Johnson, Morningstar, Reed, Little, and possibly Thomas Robinson, which would move Marcus Morris to the small forward spot.
If Jeff Withey can add weight and continue to get stronger, he may slide into the center position, leaving Markieff Morris at the power forward and again, Marcus Morris at the three.
There is plenty to be determined for the Kansas Jayhawks, and the summer should provide plenty of intrigue into a new era in Lawrence, Kan. One thing is for sure, the hype around the KU program is still in full force and excitement is already building towards next season with six months to go before it officially becomes basketball season.