KU Men's Basketball 2011-2012: An Early Look Ahead
KU basketball in 2011 and beyond
The 2011-2012 college basketball season is still months away, but the Kansas Jayhawks continue to make news for 2012. Barring apocalyptic prophecies associated with the end of the Mayan calendar, the Jayhawks have a lot to look forward to in the fall of 2011 and beyond. Recruiting news and rumors, scheduling announcements and a $4.3 million purchase by a University of Kansas alumnus are only a few of the noteworthy events that have recently occurred. There is no crystal ball to reveal how the Jayhawks will do in 2011, but we can look further into the future and see what is in store for the University of Kansas in the months to come.
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KU basketball: a look ahead
Naismith's original rules sell for $4.3 million
Thirteen Rules of Basketball
KU alumnus David Booth recently purchased perhaps the most historic document in the history of basketball: the “Naismith Notes”, which outlined James Naismith’s thirteen original rules for the game he created more than a century ago. The rules were written on December 21, 1891 and signed by Naismith in 1931. Booth paid $4.3 million for the two-page document with the intention of bringing it to the University of Kansas for permanent display. The bid was a sports memorabilia record, and to put the importance of this document in perspective for basketball fans, it was reported that a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln and purchased by Robert F. Kennedy drew $3.7 million at the same auction. The money will be given to the Naismith charity, which promotes sportsmanship and provides services to underprivileged children.
Although the rules were written prior to James Naismith’s arrival at the University of Kansas, Naismith was KU’s first basketball coach and his roots are linked to KU as much as anywhere. It is appropriate that a tradition-rich school like KU should house such a document.
KU’s basketball schedule is traditionally among the most difficult in the country, and the next few years will not be an exception. ESPN recently announced KU will join perennial powers Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State as participants in the network’s Champions Classic event over the next three seasons. The Classic will be held at neutral sites and include two double-headers. On November 15, 2011 KU will face Kentucky and Duke will play Michigan State in Madison Square Garden. On November 13, 2012 KU will play Michigan State and Duke will meet Kentucky in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. November 12, 2013 will find KU and Duke squaring off while Kentucky plays Michigan State.
KU also will compete in the 2011 Maui Invitational Tournament, joining a field with Duke, Georgetown, Memphis, Michigan, Tennessee, UCLA and host team Chaminade. It is considered the most difficult tournament field ever, and there will certainly be more big-name teams present than in previous years. KU also will play Ohio State in Allen Field House and travel to USC, making the non-conference portion of their schedule particularly challenging.
Who’s Staying and Who’s Going
Who will be on the Jayhawks roster after the 2011 season ends? KU will lose seniors Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Mario Little to graduation. After that, what can we expect? With the caliber of player Coach Bill Self recruits, speculation on who will jump to the NBA has become an annual event. The answers might not be obvious and could offer a surprise or two.
Marcus Morris and his twin brother Markieff were seen in Los Angeles with a prospective agent shortly after the end of the 2011 basketball season. It fueled rumors that both would head to the NBA, and the rumors proved correct. Both have been impressive in workouts with pro teams. They have publicly lobbied to be drafted by teams with two first round picks so they might play together and, frankly, a team could certainly do worse than pick them both. Josh Selby followed a similar path, traveling to Las Vegas after season's end to work out in preparation for the NBA draft. Selby also opted to turn pro, and it has been said the New York Knicks might select him with the 17th pick in the first round. Selby demonstrated great athleticism in his workouts, but nothing in his stay at Kansas made him appear ready for the NBA.
Tyshawn Taylor has clearly improved as a player since the 2010 season ended, but opted to return to Kansas for his senior season. Taylor didn't believe he was on the radar screen of pro scouts, and never seriously considered jumping to the pro ranks. Taylor still has the ability to make it to the NBA, but must improve his jump shot to have a legitimate shot at the big leagues.
Thomas Robinson also elected to return to KU, even though he was projected to be a first round selection in mock NBA drafts. Robinson has an NBA body but not yet NBA moves, and wisely chose to stay at Kansas to work with coaches Bill Self and Danny Manning to refine his game. Given the difficulties Robinson endured with the death of his mother and grandparents in 2011, a chance at NBA riches might have been alluring to Robinson. Most believe another year of seasoning at KU will help him more in the long run.
The KU basketball team has received commitments from high school players Naadir Tharpe, Jamari Traylor, Ben McLemore, Braedon Anderson and Zach Peters. All but Peters will join the Jayhawks in the fall of 2011. Kansas coach Bill Self compared Tharpe to former KU point guard Aaron Miles. Miles was a four-year starter who graduated from KU as its all-time leader in assists and ranks 8th all-time in NCAA statistics in this category. KU won out over Missouri for the services of 6'5" Ben McLemore from Saint Louis. McLemore should contribute right away, helping KU recover from the loss of Morningstar and Reed on the wings. Anderson and Traylor are athletic but raw. They will be counted on to provide depth to a frontcourt depleted by the loss of the Morris twins.
Zach Peters committed to Kansas as a sophomore in high school and will join the Jayhawks in 2012. He has been compared to former North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough in size, strength and tenacity and is expected to add a physical presence to the Jayhawks frontcourt. Thomas Robinson might be gone by the time Peters arrives, and he will have the opportunity to contribute immediately.
Nino Jackson is a highly regarded point guard that has expressed interest in playing college basketball for KU. He has been offered a scholarship, but has yet to sign a letter-of-intent. He is believed to have the potential to jump into elite status among point guards in his class, and would join Peters in what would be an outstanding recruiting class.
KU may also be in the running for 6'7" Andre Walker, a graduate from Vanderbilt University. That's right, this college graduate has a year of eligibility remaining and might look to play for the Jayhawks. Walker averaged only 3 points and 3 rebounds in 17 minutes of action per game, but would add experience to a very young Kansas frontcourt.
First it was the Morris twins, then the Henry brothers. Another player transferring from Memphis is considering Kansas as an option. Former University of Memphis freshman guard Jelan Kendrick is considering a transfer to Kansas following his dismissal from the Memphis team for "disruptive behavior". Kendrick is a McDonald's All-American and was Rival.com's No. 15-rated prospect in the class of 2010. Baylor, Georgetown and other schools are also on Kendrick's list of finalists.
So much can happen in the months ahead, it is difficult to predict what KU will look like after this season ends. Bill Self put an outstanding team on the floor after losing Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry to the NBA in 2010. Can he do the same after losing Selby and the Morris twins one year later? No matter who is on the roster next season, KU will field an exciting team that will be fun to watch. And, I’ll be here speculating on what type of team they will have. Thanks for reading.
Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!
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