Kansas Jayhawks Men's Basketball 2010-2011: Player Profiles and More
A proud tradition
The Kansas Jayhawks Men’s Basketball team has a tradition comparable to any in college basketball. KU lists among their accomplishments entering the 2010-2011 season: the third most wins in college basketball history (2003), the most victories in the last 25 years (707), the second longest current streak of winning seasons (27), the longest streak of NCAA Tournament appearances (21) and the longest current streak of consecutive home wins (59). The Jayhawks also claim the most winning seasons (91) and conference championships (53) in Division 1 history. They have signed 32 McDonald’s All-Americans and have produced the most first-team All-Americans in Division 1 history (20). They have won three NCAA Championships and were named Helms National Champions twice.
The list of talented players to wear a Kansas uniform includes Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Pierce, Danny Manning, Kirk Hinrich, Raef LaFrentz, Darnell Valentine, Bud Stallworth, Mario Chalmers and Bill Bridges. Most recently, KU alumnus Xavier Henry and Cole Aldrich were selected in the NBA draft, while senior Sherron Collins left Kansas with more victories than any other Jayhawk ever had.
With more than a century of thrilling games and dramatic victories, the Jayhawks are tasked each year with maintaining a tradition of excellence few programs can match. KU is so accustomed to winning; a good season can still be viewed as an abysmal failure. The question on the minds of Jayhawks fans everywhere as the 2010-2011 season approaches is: can this year’s squad deliver?
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KU Basketball 2010-2011
Once again, KU will boast a roster filled with the talented, versatile athletes Coach Bill Self covets. Most players are capable of playing multiple positions, allowing the Jayhawks to play big or small, fast or slow. The versatility of the 2011 squad will be a key ingredient in their success.
Jeff Withey. Could Jeff Withey be the key to KU’s success? It doesn’t seem likely based on his performance in the 2009-2010 season, but Withey could turn KU from a good team into a great one. KU’s best lineup might feature Marcus Morris at small forward, but this will only happen if Withey’s game develops enough to earn significant court time. Withey proved he can defend and block shots—if he can provide a post game and rebounding, KU will surprise a lot of teams. He will be sidelined with a broken foot for 4-6 weeks, but hopefully won't miss so much practice time that he can't become a key to KU's success.
Markieff Morris. Markieff’s game has not developed as quickly as that of twin brother Marcus, but he is seen as the more athletic of the two and will be vital to KU’s success. Markieff has a well-rounded game that lacks only polish. He should see time at both center and forward for KU. Center is not his natural position, and it would help Morris tremendously if the majority of his minutes were logged at power forward.
Thomas Robinson. Robinson should become a good player, but so far his game doesn’t match his athleticism. In his first year with the Hawks he was lost in the half-court game and too often out of control in a faster-paced attack. If Robinson develops some post moves he could be a monster. He’s playing for the right team—Assistant Coach Danny Manning schools big men expertly, and Bill Self understands the value of strong inside play. It’s all up to him.
Marcus Morris. Much has been written about Marcus Morris throughout the summer, and the reports have been good. Morris has impressed many basketball experts with his well-rounded game, and has been named a second-team preseason All-American. Consistent effort will be the key for Marcus. A bigger concern will be whether Marcus Morris is ready to assume a leadership role. With Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins gone, Morris will need to be in charge.
Mario Little. Little could be a better college player than Xavier Henry—or he could be a bench-warmer throughout his college career. If he is determined enough to impose his will on a game and take advantages of mismatches, he could be a tremendous small forward. If he rests on his laurels, he will be remembered as just another undersized post player. An improved jump shot will help this strong and versatile forward become a star.
Travis Releford. Is he a forward or a guard? His best opportunity for minutes appears to be at small forward, but it is uncertain whether Releford is strong enough to play regularly in the frontcourt. As a freshman he showed signs of being a good defender and attacked the basket well. A consistent jump shot would round out his game and dramatically increase his scoring opportunities.
Brady Morningstar. Can Brady Morningstar bounce back and become the player he was in the 2008-2009 season? Two seasons ago, Morningstar started every game and provided strong defense, intelligent passing and a reliable jump shot. After Xavier Henry arrived, Morningstar seemed lost. He sat out a semester after being stopped by police in a DUI incident, and when he returned he wasn't the same. Henry is gone now, and Morningstar has the opportunity to again contribute in a major way—if he plays the way he did as a sophomore.
Tyrel Reed. Reed is the team’s best shooter, but his lack of quickness and athleticism sometimes limits his effectiveness. If Tyshawn Taylor, Travis Releford and Mario Little have improved their shot, Reed’s minutes might be reduced. If Taylor, Releford and Little remain inconsistent shooters, look for Tyrel to be back in the corner launching timely three-point shots in big games.
Tyshawn Taylor. This should be Tyshawn Taylor’s year. He will no longer toil in Sherron Collins’ shadow, and if he is going to become a great college player with pro aspirations, it needs to start now. Can Taylor add a reliable jump shot to his game? Can he minimize the foolish turnovers that draw the ire of Coach Bill Self? Can he refrain from saying foolish things on Facebook and to the press? Can he steer clear of the football team? If he grows ups, there is still time to become a great player.
Josh Selby. KU’s success this season will depend largely on the impact of freshman Josh Selby, Rivals.com’s #1 high school player. There are still questions surrounding Selby’s eligibility due to his relationship with Robert Frazier, the business manager for NBA star Carmelo Anthony. Should he be cleared to play college basketball, he will add athleticism and basketball savvy to the roster. He is the impact player this roster needs. KU will be very good without him, but it needs Selby to be great.
Elijah Johnson. If Selby can’t play, Elijah Johnson will have the chance to shine. Like Thomas Robinson, his athleticism was far better than his game as a freshman. Can Johnson run a team or hit the outside shot consistently? So far we still don’t know, but he was highly touted when he arrived on Mt. Oread and shouldn’t be written off as a player. If he will defend, he will earn minutes.
Royce Woolridge. The son of Orlando Woolridge will likely content himself with garbage time minutes his first year. He is strong and athletic, but his role with the Jayhawks has yet to be defined. Woolridge isn’t needed yet with the quality guards on KU’s roster. Bill Self likes complete players, and Woolridge should use his time on the bench to mature and develop a well-rounded game.
Conner Teahan, Justin Wesley, Niko Roberts and Jordan Juenemann will be invited to walk on to the basketball program in 2011. Teahan has ability but never lived up to the promise he showed as a sharp-shooting freshman. He is the walk-on player most likely to see meaningful minutes in a game. Wesley is the half-brother of former Jayhawk Keith Langford and may possess some athleticism. Except for Teahan, these players will be good enough to uphold KU’s reputation of having talented walk-ons on their roster, but not good enough to contribute.
The streak, the schedule and final thoughts
The early non-conference home schedule is soft and should guarantee the Jayhawks will surpass their previous record of 62 consecutive home victories. Longwood, Valparaiso, North Texas and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi should assure KU a new record for home wins. This should not be taken for criticism; it is only logical to schedule accordingly to make certain the 62-game record is broken. It would be heartbreaking to get within a game or two of the record and fall short. The schedule isn’t soft, however—games against UCLA, Arizona, Memphis, California and USC will provide stern tests for the Jayhawks. Texas, Kansas State and Missouri will again be tough in-conference opponents while Baylor is quietly turning into a powerhouse. The schedule should challenge KU, but there are no top-caliber teams on the slate. It would be nice to see at least one more marquee matchup on the schedule.
For KU to compete, Marcus Morris must play hard at all times and live up to his fast-developing reputation. Tyshawn Taylor needs to develop his jump shot and eliminate off-court distractions. Thomas Robinson and Elijah Johnson need to live up to their accolades, as well. To reach the next plateau and become a top ten team, Josh Selby must be cleared to play and ready to contribute. If KU wants a shot at the Final Four, Jeff Withey and Mario Little must realize their potential.
That’s a lot of “ifs,” but it isn’t unreasonable. KU will again be talented and deep, and they will be more versatile than the 2010 team that went 33-3. It should be another great year on Mt. Oread and, with a little luck, the team can erase the bad memories of losing to Northern Iowa.
Note: The Sporting News and Athlon Sports have both predicted KU to be a Final Four participant in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Both have KU ranked 4th in their preseason polls. Meanwhile, Lindy's have placed KU 17th in their preseason poll.
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