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KU Basketball 2010 Retrospective: Exhibition Season Victory over Fort Hays State
Jayhawks Start the Season Off Right
On a crisp autumn night in Lawrence, the Kansas basketball team opened the 2010 season with an exhibition victory over Fort Hays State. Kansas improved to 52-7 in all-time exhibition games and won its 34th straight, dating back to the 1995-96 season. Earlier in the day, the Lawrence Journal-World reported Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich had been recognized as preseason first-team All-Americans, the first time two Jayhawks had been so honored since 1997, when Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce were named to the first team.
Collins and Aldrich didn’t disappoint in their debut, a 107-68 victory over Fort Hays State; Collins scored a game-high 19 points and Aldrich had 13 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks. Other notable performances included Tyshawn Taylor’s, who came off the bench for 15 points, five assists and four steals. Markieff Morris chipped in 12 points and nine rebounds, while his brother Marcus added 10 points, six rebounds and four assists. Ten Jayhawks played and scored, and six reached double figures, including highly touted freshman Xavier Henry.
Scoring for KU: Sherron Collins 19; Tyshawn Taylor 15; Xavier Henry 14; Cole Aldrich 13; Markieff Morris 12; Marcus Morris 10; Elijah Johnson 9; Tyrel Reed 7; Thomas Robinson 6; Jordan Juenemann 2.
KU shot 32-for-60 from the floor (53 percent), 7-for-17 from three (41 percent) and 36-for-43 from the free-throw line (84 percent).
Fort Hays State was led by Corbin Kuntzsch, who scored 17 points and added eight rebounds and four assists. Dominique Jones and Dijon Smith also reached double figures for the Tigers with 11 points each. Fort Hays State shot 23-for-68 from the floor (34 percent), 10-for-26 from three (38 percent) and 12-for-19 from the free-throw line (63 percent).
KU out-rebounded FHSU, 47-34. KU had 18 turnovers; FHSU had 21.
Who didn’t play was nearly as significant as who did: Connor Teahan, Mario Little and Travis Releford sat on the bench in street clothes. Apparently returning players cannot be red-shirted if they participate in exhibition games (while freshmen can), and Coach Bill Self is considering the option of sitting some or all three players. C.J. Henry was also on the bench in street clothes, nursing a knee injury sustained in practice. Meanwhile, Jeff Withey and Brady Morningstar will not play until second semester. The broadcast team made no mention of Chase Buford, and while I recall some trouble for an alcohol-related incident, I don’t remember if he is paying penance for this or some other transgression.
The freshmen looked good in their first game as a Jayhawk, and all three were on the court together for a period in the second half. Henry is clearly an outstanding shooter whose presence in the lineup will greatly benefit Collins and Aldrich, and Thomas Robinson hit the boards well. I counted four offensive rebounds for Robinson, including two missed free throws. Elijah Johnson displayed good speed and strength, and I sincerely hope he is not on Bill Self’s short list for red-shirts this season. I would like to see him gain experience before Collins departs. Johnson also appears primed for a nickname, as the broadcast team referred to him as “the Prophet” on more than one occasion.
The Good: 1.) The Morris twins looked bigger, stronger and more confident. They might not be dominant players, but they look capable of providing steady, consistent play. 2.) Collins selectively controlled the game, hitting several key baskets when the Jayhawks struggled on offense. When they didn’t need him to assert himself, he spread the ball around and ensured the others were involved. 3.) The freshmen all looked capable of contributing to the team, adding credence to the notion that everyone on this team can play, from top to bottom. 4.) Jordan Juenemann scored his first collegiate basket. 5.) KU hit 84 percent from the free throw line, an outstanding team percentage. KU hit 72.5% from the line as a team last year, a more-than-acceptable percentage. If they can increase that a few percentage points, it will only make them that much deadlier.
The Bad: 1.) KU had an anemic three-rebound lead at halftime. They hit the glass harder in the second half, but a great team shouldn’t need prompting to hit the boards, particularly against a team that is physically outmanned. 2.) Cole Aldrich took only two shots in the first half, and it appeared KU needed to be reminded at halftime to look for their All-American center. Aldrich didn’t seem aggressive, either, still preferring spin moves away from the basket to attacking the rim against smaller opponents. 3.) Jordan Juenemann’s first collegiate basket was in an exhibition game and does not officially count. 4.) C.J. Henry didn’t play a minute last year as a walk-on for the Memphis Tigers, and his first opportunity as a Jayhawk found him on the bench in street clothes, as well. It is not unreasonable to wonder if C.J. Henry is “damaged goods”, for lack of a better term. It is disconcerting that someone who hasn’t played in a game in four years is always injured. 5.) Tyshawn Taylor left the game in the first half for the locker room, holding his thumb. It was later reported that his hand was the problem, not the thumb, but one has to wonder: will the injury sustained fighting with members of the football team hinder him throughout the season?
The Ugly: 1.) KU allowed Fort Hays State to shoot open three-pointers throughout the contest, and also failed to consistently box out underneath the boards. With so many returning starters and an outmatched opponent, I thought KU would look better on the defensive end of the court. 2.) There were a ton of fouls called in the game on both teams. Thomas Robinson fouled out in limited minutes. On two occasions, Robinson picked up two fouls within seconds of an earlier chop. Xavier Henry had four fouls in a short period, also. 3.) KU was guilty of 18 turnovers, most of them unforced. My response is the same as with point #1—with so many returning players, a senior point guard and an outmanned foe, they should have been capable of taking care of the ball; even in their first game of the season. 4.) Fort Hays State hung with the Jayhawks for almost a half. What will UCLA do? 5.) All the tattoos on the Morris twins. Okay, call me old-fashioned.
Play of the game: Dominique Jones shot free throws with one hand, literally—his other arm was down at his side. He made ‘em, too.
Final analysis: It was a good first effort for the Jayhawks, despite the complaints I listed above. My final gripe is that I wish Henry would have rebounded more. My attention is focused on the red-shirt candidates, a situation for which I have mixed feelings. It seems rare that the red-shirt candidate or the team truly benefits from sitting a year—Jeff Carey and Jeff Hawkins being notable exceptions who made valuable contributions as fifth-year seniors. I would rather see Releford or Little fight for playing time, regardless of whether they eventually earn it or not. I also don’t like the idea of diminishing the amazing depth of this team. However, I understand there is more to the equation than throwing a bunch of kids together and letting them fight it out, and if Coach Self red-shirts a player or two, I will bow to his superior coaching acumen. I would rather see them red-shirt than transfer.
The nine regular players that saw action tonight might represent Bill Self’s regular rotation, but even if he red-shirts Teahan, Releford and Little, three more players will eventually be available to add to the mix: Brady Morningstar, Jeff Withey, and C.J. Henry. That’s twelve players, three or four more than Self likes to play. If we assume minutes for these three will be provided, it clearly suggests the need to red-shirt somebody, despite my protests.
It was a fun game to watch, and I’m glad the season is finally underway. Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, Go KU!