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Kansas Jayhawks Men’s Basketball 2010—the Deepest Team Ever?

Updated on August 28, 2012

Kansas Jayhawks 2010--Deepest Ever

This is a look at the 2009-2010 Kansas Jayhawks basketball team. It was a great season for the Hawks, who recorded a stellar 33-3 record. Despite sitting atop the basketball world for most of the winter, KU fell in the NCAA Tournament to Northern Iowa, ending the careers of Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry and C.J. Henry. This is a look at that team and its players.

I eagerly look forward to the upcoming college basketball season. My beloved Kansas Jayhawks should be selected the number one team in the country in the college polls, and with good reason: this could be the deepest team in the history of college basketball. Let’s break down the roster and take a look at Bill Self’s squad.

Center: Cole Aldrich. The junior might be the best pure center to play for KU since Wilt Chamberlain ruled Allen Field House over fifty years ago. (When I say pure center, I am excluding such stellar players as Danny Manning, Dave Robisch and Raef LaFrenz, all whom I consider power forwards.) Aldrich might be the best big man in the country this year, and with more help from his teammates, he will be less apt to wear down. A rebounding and shot-blocking machine with a soft touch, Aldrich will be a nightmare for other players to match up against.

Power forward: Marcus Morris. A year’s experience and another summer in the weight room should help Marcus Morris inch closer to his potential. Morris started 22 games and split time with his twin brother, but sometimes seemed physically outmatched by older and savvier players. That should no longer be an issue, and with more strength and experience he will cut down on fouls and display his considerable abilities.

Small forward: Xavier Henry. Younger son of former Jayhawk Carl Henry, Xavier brings strength, speed and skill to the wing position. The 8th ranked player in this year’s high school class, Henry is expected to start immediately and add a physical presence to the small forward spot. He is quick and powerful, with a good shot and strong drives to the basket. Like Darrell Arthur several years ago, Henry’s addition to an already loaded team could mean the difference between being a good team and a great one.

Point guard: Sherron Collins. Sherron Collins could challenge for the distinction of best point guard to play at Kansas since Darnell Valentine arrived in 1978. Collins is the only guard to match Valentine’s strength, quickness and athleticism, and is also an outstanding shooter. For Collins to achieve his goals, he must keep both his weight and emotions in check. He faltered in 2009 when trying to do too much—usually when he didn’t trust his teammates. Despite the occasional lack of judgment, he proved he could lead a team and displayed a complete game. With more talent and experience joining him in the lineup, his assist to turnover ratio should improve and he’ll be given more rest.

Shooting guard: Tyshawn Taylor. After leading Team USA to the FIBA Under-19 world championship this summer, Taylor looks to bring a newfound confidence to the court as a sophomore. Taylor’s athleticism rivals that of former Jayhawk Mario Chalmers, but he lacked Chalmers’ confidence and struggled at times to fit into the role of third scorer and secondary ball handler. That should not be a problem this year, and Taylor looks ready to come into his own.

The second team could start as a unit for 90 percent of the Division One teams in the country and compete for a Top 25 ranking. The players include:

Center: Jeff Withey. The 7-foot transfer from Arizona was the eighth rated center coming out of high school and a top 40 recruit. His reputation is as a defensive player and shot blocker, but he is said to possess a nice shot. He will improve by playing against Aldrich in practice, and should offer solid minutes as a backup center. Aldrich has praised the player for his ability, and it will be exciting to watch him take the court when he becomes eligible second semester.

Power forward: Markieff Morris. The other Morris twin demonstrated a complete game in 15 minutes per outing as a freshman, with seven starts. Markieff can score, rebound, block shots, pass, and defend. He tended to be foul-prone like his brother, but also like Marcus, a year’s experience and more time in the weight room will help. Increased strength should allow Morris to demonstrate his considerable skills.

Small forward: Brady Morningstar. One of the Jayhawks’ best shooters and defenders a year ago, Morningstar is expected to yield his starting spot to Xavier Henry. It might not happen as quickly as expected, however; Morningstar can play. Undersized at small forward, Brady showed grit and determination as he became the Hawks’ defensive stopper. He was also the team’s most consistent outside shooter, hitting over 40% of his three-point attempts. Morningstar seemed to wear down throughout the course of the season (he frequently led the team in minutes played), but as a reserve he should be fresher and capable of maintaining his statistics with fewer minutes.

Point guard: Elijah Johnson. Johnson was the 24th ranked player and 5th best point guard coming out of high school. He has great speed and athleticism and also possesses a solid outside shot. With Collins, Taylor, Reid and C.J. Henry on the roster, Johnson might see limited minutes on the court, but his resume is strong enough to guarantee him a long look before relegating him to a practice player. Johnson should be an outstanding replacement at point guard for Sherron Collins as a sophomore.

Shooting guard: C.J. Henry. Xavier’s older brother hasn’t played competitive basketball since 2005, but don’t count him out. He’s spent most of that time as a professional baseball player. A highly recruited high school player and gifted athlete with NBA potential, Henry should be able to compete for minutes at either guard position. He has size, strength, and quickness with a complete game. There might be some rust in the beginning, but that should be offset by the experience and maturity that will come from having already competed as a professional athlete.

The third team will surprise with their ability. While most teams can’t go deeper than seven or eight players, KU can throw out five more good players. Included in the mix are:

Forward: Thomas Robinson. A five-star prospect rated 31st best player overall and 7th best power forward coming out of the high school class of 2009, Robinson is considered an outstanding rebounder. If the Morris brothers aren’t prepared to play every night, Robinson could easily find himself with considerable court time. Noted for his strength and athleticism, Robinson has the ability to take rebounding pressure off Aldrich and establish himself as a solid defender.

Forward: Mario Little. Little came to Kansas in 2008 as the #1 player in Junior College ball. He played sparingly due to nagging injuries all season, but showed both determination and versatility in his limited time on the court. Little creates mismatches with a strong post game for his size and the ability to hit the outside shot, allowing him to post up smaller players and bring taller opponents outside. He challenged for a starting spot despite the injuries and showed the potential to be the Hawk’s 3rd scoring threat last season; he will compete with Xavier Henry and Brady Morningstar for minutes.

Guard: Tyrel Reed. Tyrel Reed was usually the first guard off the bench for the Jayhawks in the 2008/2009 season, and impacted numerous games with his clutch long-range shooting. Reliable as both a point guard and shooting guard, Reed’s presence on the court helped keep opponents from doubling Collins or Aldrich. The Kansas native will not threaten to break the starting lineup, but he will play important minutes off the bench. There are probably 250 Division One teams he could start on, but at Kansas he will bring intelligence, hustle and strong outside shooting to each game.

Guard: Travis Releford. Releford was sometimes compared with former Jayhawk Steve Woodberry in his limited minutes last season. A hustle player, he was tenacious on defense and strong going to the basket. He was usually inserted into the game when the Hawks needed a spark, and contributed to the team with strong defense and mistake-free offense. Has the height to fill in at small forward when the Hawks run a three-guard attack.

Guard: Conner Teahan. A fan favorite as a freshman who hit 60% of his three-point shots in 2008, Teahan is a rare walk-on that can actually compete for minutes and he can be relied on to supply offense whenever he is in the game. Teahan played sparingly as a sophomore but has the athleticism to contribute when needed. He provides one of the strongest outside shots on the team, and can get on a roll and fill the nets. At 6-5, he has the height to play in a three-guard lineup.

KU’s returning players: Every returning player except Teahan contributed meaningful minutes in the 2009 season, and another year on Mt.Oread will only improve their skills, experience, and maturity. Collins and Aldrich are legitimate Player-of-the-Year candidates, while Taylor and the Morris twins could have breakout seasons that make them stars.

KU’s five newcomers: Jeff Withey, Thomas Robinson, Xavier Henry, Elijah Johnson, and C.J. Henry would be a formidable starting five in their own right. Their reputations match those of other recruiting classes of the decade such as the Rush-Wright-Chalmers class and the Gooden-Collison-Hinrich trio. All of those players toiled for teams that reached the Final Four. This year’s class joins a KU club that might have been ranked in the top ten if none of these five players arrived in Lawrence, Kansas. Has there EVER been a team this deep in college basketball?

My challenge to all who read these words: find a deeper college basketball team. Not necessarily a BETTER team—I will concede the greatness of teams past, but who had the deepest team from top to bottom? You tell me…..

A Look Back

Two years after this article was written, it is interesting to see what has become of the players featured in this article. Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry all are playing for pay in the NBA. Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor recently signed their rookie contracts and will join the others. Jeff Withey is entering his senior season at Kansas as a potential lottery pick in the 2013 NBA draft. He shattered the KU single season record for blocked shots previously held by Aldrich and is perceived as one of the best big men in the country.

Six players from this team are in the NBA, while Withey and perhaps Elijah Johnson stand poised to join them soon. Even the 2008 NCAA Championship team didn't feature this much star power. The players were young and raw, but the talent and potential was there. If making the NBA is an indicator, then this was indeed the deepest Kansas University Men's Basketball team ever.

This is my Opinion

I think the 2010 KU Jayhawks are the deepest team in college basketball history.  What do you think?
I think the 2010 KU Jayhawks are the deepest team in college basketball history. What do you think?


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    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Brin is entitled to an opinion, but I am a huge fan. KU in 2011-2012 had such an amazing season, and it was so much fun to watch. I think they will be great again in the upcoming season. Go Hawks, and thanks for stopping by, Conner.


    • profile image

      Conner glazner 6 years ago

      You hate ku what kind of citizen are you I just want to senior night of was ausome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Anyway Mizou was sweet to but my favorite year was2011 seeing the Morris twins play

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Oh, well. Can't please everybody, I guess.

      Thanks anyway for commenting, brin.

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      brin ustn 8 years ago

      I hate ku!!!!

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      rml, you are correct. KU is a deep team, even with Releford and Little sitting out this season. That bodes well for the future of Jayhawk Nation. (I should also edit my hub to reflect their status...)

      Thanks for commenting.

    • profile image

      rml 8 years ago

      Travis Releford and Mario Little both red-shirted this season, and KU is still a very deep team. It seems everyone is capable of playing.

      They are fun to watch.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Thanks for stopping by and reading, Jason. It's greatly appreciated.

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      Jason Roatan  8 years ago

      I enjoy reading your hubs, thanks for posting Mike.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Welcome back, Tom. I always liked Jeff Carey and thought he was underappreciated. It was kind of a matter of where was a guy like that going to get minutes with Collison, Gooden and Simien on the team? I thought he could have started for K-State and a lot of other teams. He rebounded pretty well and defended decently. Jayhawks saw no reason to throw him the ball, so we never really knew how he was on offense.

      And, yeah, you remember Nash--not Malcolm but Bryant. Lots of physical skills and absolutely NO talent. But hey, he was nine or ten deep on the bench. Ballard was a decent three point shooter, but athletic guards could overwhelm him.

      Well, so it goes. As I write these words, KU is no longer #1. Wished Texas would've lost first.

      Well, see ya!

    • ThomasWMutherJr profile image

      ThomasWMutherJr 8 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Nope, Chop and Mac were on the '81 team. (I remember Chop was the recipient of the long pass from Booty Neal at the end of the infamous Wichita State game in the New Orleans Regional in '81, which I happened to attend. He got off a shot with 1 second remaining, but it was off-line. Yee-gads! That game gives me nightmares!)

      I noted that my last few lines were chopped off. Apparently they must not allow you to just go on and on with one's comments, eh? My final thoughts were about what KU would have faced had they made it to the final four in '78. In brief--Kentucky and Arkansas would have been waiting, teams KU had lost hard fought games to earlier in the year. Thus, KU would have had a psychological edge in a rematch. I'm not saying they would have won it all, but they would have had a real chance. Ted Owens also happens to believe that was his best chance to win it all, even above the '66 team that lost by one point in (double?) overtime in the semi-finals to eventual winner Texas Western.

      As far as the 2002 team is concerned, I agree that that team was really deep, but I still think the 2008 and 1978 teams had 'em beat. You see, I can hardly remember Nash, Ballard and Carey, so how good could they be? If it's the Nash I think it is, my memory tells me he was about the same level as the aforementioned Chopper and Stallcup--well, maybe not QUITE as good as Chopper. So for me, I'd probably rank the '78 team as the deepest, with 2008 and 2010 tied for second (though the 2010 team can still move up and become Number One, if, for instance, Tyshawn begins to show more consistency).

      Well, cheerio!

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Hey, Tom, how's it going?

      The '78 team was one of my very favorites. Didn't they also have Scot (Chopper) Anderson and Mac Stallcup? I realize those guys weren't playable unless everyone else was in foul trouble, but it seems they didn't kill KU when they were on the court.

      And y'know, I had two tickets to the regional in Allen Field House. (Back then, you could just walk up and buy them at the box office a week ahead!). Missouri lost to Utah in the sub-regional in double overtime, and Utah came to town with a guy named Buster Matheney in the middle and Jeff Judkins at forward. (If memory serves, they also had two freshmen named Tom Chambers and Danny Vranes.) A good team, but I would rather have watched KU. The rest of the bracket had Notre Dame, Louisville and DePaul, so there would have been some good matchups.

      As far as deep teams go, the 2002 team was pretty set, also. They had Gooden, Collison, Hinrich, Boschee, Miles, Simien, Langford, Lee, Carey, Ballard and Nash. Not a true small forward on the roster, though, but they did have 3 eventual first team All-Americans on their roster in Collison, Gooden, and Simien. All playing power forward....

      And then, of course, was the '81 team with Art Housey, Big Man Crawford, Dave Magley, Darnell Valentine and Tony Guy. They were backed up by Big Vic Mitchell and Booty Neal. NOW THAT WAS DEPTH!!!!

      Seriously, 78 and maybe 02 are the only teams I can think of that might match come close to this year's team in depth, and I still think this one might have an edge.

      You make a good distinction about what qualifies as depth. I was thinking of the number of players you can reliably send out on the court, but if your starters are rotten then your depth is great by default, because--who cares who you send out if no one is any good?

      I will have to re-read your comments and digest them a little more, but thanks for weighing in. You should check out what I wrote about the "10 Greatest KU victories in the NCAA Tournament since 1974", if you get a chance.

      Thanks for your comments.

    • ThomasWMutherJr profile image

      ThomasWMutherJr 8 years ago from Topeka, KS

      I am now convinced that this team IS, in fact, extraordinarily deep. This in spite of the fact that one of players you cite (Withey) has yet to show me anything on the court (of course, he had the injury, but regardless, he hasn't demonstrated sufficient skills or talent that would lead one to think he might conceivably show up in anything but a blow out), and 2 others, Little and Releford, were red-shirted and so really cannot be included in an assessment of this team's depth. And then we have Tyshawn Taylor who hasn't really lived up to some people's expectations (still, a quality player--but I'd start Morningstar).

      But as to the question, is this the deepest team in NCAA history?--I don't think it can be answered definitively. I think it's obvious that this starting five would not qualify as the best starting five in history--not really very close--which one might say has nothing to do with the question, but I suggest that depth is not only about numbers, but about quality as well. Thus, which is deeper?--a team with 8 future NBA players (and no one else who can even dribble a basketball with their left [or off] hand), or a team with 4 future NBA players and 8 other players who can actually play? Hard to say, but I know which one I'd like to be coaching. Some of those old UCLA teams were amazingly talented, and certainly had sufficient depth that it was never an issue. When one throws in the fact that most of those teams had freshman waiting in the wings who were not allowed to play varsity back then (consider, when Alcindor/Jabbar was a freshman playing only other freshman teams, the varsity team won the NCAA), throw the freshmen into the mix and I'd be willing to bet several of those teams would have by almost any standard, greater depth than this team.* But, this is a question I couldn't hope to answer reasonably without doing a ton of research. And I've become too lazy in my dotage to tackle the issue. Instead, I might ask, is this the deepest team in KU history? Having watched KU far closer than any other team these last 41 years, I feel more qualified to answer that question, though even here, my memory has dimmed and I can often not recall just who was coming off the bench for many of the great KU teams of the past. Off the top of my head, the two deepest that come to mind were the 1978 team (of the first semester), and the championship team of but 2 years ago. The 2008 team went essentially 9 deep, with Stewart being on the end of that bench--but that number 9 could actually play. He was a very good defender, had some offensive capability, was a decent rebounder and could actually hold onto the ball (being a turnover specialist is something most players sitting on the end of the bench have in common with each other). Also on the bench were Shasha Kaun (considered the year before to be a late 1st or early second round draft pick—an inflated view, but still, the guy wasn't chopped liver), and Sherron Collins, who was a major spark plug for the team and was actually playing more minutes than the starting point guard the last half of the season. And then there was Cole Aldrich, who certainly looked like the freshman he was much of the year, but clearly had talent and contributed valuable minutes, accumulating almost 3 times as many blocks per minute as his nearest rival. I won't bother citing the starters as any KU fan will recall them instantly. Then there was the '78 team, forgotten by most, but actually close, oh so close, to playing for the national championship that year.** That team started Paul Mokeski. 7 – 0 Jr. center, a project that Ted Owens had finally molded into a player by that years end (who would go on to play in the NBA for 12 seasons); Ken Koenigs, Sr. 6 - 9 forward/center, a quality player who was an academic all-American; Darnell Valentine, 6 - 2 Fr. point, Olympian, KU's career leader in steals, free throws attempted, and is 2nd in assists, and on a host of other leader boards and was their leading scorer for 4 straight years; John Douglas, 6 - 3 Sr. guard, an explosive player whose shot went a bit awry in '78, but was still a force to contend with both offensively and defensively, a great rebounder for his size, and excelled in ball theft; and Clint Johnson, 6 – 1 Sr. guard, a solid player and good defender with a great vertical. Off the bench there was Donnie von Moore, 6 - 10 Sr. center/forward, who was good enough to start at either center or power forward, but was relegated to coming off the bench, essentially because he was better at doing that then the 2 starters; Hasan Houston, So. 6 – 3 guard who for my money was better than Johnson, and would have probably gone on to be one of KU's great point guards if he'd stuck around instead of leaving at the end of the semester; “Mo” Fowler, 6 - 4 forward who was inconsistent but talented and a great leaper; Milt Gibson, 5 - 10 Sr (or Jr?) guard who actually started in '76, but subsequent influxes of superior talent limited his playing time; Tad Boyle, 6 - 4 guard, highly recruited, but lacking the speed necessary to star in college, but still a decent/solid player who could spell a starter without fear of disaster. THAT team had it all, speed, height, rebounding, experience, and depth. One of my favorite KU teams of all-time. I think it compares favorably to the present team. For starters (pun intended), Valentine was better than Collins, I think—not nearly explosive offensively, but far better at defense, steals, rebounds, and even drawing fouls (something Collins is also very good at). Douglas is clearly better than Tyshawn, though it would make more sense to compare him with Henry, and here, I think it's close. Douglas is clearly better at steals, driving to the hoop, and (I'm almost certain) rebounding. He definitely wasn't the shooter Henry is, but he had the potential to be explosive to an extent Henry hasn't demonstrated (if memory serves, Douglas dropped 48 on Iowa State once, and about 40 on Missouri at Missouri). Clint vs. TyShawn is close, but maybe Tyshawn by a hair. I think I'd give a strong nod to Koenigs/von Moore over the twins, while Aldrich clearly wins out over Mokeski, though Mokeski was about as good offensively, and maybe a bit better rebounder at this point in their careers. What do you think?

      *Of course, those UCLA teams of old didn't have to contend with their underclassmen being drafted by the NBA as the NBA was forbidden to draft anyone who hadn't been out of high school 4 years--a factor that definitely depletes the teams of this era--including the Jayhawks, who might have won back-to-back titles last year if Chalmers and Arthur had returned.

      **For those who don't recall, KU was ranked consistently in the top 5 that year, had come within 4 points and a bad call of beating No. 2 Arkansas on their home court (a game I happened to travel to see), and was set up to make a great noise in the NCAA, what with their first round game scheduled in Wichita, KS, their regional on their home court in Lawrence (!), and the finals in St. Louis—except that KU had to accomplish one minor feat to be so scheduled: win the post season big 8 tournament (back then, teams weren't seeded into the field—rather, the winners of conferences were assigned spots in sub-regionals and regionals regardless of records), something that was expected as they had demolished the big 8 that year, winning by 4 games over the second place finishers. Unfortunately, they stumbled in the second round, being forced to play their rivals, K-State (which had a good team that year), for the fourth time. Asking even a great team to beat their most intense rivals 4 times in the same year is asking a lot, and KU, alas, didn't get it done and so was sent away from their predetermined path through their home court to the finals, to play on UCLA on its homecourt, where they lost a close game, marred by a host of bad calls which saw 3 of KU's guards foul out. IF KU had just been able to get through that K-State game, they would have played Missouri in the finals, a team they had beaten by 50 points on the same court 2 months before. Assuming t

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Jacobson.ep, thanks for reading. KU is looking better than I thought they would, actually--leading the nation in scoring margin with high national rankings in Field Goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, assists per game, scoring and point differential. They are not number one in all these categories, but they are close.

      They definitely have room to grow. Personally, I would love to see them use their depth more by putting in a full-court press. That would make them even scarier, and since it would require more energy and exertion, it would better utilize guys like Elijah Johnson and C.J. Henry--good guards that are having trouble getting on the court.

      And, to think they red-shirted a guy who was the Junior College Player of the Year in 2008! The best guy in the juco ranks has to red shirt because he can't get on the court? Wow.

      Thanks again for your comments, and I'm hoping KU keeps playing intelligent basketball.

    • profile image

      Jacobson.ep 8 years ago

      Well, halfway through the season and Bill Self's Jayhawks are definitely proving they belong among the prestigious. This very well may be the deepest team to date. I still think they have room to grow, but they sure show a lot of talent.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Brandon, thanks for the comment. I think the team will be very deep, but you are absolutely correct in that so very many of them are untested. This team's potential is quite exciting, and it should be a fun year.

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      Brandon 8 years ago

      I wouldn't consider this team that "deep" yet, as we don't have any idea how 7 of the players will play at the college level. And only 3 have shown that they can play extremely well at this level, Alrich Collins Taylor. Still, if everyone progresses as expected under Self's coaching, this team should be special.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Depth is already challenged with an injury to Withey and the suspension of Brady Morningstar. And, of course, Tyshawn Taylor has the injured thumb. Coach Bill Self also reports the C.J. Henry has been nursing assorted minor injuries (odd for a player who hasn't played in five years to miss all of last season and be "banged up" a week into practice...). Looks like depth will be important if these guys are all reporting injuries without having played a single game yet.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Thanks for the comment, James. I have to admit I'm looking forward to this season more than I have any in a long time--even the title year. With all the returning players and quality newcomers, it should be a fun and entertaining season.

    • James Patrick profile image

      James Patrick 8 years ago from Lawrence, Kansas

      Go Hawks! Insightful analysis. Season is only a few short months away. Only time will tell, but as always, Beware of the Phog.