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Kansas Jayhawks Men's Basketball 2010--Post-Season Player Updates
Rock chalk, Jayhawk, Go KU!
KU Basketball--Number One!!!!
Another KU basketball season has just concluded, and after compiling a glossy 33-3 record, the Jayhawks fell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament! This deep and experienced squad offers much reason for optimism—they have talent and depth at every position. Just as North Carolina separated themselves from the rest of the nation in 2009, KU claimed the edge over every team in the country except Kentucky. Despite their disappointing loss, the players and staff achieved much during the season. Here is my analysis of the 2010 Kansas players.
Cole Aldrich (Junior Center, 6’11 245 lbs.): Aldrich was named a preseason All-American, a well-deserved honor for the big man who is being called the best pure center to play for KU since Wilt Chamberlain. It’s been said Aldrich worked on strength and conditioning in the off-season, and it’s nice to see he didn’t balloon up to 275 or 280 lbs (as Eric Chenowith did, sacrificing forever his quickness and jumping ability). Aldrich's numbers are down, but he had more help this year—the mark of a team with depth. Aldrich looked tired by the end of last season, relying more on fade-away jump shots than head fakes or power moves inside. Hopefully he is fresher for this year's NCAA Tournament run and can remain powerful inside. He is no longer a contender for player of the year awards, but his defensive prowess changes games the way no other big man this season can.
Marcus Morris (Sophomore Power Forward, 6’8” 225 lbs.): A summer in the weight room allowed Morris to more effectively compete with power forwards without sacrificing his finesse game. A skilled player at a power position, Morris gives opponents fits if he can improve his stamina and stay out of foul trouble. He has the ability to move to small forward if he can defend the three spot (a move Coach Self occasionally experimented with), and can create mismatches with the versatility of his game. Morris gave the Jayhawks a breakout campaign.
Xavier Henry (Freshman Small Forward, 6’6” 220 lbs.): Many consider Henry to be the next Brandon Rush with extraordinary physical skills, a nice jump shot and the ability to drive to the basket. While he hasn't displayed Rush's rebounding and defensive skills, he has still been outstanding for KU. There are flaws in Henry's game: he doesn't drive on taller defenders enough or post up smaller men; his rebounding has improved but still could be better; he has sometimes held onto the ball too long causing plays to break down, but this is hardly a fatal flaw and should not diminish fans' perception of his game. I sometimes feel he holds back on both ends of the floor--I would love to see him go all-out in the games remaining.
Sherron Collins (Senior Point Guard, 5’11” 205 lbs.): The heart and soul of this year’s team, Collins continues to will his team to victory when the going gets tough. Along with Aldrich, he was named a first-team preseason All-American. Collins endured a month long shooting slump, but seemed to shake off the doldrums in the Big Twelve Tournament. On the court, Collins trusted his teammates more this year and rarely tried to do too much--a sign of his continuing maturity. Collins is the undisputed leader of this team and a fierce competitor. There is no one more qualified to lead a deep run into the NCAA Tournament.
Tyshawn Taylor (Sophomore Shooting Guard, 6’3” 180 lbs.): Emerged as the on-court leader of the Team USA-Under 19 squad that won an international gold medal, Taylor hoped to build on his success last summer and become a vital cog in the Jayhawk machine. He stumbled with careless and lackluster play throughout the season, but has returned to the starting lineup and finished strong. A combo guard who can shoot or bring the ball up court, Taylor spends much of his time as the team's ball-handler, and he needs to cut down on turnovers, his drives to the basket remain strong and he is a reliable defender. Despite his season-long struggles, Taylor is still the key to success in March.
Jeff Withey (Freshman Red Shirt Center, 7’0” 225 lbs.): A transfer from Arizona that was ineligible to play until second semester, Withey provided solid minutes during his brief court appearances. His presence on the team provides insurances against injuries or foul trouble to Aldrich and the Morris twins, which makes him a vital key to the team’s success. He’s purported to be better on defense than offense so far, but it’s also said he has a reliable shot.
Markieff Morris (Sophomore Power Forward, 6’9” 240 lbs.): Markieff Morris supplied reliable minutes as backup to Cole Aldrich and Marcus Morris, and earned super-sub status. He demonstrated a complete game in relief up front, and has a complete game. He has worked on his outside shot and can hit the three-pointer, but is more likely to find points on the interior as a backup at center and power forward. Early games provided him an opportunity to show what he can do, and he has provided a reliable inside game and help Aldrich inside.
Brady Morningstar (Junior Red Shirt Small Forward/Shooting Guard, 6’3” 185 lbs.): Morningstar did not play until second semester as penance for driving under the influence and violating curfew, but reduced minutes kept him from being worn down as he was a year ago. One of the best three-point shooters and defenders on last year’s squad, he is a versatile utility man with his shooting, defense and high basketball I.Q.. His contribution to the team did not diminish, despite playing in a reserve role behind Xavier Henry. Games played without him demonstrated how valuable his contribution was a year ago. As the only missing starter, one would think the Hawks would look better on offense--a tribute to his ability to pass and move without the ball.
C.J. Henry (Freshman Red Shirt Shooting Guard, 6’4” 205 lbs.): The enigma of this season’s recruiting class as Henry hasn’t played competitive basketball since 2005. Highly regarded then, he opted instead for professional baseball but still has aspirations to play in the NBA. Jayhawk fans are wondering what they’ll get in C.J.—a physically mature athlete skilled enough to excel in two sports, or a player attempting to remove considerable rust from his game? A year into his stay on Mt. Oread it is still too soon to tell, as a knee injury has limited his practice time and kept him from participating in KU's early games. In limited appearances Henry proved to be a deadly shooter, so the potential is there. Stay tuned.
Tyrel Reed (Junior Shooting Guard, 6’3” 185 lbs.): Reed is so superbly conditioned, when a player beats him in speed or conditioning drills it makes the local newspapers. He is a splendid shooter that frequently provided clutch three-point baskets last season, and the rest of his game is steady and reliable. Reed continued to see court time despite the addition of three wing players in the off-season because his game is mistake-free, and his game prevents defenders from sagging into the lane.
Thomas Robinson (Freshman Power Forward, 6’9” 230 lbs.): Everyone called Xavier Henry the prize of the 2010 recruiting class, but early in the season this was the guy everybody talked about. Coach Self refers to his “motor’, which means he likes the Robinson’s hustle. He is considered a relentless rebounder who takes some pressure off Aldrich and the Morris twins, despite limited minutes in the second half of the season. He hurries too much on offense, but his presences make it virtually impossible to get the Hawks’ front line in foul trouble.
Mario Little (Senior Small Forward, 6’5” 210 lbs.): A personal favorite, Little’s effectiveness springs from the mismatches he creates. He is adept at the post-up game but can take the ball outside and drive or shoot. This combination of skills allows him to post up smaller opponents and lure bigger players outside, and it will be interesting to see how Coach Self uses the unique skills Little possesses. Little has decided to red-shirt this season, and when the best player in Junior College basketball red-shirts due to a lack of playing time, it is a sign of how deep the Jayhawks are.
Travis Releford (Sophomore Shooting Guard, 6’5” 205 lbs.): Releford struggled at times last season but emerged as a “hustle player” called on to steal possessions and provide relief for the overworked Brady Morningstar. Has the size to play either wing position, but must work on his shooting and ball handling to earn meaningful minutes. His game has been compared to Steve Woodberry’s, but so far he lacks Woodberry’s shot or court savvy. Releford also decided to red-shirt this season, although Bill Self hedged his bets by asserting he might play him if he had to.
Elijah Johnson (Freshman Point Guard, 6’2” 183 lbs.): The freshman guard from Las Vegas possesses good speed and athleticism, and played significant minutes earlier in the season as Sherron Collin’s backup. He still can be called upon to offer quality minutes, particularly if Tyshawn Taylor remains prone to turnovers. Also mentioned at times as a red-shirt candidate, Coach Self quickly realized how much Johnson could help the team and opted to play him. He possesses a good outside shot and fits in the mold of combo guard that Coach Self prefers.
Connor Teahan (Junior Shooting Guard, 6’5” 215 lbs.): Teahan is an invited walk-on who hoped to contribute the way Christian Moody did several years ago, and probably could have if this Jayhawks team wasn’t so good. He possesses good size and athletic ability, and has a reputation as a fine three-point shooter, based on his 60% accuracy from beyond the stripe his freshman year. Teahan can reliably contribute as a small forward or shooting guard when needed. Because the team is so talented, Teahan was also emerged as a red-shirt candidate, but wanted to play instead.
Jordan Juenemann (Sophomore Shooting Guard, 6’4” 195 lbs.): A walk-on who saw action in five games as a freshman, Juenemann is still a fan favorite--when he enters the game, the Rock Chalk chant can’t be far behind. An outstanding student, Juenemann is a well-liked practice player who is upbeat and positive.
Chase Buford (Junior Shooting Guard, 6’3” 210 lbs.): An invited walk-on with strong KU ties, Buford usually is out on the court when the game is no longer in doubt. The son of former Larry Brown assistant and current San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, Buford’s role is to hustle in practice, keep morale high, and be a positive influence on the bench and in the locker room. Buford is also outstanding in the classroom, and the Jayhawks will benefit from his presence on the team.
As of August 31st, 2012 Cole Aldrich, the Morris twins, Xavier Henry, Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor have signed with NBA teams to play professionally, with two players selected in each of the last four NBA drafts. All but Taylor were picked in the first round, making this team arguably the deepest in Jayhawk history. Although KU faltered in the NCAA Tournament and lost to Northern Iowa, the players have ingrained themselves on the minds and hearts of KU fans everywhere--and on the KU record books, as well.
Three players from this team are still Jayhawks: Seniors Jeff Withey, Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson. All three started on KU's squad that ended their season in the NCAA Championship game against the Kentucky Wildcats. It is expected that Jeff Withey will be selected in the 2013 NBA draft, and Elijah Johnson has the skills and athleticism to join him next summer on an NBA roster. If this occurs, 8 players from this team will be drafted professionally, making it one of the deepest teams in college basketball history.
And so, Jayhawk fans: which team truly was the deepest in KU history? The 2010 team featured in this article? Perhaps the 2008 championship team was deepest, with Cole Aldrich, Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun, who was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers but elected to play for the Russian National team. Who can forget the 1996-1997 team with Scot Pollard, Raef LaFrentz, Paul Pierce, Jacque Vaughn, Ryan Robertson and Billy Thomas? Going back even further, the 1971, 1978 and 1986 teams might have been as deep as any. They were not stocked with as many NBA draft picks, but each team had multiple players that contributed to the legacy of KU basketball.
Which team do you think was the deepest ever?