A couple thoughts about the Jayhawks, both guaranteed to drop a deadly jinx onto the team before a key two-game stretch.
We’re upon mid-February, which is usually when we begin to get a real feel for what kind of team KU has for the year.
They’re better on defense than last year. Much better at the point guard spot. Terrible around the rim on both ends of the court.
And, man, can they shoot it from deep.
It’s been funny to watch Bill Self try to come to grips with the reality of this year’s team. He wants the ball to go inside on every possession. If, eventually, a shot comes from the perimeter, that’s fine. But not until a post player has a scoring opportunity first. As this team has shown for nearly three months now, that’s just not a realistic plan.
After last night’s win against Texas Tech, in which 3-pointers kept KU ahead in an ugly first half and helped them blow the game open in the second half, he groused that hot shooting was “fool’s gold” and the Jayhawks needed to find a way to score at the rim.
In general, I agree. This team plays dumb and soft at the rim. They have to find a way to be smarter and tougher when attempting to score inside five feet.
But he needs to, if not embrace, at least recognize that this team’s best way of scoring is from its fleet of deep shooters. Stopping the other team is great. But you still need to score. And this team’s best way of scoring is from beyond the arc.
He’s right: you can’t expect to shoot 55% every night, especially on the road. But that does not mean you abandon the three when it’s your best option.
My favorite KU players have almost always been either the best player on the team, or the player who showed the most NBA potential.
Jacque Vaughn was the best player on the ’94–95 team.
Then came Paul Pierce.
There are a few exceptions over the years there of guys who were not future pros, but the general rule is one of KU’s biggest stars will be my favorite.
This year has become one of those exceptions.
When Brannen Greene committed to play at KU during his junior year of high school, I was thrilled. A 6’7’’ guy who can shoot, is a top 30 player, and not a local kid committing to KU early does not happen very often. Oh, and there was his name. Which I obviously dug a lot.
He was kind of an enigma during his freshman year. You could tell he had an incredible shot, but he didn’t get very many chances to show it off. When he did get to play, he’d take shots at the wrong times. He’d miss free throws. He was terrible on defense and always seemed lost on offense. And then there was the knucklehead factor. He had a couple incidents that earned the ire of his coach and even cost him a one-game suspension.
Million dollar shot. Five-cent head.
Which reminded some of us, of a certain age, of Ron Kellogg. Who just happened to be my favorite player back in 1984–86.
Still, I was intrigued by the kid. He wore #14, which has been my favorite number since my first favorite Jayhawks, Darnell Valentine, wore it back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
According to a friend who played a lot of ball with me back in the day, Brannen reminded him of me on the court. I assume he meant looking a little goofy with puffy hair and getting fired up when he hits a shot. Lord knows I could never shoot it like Brannen, even on those rare days I got hot.
So lots of reasons to like Brannen Greene.
Even more now that he’s blossomed as a sophomore. He’s still a role player, as his defense it spotty at best and any time he has to actually handle the ball it can be an adventure. But he’s become a huge weapon, tossing in those perfect, beautiful bombs from behind the arc. He’s hit some clutch free throws late in games. He’s grabbed some big rebounds. He still gets crazy fired up when he hits a couple shots. He made me laugh out loud when he talked trash on a TCU player while shooting a free throw in a two-point game.
There are still some knucklehead moments on the court, but in general he’s become a pretty solid player. And with his size and shot, he might have the brightest NBA future of anyone on this team.
Still, it’s hard to say he’s the focal point of this year’s team. Frank Mason is the most important player. Kelly Oubre the most physically gifted and will be drafted the highest. Perry Ellis is the most complete player.
But this year, my favorite player is the kid who comes off the bench, wears #14, looks goofy when getting fired up, and kills teams with his 3-pointers.
- Ironically one of the best inside games for KU’s bigs came against Texas, which, next to Kentucky, is the biggest team KU has faced this year. ↩
- A quick note about the time span this covers: I’m going back to 1994, when Raef LaFrentz arrived on campus. Ever since then KU has almost always had a lottery-pick level talent on the roster. ↩
- Methodology: random sampling of my memory without reviewing rosters. Not all years are represented, but you get the point. ↩
- He has to hold the school record for stepping on the sideline without being pressured. ↩