For those fans “patiently” waiting for the rotation to be ironed out – this just in – not only is the rotation not down to the manageable nine head coach Bill Self would like, the rotation will in-all-likelihood continue to vary from game-to-game.
First of all, Kansas is not the ONLY team in the country going through growing pains and the process of sorting out a rotation. KU fans expect a lot, and they should, but with a 6-4 record it sometimes seems as if the sky is falling, but there’s no way anyone should be pushing the panic button. Once the Big 12 season arrives, the coaching staff will know a lot more about their young bunch.
One of the reasons KU’s top minute-getters are still a work in progress for the Kansas coaching staff is because, simply put, things have not gone as planned.
Self thought C.J. Giles and Sasha Kaun would be effective on the court TOGETHER. Instead when one has been productive, the other has lagged behind. As a result, one may end up backing up the other. KU’s head coach has stated that might be a situation that ends up working in the Jayhawks’ favor during end-of-game situations when fouls might be an issue, but as of now there’s still a lot to be determined about the frontcourt rotation.
"C.J. (Giles) and Sasha (Kaun) are our two most talented post players, but they haven't played extremely well together,” Self continued. “Christian (Moody) is the security blanket for everyone else. He's played pretty well, but just because he started last game, doesn't mean we'll do that every game. Christian and Julian (Wright) really do a good job of passing to the other big guy in the game. I think that Darnell (Jackson) will certainly put pressure on the others to play well."
Darnell Jackson’s effective return, which by the way is a good “problem” to have, adds another “able” body to the mix for Self.
"(His performance) didn't really surprise me. I think how well he fit in impressed me. He did some good things, he was pretty active,” Self said in reference to Jackson’s performance against Northern Colorado. “He's three-of-eight from the field on shots he can make, so I think he can shoot better. I think he played just about like I thought he would. He looked like he belonged out there."
Self never thought he would have to worry about Brandon Rush being gun-shy, but instead the Kansas head coach is begging for the freshman to take charge and look for his shot more. On a positive note, the heralded recruit has been the consummate teammate. The negative is that KU NEEDS him to become a take-charge player. When Brandon becomes more assertive, minutes will be tough to wrestle from him. As the games get tougher, the hope is that Rush learns just how good he can really be.
"Brandon can't be nervous about making mistakes,” Self stated. “Brandon's got to be a playmaker for us. And, he has gotten better. When you're shooting 60 percent from three-point range, you shouldn't be shooting three a game. He should be taking eight a game and shooting 40 percent. That would help the team a lot more."
I think the staff expected more from Mario Chalmers. Chalmers is far from a disappointment but really has yet to look totally comfortable on the court. Chalmers needs to free his mind, and do the simple things -- the rest will take care of itself. On the other hand, I don’t think anyone expected Stephen Vinson to be the type of contributor he has. As a reserve, if you want more minutes, there can’t be a falloff in the overall quality of play from the team – and for Vinson, the team has operated efficiently while he has been in the game, therefore he has received more minutes while virtually playing mistake-free ball.
"Stephen (Vinson) is a plug-in guy that will do whatever it takes to make the team better. He's been great. I'm real proud of him,” said Self. “When he's out there, we don't take a step backwards."
Offensively, the thought early on was that a penetrate-and-pitch offense would be most effective with this group but the Jayhawks have changed it up much more than expected with the high-low motion offense.
“We'd like to run. But, if we don't get really good at it, we're going to have to become an execution-type team. I would much rather run. We'll always run off off misses. We need to get the ball up and down the floor to utilize our length, athletic ability and depth. You've got to run with a purpose,” Self pointed out.
The Jayhawks really aren’t sure what they are. Are they an interior-based team, a slashing team, a defensive-minded team? Self is looking for an identity for his young team to commit to and then as Nike likes to say – Just Do It!
"We have to figure out, as a team and a staff, a lot of things. A. Who to play? B. How we're going to play in different situations. If we are going to be committed to trying to run, then we need to run. If we believe half-court execution is most important, than that needs to be our emphasis. We have to be good at something and know where our points are going to come from. Our team is pretty unselfish and a lot of times they won't take shots as they come. We need to find about 10 things that we're looking for offensively and become really good at looking at those things,” said Self during his weekly press conference Tuesday.
So far, who has been effective has varied from minute-to-minute and game-to-game, especially with the freshmen. That makes it pretty tough to solidify a rotation. In a word the freshmen have been…
"I would say ‘inconsistent’. At times, they've been terrific and at other times they haven't played nearly as well," Self added.
While Kansas is looking to resolve some issues, nothing compares to the resolve shown by the Jayhawks latest opponent. KU will take its three-game winning streak to the court against an ailing New Orleans team. On top of the devastation dolled out by Katrina, the Privateers top player Bo McCalebb is out for the season and the UNO has had to call Tyler and College Station, Texas “home”. Nothing has come easy for head coach Monte Towe’s bunch.
This game is really about more than basketball-- that being said, kudos to the Kansas Athletic Department for doing their part to try and help. Kansas director of athletics Lew Perkins, senior associate athletic director Larry Keating and head coach Bill Self asked ESPN to televise the game and give the team the exposure. Women’s head coach Bonnie Henrickson also did her part. Kansas, the University of New Orleans and Birmingham Southern College were originally scheduled to play in the UNO Lady Privateer Classic Dec. 2-4 in New Orleans. Because of Hurricane Katrina, all three games that would have made up the tournament were played in Lawrence.
"It's tough. I just found out that they (the UNO coaching staff) move into their offices on Jan. 3. It was a good thing that (Kansas Senior Associate Athletics Director) Larry Keating did,” Self said. “We wanted to get ESPN to broadcast the game if we could get New Orleans on the schedule. Hopefully, ESPN will do a good job of telling their story, because it's a very unique story. We think that we have issues to deal with, but think of the issues that they deal with on a daily basis."