Bill Self and his Kansas team completed a nonconference slate with a 12-1 record and the No. 6 national ranking. Therefore there is plenty of Jayhawk stock on the rise.
He has a phenom freshman leading the team in scoring, a fifth-year senior as the most improved player in the Big 12, a little-known transfer forward dominating disrespectful defenses and an All-American 7'0" center smothering the opposition. Yes, the KU stock is rising as it welcomes Iowa State to Allen Fieldhouse for its conference opener.
Expectations for 2012-13 wavered across the country for the Jayhawks following an unexpected title game appearance last April. While a few question marks remain at point guard and across the bench, Kansas is rolling as we look at the stock of each impact player.
Despite three years under his belt in Lawrence, senior guard Elijah Johnson was not expected to flawlessly take over the full-time point guard duties this season. However, he was expected to run Self's system in a reasonably consistent and efficient manner, something that he has struggled to do.
Johnson flourished near the end of 2012 as a shooting guard alongside Tyshawn Taylor and has done the same with true point guard Naadir Tharpe running the high/low offense thus far in 2012-13.
He has performed well as a floor leader in a handful of games including wins over Belmont (7 PTS, 9 AST, 1 TO) and Saint Louis (5 PTS, 9 AST, 2 TO). He failed to control the ball in a close victory over Temple (5 TO) and five other wins in which he turned the ball over more than four times.
With the return of only two big men—one established one—freshman Perry Ellis was expected to received upward of 20 minutes per game and be given ample opportunities to develop a more physical inside game.
Unfortunately for Ellis, there have been more struggles and growing pains than efficient contributions. The 6'8" freshman has only played more than 15 minutes three times since November 15 and is averaging an unattractive 1.4 fouls per game in only 14.6 minutes per game.
He continues to show improvement inside the paint on both ends of the floor, but he appears hesitant handling the ball, particularly having issues going strong to the bucket.
Only one player in America can narrowly miss a triple-double while bombarding the stat sheet—with his performance against Temple being characterized as an "off-night": Jeff Withey.
The All-American candidate oftentimes remains unsure on the offensive end, but his floor presence has somehow continued to balloon, greatly benefiting his playmaking teammates.
Despite a 3-of-10 shooting night on Sunday, he is still shooting 55.8 percent from the floor and continues to improve his free-throw shooting clip (71.4 percent).
Jeff Withey's stock massively increased in 2012 and appears to be rising again as we begin 2013 and Big 12 play.
DNPs in three of KU's most important nonconference games does not bode well for Andrew White III, even with that 15-point outburst in the Jayhawks' win over Belmont last month.
The freshman shooting guard's role remains undefined, thus hurting his stock, which only continues to plunge when combined with his current average of 1.4 fouls and 0.7 turnovers per game in under eight minutes.
With the size at 6'6" to match up with opposing small forwards, White must provide consistently productive minutes when Travis Releford is occasionally saddled with foul trouble, as was the case on Sunday. White played a mere three minutes in that game, giving a good indication of how comfortable Bill Self is with the youngster.
Junior forward Justin Wesley has played less than 10 meaningful minutes this season and has been knocked with six DNPs, four of them in the last four games following a broken finger in December.
He remains a lightly used bench player committing one foul per five minutes played and appears destined for a foul-trouble role and mop-up duty as we head toward March.
A fifth-year senior and Kansas City native who developed from a career role player into one of the most versatile small forwards in the country, Travis Releford is finally showcasing his all-around talent.
His stock continues to soar along with a 63.6 field-goal percentage, one that has skyrocketed due to a mind-boggling 75.3 percent (61 of 81) over his last 10 games.
Releford has quickly become the Jayhawks' most reliable scoring threat while remaining an elite defender.
Little was expected from Rio Adams, a 6'3" combo guard from Seattle, in his freshman year. His inability get on the court has left his stock unchanged from early November.
He has logged more than five minutes just three times, and a poor field-goal percentage (31.3) has hurt his bid for increased playing time.
However, Adams has provided a couple ultra-athletic highlight-reel plays, including a tingling baseline slam, that leaves room for optimism as an energy bench player in conference play.
Redshirt freshman Ben McLemore's stock has risen similarly to his NBA draft projections: up.
His scoring leads the team, and despite a couple foul-plagued outings, the 6'5" shooting guard has provided the perfect scoring spark the Jayhawks lacked during their Final Four run last March.
He has failed to reach double figures in scoring only twice and has logged 34-plus minutes five times, while shooting 48.3 percent from the floor and 87.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Slight improvement defensively and a couple offensive possessions with increased perimeter movement would further make McLemore a horrifying sight for opposing Big 12 teams this season.
The magic is apparently in the 'fro.
Senior forward Kevin Young has doubled his points and rebounds per game, while averaging nearly 10 more minutes played, thus sending his stock catapulting.
In Kansas' 69-62 win over Temple last weekend, he tied season highs in points and rebounds with 16 and 10, respectively, in providing a consistently productive 29 minutes.
He has quickly become a fixture in KU's title-contending starting lineup and has routinely exploited poor defensive position from the opposition, creating additional floor space for the Kansas guards.
Following a midseason minutes swoon, point guard Naadir Tharpe appears to have landed a role as an integral 20-minute-per-game offensive floor leader.
As mentioned, Elijah Johnson has certainly improved his skills at a full-time point guard, but appears significantly more comfortable at 2-guard when Self elects to run both players.
Although Tharpe's assist numbers have greatly fluctuated (12 vs. American and one vs. Temple), he only has two turnovers in his last 90 minutes to go along with greatly improved shooting.
Redshirt freshman forward Jamari Traylor has played the most quiet 12.7 minutes per game imaginable, especially considering his thunderous early-season putbacks.
Foul trouble (2.0 per 12.7 minutes played), an inability to provide crisp perimeter passes, and uncertainty on low post moves have limited his role.
The 6'8" forward does continue to provide energy and occasional defensive stands, but must improve on decision making as the season progresses in order for his stock to rise as it did in early November.