Kansas Baskeball: Final Regular Season Grades for Jayhawks
The Jayhawks' diverse and veteran-laden roster produced the program's ninth-straight Big 12 title this season, earning both high and optimistically low marks in doing so.
Ben McLemore was electrifying. Jeff Withey still floats in Bob Huggins' nightmares. Kevin Young still somehow isn't a household name. Cyclones' fans still despise Elijah Johnson's vastly improved game. And Bruce Weber can't seem to figure out how his Wildcats shared a conference title with a Kansas team they were embarrassed by.
KU's team grade remains incomplete as they head toward March Madness seeking a return Final Four trip and sixth national title banner.
A 26-5 regular season for Bill Self en route to a ninth-straight Big 12 title speaks for itself. The tenth-year coach is lauded for player development, precise game plans and near-flawless in-game adjustments, with this season being no exception.
Unfortunately, there is a slight knock against those in-game adjustments. Yes, the responsibility lies with Jeff Withey to cover Baylor's Cory Jefferson on the perimeter, as do the Kansas guards on Iowa State's Tyrus McGee.
However, Self must repeatedly drill his players with these increased defensive assignments, especially with a bevy of perimeter-heavy teams expected to make the field of 68.
Jeff Withey shot 58 percent from the floor, averaged 4 blocks, 8.6 rebounds and 13.6 points per game while rarely finding himself in foul trouble.
The seven-footer became an All-American candidate and arguably the nation's most imposing defensive force, successfully completing one of the most dramatic four-year developmental turnarounds in program history.
He remains too tentative in gaining offensive position and subsequently calling for the ball. The Jayhawks are bound to have an inadequate shooting game during a potential Final Four run and Withey can potentially offset it by battling better inside.
Andrew White III
Andrew White III's impact might be the most unexpected and disappointing of any Jayhawk this season.
He never appeared comfortable in the offense, lacking a consistent role and dramatically lost confidence in his smooth shooting stroke.
White scored 15 points in a December win over Belmont, shooting 6-for-8 from the field, including 3-for-5 from three, but only hit four shots over the remaining 22 games. Those 22 games included seven DNPs.
Many expected the the 6'6" swingman to make an immediate impact, but it appears he could be a project over the next two seasons.
And we thought Tyshawn Taylor was an inconsistent point guard.
Elijah Johnson's transition from the 2-guard was not smooth, as expected and as evident from 13 games with four-plus turnovers and eight games under 30 percent shooting.
His shooting stroke was re-discovered, reaching 40 percent in the season's final week and decision-making improved, recording three 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio games in KU's last four games.
Naadir Tharpe's numbers are not great as the starting point guard-to-be tallied 5.2 points, 2.8 assists, and 1.3 turnovers per game in shooting 33 percent from the field.
Self's point guards are not expected to shoot the lights out assuming they are selective, something Tharpe was not. In taking nearly six shots per game with that 33 percent stroke, he launched too early in the shot clock, routinely ignoring pick-and-roll options or failing to recognize defensive rotations.
He was an adequate complement to an inconsistent Elijah Johnson with lightning-quick agility and impressive dribble drives in the closing minutes of each half.
You cannot ask more of Kevin Young, a fifth-year transfer senior immediately pegged as a little-used bench player by the Kansas faithful.
He used energy, better decision making, aggressively smart rebounding in cutting down on fouls and turnovers to become a staple in KU's all-around attack.
Young's free-throw percentage isn't ideal at 59 percent, especially for someone receiving an increased role offensively, but he stopped taking silly perimeter shots and routinely cleaned up the mess inside the paint.
Jamari Traylor might deserve an extra half of a letter grade solely for his put-back dunk against Michigan State. It also was an excellent representation of half his season.
His numbers are decent with 1.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in only ten minutes played but he never effectively harnessed his extreme athleticism and potential.
Traylor is docked for lazy decision making as he averages over two combined fouls and turnovers per ten minutes.
He must channel his inner Luis Mendoza and harness his assets before he can become a reliable starter.
Like Kevin Young, you cannot ask more from Ben McLemore as he rewrote the Kansas freshman record books.
The All-American candidate led the team in scoring while shooting 50 percent from the field and 86 percent from the line in becoming the Jayhawks' most dynamic scorer.
McLemore's offensive absences were greatly overplayed as he failed to score in double-digits only four times while eclipsing 20 points in nine games. He was unfairly judged upon unrealistic expectations as a result of dynamic non-conference play, routinely losing popularity contests to the equally inconsistent Marcus Smart.
McLemore's defense improved enormously as the season progressed, oftentimes drawing the most difficult assignments, including holding Smart to 2-for-14 shooting during KU's victory in Stillwater.
In hindsight, Rio Adams would have been an excellent redshirt candidate.
The 6'3" combo guard played less than a dozen meaningful minutes all season, appearing in only 21 games while never recording more than four points or one assist.
The opportunities were inconsistent, but so was his basketball IQ in those opportunities. With an undefined role and 30 percent shooting clip, Adams badly needs this offseason to prove he can provide impact minutes amongst a suddenly crowded backcourt next season.
Travis Releford is a coach's dream.
A highly touted local product gladly accepted a redshirt in 2009 and developed into one of Bill Self's best defenders and most efficient scorers in his tenure.
Releford set career highs in minutes played, points, assists, blocks and a greatly improved free-throw stroke of 79 percent. While his shooting numbers took a dip in conference play, he still managed to shoot 58 percent from the field and a team-high 44 percent from three-point range
A late-season mental lapses on defense cost the Jayhawks on the perimeter but KU's best defender was never in foul trouble in drawing the opposing team's most versatile scorer.
Despite a 23-point loss to Baylor, KU's worst in seven years, Perry Ellis was fun to watch.
The tentative, lightly spoken forward only averaged 13 minutes per game on the season and routinely tipped his hand far too early to defenders, but still managed to be an efficient big man.
Ellis needs to become more unpredictable inside the paint. You can tell within a split second if the 6'8" Witchita native plans to shoot the ball. He takes too much time in making his move.
Kansas fans can expect to see the Perry Ellis from Saturday over the next three seasons, one that will average a near double-double while facilitating their frontcourt offense.