Kansas Basketball: Biggest Improvement Each Returning Player Must Make
While Bill Self's Jayhawks don't even have enough returnees to field a proper dodgeball team, they welcome back five key players alongside a host of incoming freshmen.
Those five key players will likely see their minutes, and hopefully productivity, double on both ends of the floor. However, each must make dramatic improvements as they look to provide the foundation on a young team seeking it's tenth-straight Big 12 regular season title and their second Final Four appearance in three seasons.
Improvement: Play like a 6'9" PF
Justin Wesley's minutes were cut in half as a junior last season as he was buried beneath a new frontcourt and shrugging off injuries.
Despite playing only 68 minutes on the year, it was clear the 6'9" power forward wasn't playing like a power forward. He routinely lost battles to smaller big men, was outmuscled by physical paint protectors and offered little size off the bench.
The senior-to-be must capitalize on his physical assets and provide reliable rebounding on a team seeking to replace Jeff Withey and Kevin Young.
Andrew White III
Improvement: Off-the-ball movement
The Kansas offense doesn't work if everyone isn't moving, especially if their shooters simply float along the perimeter.
Andrew White III was expected to contribute perimeter scoring and occasional lane penetration as a freshman, but failed to provide either with a 33.3 percent shooting clip in only five minutes per game.
White must recognize defensive tendencies and embrace Self's rotational offense if he expects to nail the open jumpers that garnered national attention as a 4-star shooting guard from Virginia.
Yes, Jamari Traylor's put-back dunk against Michigan State was fun but it unfortunately was the culmination of his season, in game No. 2.
A dynamic athlete, the redshirt sophomore combined for 2.2 turnovers and fouls in only nine minutes of play while constantly falling victim to advantageous forwards with quick hands.
His second full offseason will provide ample opportunities to study KU's offense and his responsibilities as a reliable 6'8" power forward within it. Improved composure on both sides of the ball will slow the game down for Traylor and allow him to showcase his natural skills.
It was a long four month wait until the Big 12 tournament, but everyone finally saw what Perry Ellis can do in the paint.
Improved physicality and aggressiveness spearheaded his season-long development. Ellis remains slightly undersized at 6'8, 225-pounds for a Big 12 power forward and must adopt a resilient rim-attacking personality if he expects to become a double-double machine.
Kansas fans will notice similarities in Ellis' development to that of Marcus and Markieff Morris during their time in Lawrence.
Improvement: Reliable decision-making
Naadir Tharpe has a chance to become one of the best point guards in Kansas basketball history. Seriously.
The quick and shifty ball-handler was criticized for inconsistent decision-making as sought stability during Elijah Johnson's breakdowns, routinely launching 22-footers early in the shot clock.
Tharpe nearly cut his turnover rate in half as a sophomore and was amongst the nation's top-50 point guards in assist-to-turnover ratio. With an influx of shooters arriving this summer in Brannen Greene, Wayne Selden and Conner Frankamp, Tharpe must make both the pass-to-start plays and the pass-to-finish plays.
He has every tool to become an elite floor leader but must improve his 30-plus minute decision-making as the leader of this team next season.