If Josh Selby was nervous, he certainly didn't show it.
The ballyhooed Kansas freshman, making his debut after sitting the first nine games of the season due to a NCAA suspension, scored 21 points and hit a decisive three pointer in the final minute that led his team to a narrow 70-68 victory over visiting USC.
After Selby's first five minutes in a Jayhawk uniform, it was clear that momentum-swinging plays and game-changing shots would be made by the Baltimore product as the season progresses. Such expectations arise when a freshman scores 10 straight points immediately off the bench in his first NCAA game. What few knew, though, is that such heroics would be needed on Saturday.
In a game where they led by 14 points early in the second half, Kansas found themselves down 68-66 coming out of a timeout with 38 seconds remaining. Obviously, a basket would be huge in determining whether or not the Jayhawks could extend the nation's longest home winning streak to 65 games.
After Marcus Morris missed badly on an off-balance jumper, brother Markieff secured the offensive rebound and swung a cross-court pass to Selby. A USC defender closing fast, the freshman gave a subtle ball fake to the corner. That little extra space was all he needed. Selby let fly a deep three from the right elbow extended, and connected to put Kansas ahead for good.
In his wildest dreams, it's hard to imagine Selby scripted his Jayhawk debut better than this. Still, the freshman has much to improve on from this performance.
Though his jumper was undeniably accurate, KU would have been better off if Selby had attacked the paint more frequently and with greater efficiency. The few times he did, he missed short floaters and lost control of the ball. Selby's reluctance to attack the paint could be explained by wanting to fit within the flow of the offense in his first game, a team-first attitude he exhibited throughout the game on Saturday.
Defensively, the freshman performed admirably. Though he was beat off the dribble more than once and caught out of position from time to time, he showed active hands and corralled five big rebounds from the guard spot. If his play on that end of the floor is any indiciation, Selby has a chance to be an impact defender for KU down the road this season.
Pointing out the negatives of Selby's debut, though, is nitpicking to say the least. In a situation where most would crumble, the freshman dazzled from the moment he got off the bench. Between five three pointers he sprinkled tough rebounds, creative ballhandling, a beautiful lob pass to Thomas Robinson and a smooth stroke from the charity stripe.
Better than all that, though, is that Selby wanted the ball with the game on the line. Players with such a mentality are few and far between, and that mindset combined with his athleticism and skill level makes a scary package for the rest of the college basketball world.
Was Josh Selby perfect in his Jayhawk debut? No. But, did he outdo even the most optimistic Kansas fan's expectations? Absolutely.
Well done, Josh.
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