Kansas Basketball: 2012-13 Goals for Jayhawks' Likely Starting 5
The departure of two superstars from last year’s national runners-up is going to leave Kansas with a very different starting lineup for next season. Some of the 2011-12 supporting cast will be moving into more prominent roles, but there will also be plenty of newcomers expected to become major contributors from the get-go.
One of those new faces will be redshirt freshman Ben McLemore, who sat out his first season thanks to some issues in the classroom. McLemore has impressed teammates on the practice court, but he has to prove that he can stay on the real court next season without being derailed by academic problems (ESPN).
Read on for more on what McLemore and the rest of the Jayhawks’ projected starters need to do to keep KU on top of the Big 12 in 2012-13.
PG Elijah Johnson: Lead KU in Scoring
Scoring point guards have become a tradition at Kansas, and Elijah Johnson needs to do his best to join that esteemed line.
With Tyshawn Taylor gone, Johnson (the Jayhawks’ leading returning scorer) is in the best position to step up as Bill Self's primary offensive option.
Johnson has already shown solid point-guard chops—3.5 assists a game last year, even though Taylor was the primary ballhandler—but now he needs to become more aggressive.
He scored 10.2 points per game in 2011-12, but he’ll likely need to raise that into the 13- to 15-point range next year to put Kansas in the best position to win.
SG Ben McLemore: Prove That Academic Issues Are Behind Him
He still hasn’t stepped onto a college court, but Ben McLemore has given every indication that he’ll live up to having been ranked in the top 50 nationally by ESPNU last year.
McLemore is an athletic slasher who will be the most dangerous finisher on the Kansas roster—as long as he stays on the Kansas roster.
McLemore redshirted for 2011-12 after being declared a partial academic qualifier last fall.
He’s all set to play next year, with no signs of a classroom relapse, but he absolutely can’t afford to let his grades fall into the danger zone again once the pressures of the regular season kick in this fall.
SF Travis Releford: Step Up as a Three-Point Shooting Option
Kansas needs offensive contributions from lots of positions to fill the hole left by Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson’s departures.
Travis Releford, already an outstanding defender, needs to provide more help on the other end, and a more reliable outside shot would be a big help.
Releford shot .325 on a career-high 80 attempts from beyond the arc last year, but he has the stroke to improve that percentage considerably.
If the rising senior remains a non-factor as a scorer, it could mean more playing time for sharpshooting freshman Andrew White.
PF Perry Ellis: Add Enough Muscle to Bang with Big 12 Post Players
The prize of Bill Self’s recruiting class, 6’8” Perry Ellis is a mobile four-man who will create plenty of matchup problems with his ability to face the basket and take his man off the dribble.
That said, KU will also need him to complement Jeff Withey with some more traditional power forward duties.
Ellis weighs in at 220 lbs—plenty for a high school PF but on the light side for a power conference at the college level.
He’ll need to show that opposing power forwards can’t body him up with impunity on defense, or keep him off the glass despite his enviable length.
C Jeff Withey: Force Opponents to Respect Back-to-the-Basket Offense
With Jeff Withey, the defense goes without saying. Withey blocked the third-most shots of any returning player in the country, and his 7’0” frame and top-flight instincts will be the key to the Kansas D again this year.
On offense, though, Withey spent his first season as a starter deferring—understandably—to All-American Thomas Robinson.
He has the length and the fundamentals to be a legitimate low-post scoring threat, but he’ll need to follow through and contribute more than the nine points per game he managed as a junior.