Campus Corner

KU's Self experiments with reserve point guard role

Updated: 2012-12-07T03:03:52Z

By RUSTIN DODD

The Kansas City Star

— OK, so don’t expect to see forward Kevin Young running the point guard spot for Kansas anytime soon. But Young, a 6-foot-8 forward, did get a brief trial run at the position during a recent practice, coach Bill Self said Thursday.

“He actually passes it pretty good,” Self said of Young. “And it only lasted about 10 minutes, but we’ve looked at some different things to try to get some guys back there. We haven’t just got a comfort level with that yet.”

In short, the Jayhawks need a guard off the bench to handle the point guard duties in relief of starter Elijah Johnson, and no player has yet stepped up to assume that role.

Sophomore Naadir Tharpe has averaged 16.9 minutes while turning the ball over just seven times in seven games. And Self said that freshman Rio Adams could be in the mix as well as the season progresses. Self, though, said that he was also looking at playing Adams off the ball to ease some of the pressure early in his career.

“You would think that maybe Rio would have that potential more so than anybody,” Self said. “But maybe we’re looking at it wrong. Maybe we should play Rio, but maybe take some pressure off of him and play Travis (Releford) at the point. There’s some different things that we can do.”

Johnson said Thursday that Adams continues to give KU solid performances in practice.

“I feel like Rio is doing a really good job in practice,” Johnson said. “In the game it’s been a little different, but I feel like he’s just growing up.”

No ‘ill will’ toward Colorado

Colorado may have escaped the Big 12 back in the summer of 2010, during the first major conference realignment shakeup, but coaches and administrators at Kansas have apparently buried the hatchet.

At least, KU coach Bill Self had no issue scheduling a home-and-home series against the Buffaloes — a series that will begin on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

“I have no ill will at all toward Colorado,” Self said. “They left the league because they had to. With the league potentially breaking up, they had to jump and take what was available. So we certainly understand that.”

KU officials have held a much different — and more publicly known — stance on rekindling a rivalry with Missouri, which left for the Southeastern Conference after last season.

For Kansas, though, the Colorado series also makes practical sense from a geographical standpoint. For years, KU fans from Denver and the western part of Kansas flocked to Boulder and gave the Jayhawks a home-court advantage at the Coors Events Center.

That game died when the Buffaloes left for the Pac-12 Conference in 2010. But the Jayhawks will travel to Boulder next season for a return game in the home-and-home series.

“It’s such a good game for fans that can’t see us play in Allen Fieldhouse,” Self said, “that live in the western part of the state.”

Colorado is also coached by former KU guard Tad Boyle, who played for both Ted Owens and Larry Brown in the early 1980s. He also served as an assistant to former KU guard Mark Turgeon in the early 2000s.

Big 12 struggles

It was a forgettable November for the Big 12 Conference. The league had just two teams ranked for most of the month, and there were more head-scratching losses — Texas falling to Division II Chaminade in Maui? — than marquee victories.

Self, though, isn’t ready to concede that the league could be down this year.

“We haven’t got off to a good start,” Self acknowledged. “You know what amazes me about leagues: if you don’t play good in November and December, then your league is going to have the appearance of not being very strong.”

No. 23 Oklahoma State notched a strong victory over North Carolina State, which was ranked in the top 10 at the time. And Baylor also picked up a victory at Kentucky. But the inconsistent Bears also lost to Colorado, the College of Charleston and Northwestern. Texas and West Virginia already have three losses apiece.

For now, the Big 12 ranks seventh in most conference RPI rankings, behind both the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West.

“Texas doesn’t have all their pieces together and they’re ridiculously young and they are going to get better as we move forward,” Self said. “We’ve been a top-three RPI league the last five years in a row.

“I think there’s a chance we can get there, but we’re going to have to play really well from this point forward as far as a non-conference games because there’s some big non-conference games left for some teams.”

To reach Rustin Dodd, send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/rustindodd.

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