LAWRENCE — Well, college basketball’s opening night is finally here. No. 5 Kansas takes the floor Friday night for its long-awaited regular-season opener against Louisiana-Monroe at Allen Fieldhouse.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
The next five months could be the most intriguing stretch of Bill Self’s tenure at KU. Andrew Wiggins. Six freshmen. The Jayhawks aiming for a 10th straight Big 12 title.
It all begins tonight. So let’s get to the #KUmailbag
• “Wouldn't it be better for the Kansas program to have a 23 year-old, redshirt senior (Conner) Frankamp, who would likely be a starter averaging 10-15 points/game as opposed to a 18-year-old freshman who will likely average under 6 a game? Seems a pretty big trade-off. And Self may have even mentioned that it would've been smart to redshirt Reed in '07-'08.” — Scott, Washington D.C.
The answer to the first question is probably yes — a 23-year-old Frankamp would be more likely to make an impact than the 18-year-old version. That’s probably not debatable. Because, you know, the science of aging. But there are a couple reasons Frankamp’s name hasn’t been mentioned much in redshirt discussions.
For one, Frankamp is probably the third best ball handler on the team, behind Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason. If Tharpe ever gets in foul trouble, or minor injuries pop up, Frankamp could potentially fill in as a temporary option at the point. Tonight, for example, Self says he expects Frankamp to log some minutes at point guard to spell Mason, who will start in place of a suspended Tharpe.
(I’ve heard many fans wonder if freshman guard Wayne Selden can play some point guard … and it could be a possibility down the road. But Bill Self likes to use this analogy when shooting down the Selden-at-point questions:
Selden is something like the Jayhawks starting tailback right now, and Self doesn’t want him to also worry about being KU’s backup quarterback — at least for now.)
Also: Self says Frankamp’s shooting ability could help KU win a game or two at some point during the year. While sophomore Andrew White III has earned minutes as the first guard off the bench — and White can certainly shoot — there are still some questions about the Jayhawks’ three-point shooting.
Can KU’s starting backcourt — Tharpe, Selden and Andrew Wiggins — make enough outside shots to keep defenses honest?
For the moment, Self appears pretty solid with his backcourt rotation: Tharpe, Selden, Wiggins, Greene and Mason. But it’s not set in stone. And it might just be too early to know if Frankamp and Brannen Greene can be good enough to make Kansas better come January. For that reason, don’t expect redshirt(s).
• “It seems like Bill Self is always able to make players better. Thomas Robinson, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey … they all got better after a couple years in the program. With all the talk about KU’s freshmen, are people missing the fact that some of KU’s returning players could be really good this year?”— Tyler, Kansas City
We’ll get to the answer in a second, but this quote from Bill Self seems relevant here.
On Thursday, Self was asked about recruiting rankings. The question was about Frank Mason, who was outside the top 100 nationally when he committed to Kansas and wound up being ranked in the 70s.
Are the rankings a little overrated?
“Rankings are overrated,” Self said. “… There’s definitely not that much difference between guys that are ranked 15th and guys that are ranked 50. We’ve had just as much success with guys ranked 50 around here.”
For the last three years or so, this has been the case. Robinson, Releford, Tyshawn Taylor, Tyrel Reed … they were all highly ranked recruits but a little outside the upper crust, at least according to the rankings.
So on a team with freshman stars, what Kansas player could take the mantle of “program player who exceeds expectations”?
One candidate could be Jamari Traylor.
He’s still only a sophomore in eligibility, but this is his third year in the program after he took a redshirt season after being a partial qualifier in 2011-12. For Traylor, who didn’t start playing organized basketball until his junior year of high school, the year of development was crucial.
He averaged 2.1 points in 9.6 minutes per game last season, but his usage will probably increase this season — even as he plays behind Tarik Black, Perry Ellis and freshman Joel Embiid.
Traylor is still a little undersized — he’s probably 6 feet 8 in shoes — but his athleticism and motor allows him to play bigger. His offensive game is still a work-in-progress, but after losing Kevin Young last season, he’s probably the best energy guy in the Kansas frontcourt.
In other words: If you’re looking for some undervalued stock, you might consider buying some Traylor.
Some Friday links:
• Follow Friday: College Basketball Top 100 Must-Follow Twitter List (Sporting News)
• Some Kansas football: Childhood struggle inspires KU’s Stowers to advocate for college athletes
• From last Sunday: Andrew Wiggins, Bill Self and one year to get it right
To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/rustindodd.