LAWRENCE — In a second, we’ll get to our usual day-after thoughts on No. 2 Kansas’ 86-66 victory over Iona on Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse:
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
But first, a little more on Joel Embiid’s emergence on Tuesday night.
Thomas Embiid had never seen a basketball game before in his life — at least, never one like this. Allen Fieldhouse. 16,300 fans. Some of then waving Cameroonian flags for his son, Joel.
Thomas Embiid had never seen his son, Joel, play this sport, either. Thomas grew up playing handball. That was his sport. And back in Cameroon, his son had spent most of his childhood playing soccer and volleyball.
But more than two years ago, Joel Embiid came to America to pursue an education and some potential basketball opportunities in Florida. On Tuesday, in just his third college game, he had 16 points and 13 rebounds — his first career double-double — with his father in attendance.
“A good surprise,” said Thomas Embiid, who wore a pressed suit while sitting inside Allen Fieldhouse.
“He was the best dressed man in the building,” KU coach Bill Self said, “That’s for sure.”
So let’s get to it, three more thoughts as Kansas, 3-0, prepares to play host to Towson on Friday night.
• 1: Tarik Black is in an early-season rut. Three games into his Kansas career, Black is averaging three points and three fouls per game. And the struggles continued on Tuesday. Black picked up some early fouls, took a seat on the bench, and Embiid replaced him on the floor at the beginning of the second half.
It always seemed likely that Embiid would eventually replace Black in KU’s starting lineup. But who had Nov. 20 as that date? The last two games, Black has scored just one points and played just 15 minutes. And if Embiid keeps progressing, he could eat into some of Black’s minutes.
Self cautions that Embiid will still have his good days and bad days. But after Tuesday’s victory, Self was still trying to sort through Black’s early struggles.
“I don’t know,” Self said. “That’s something we need to study, and we need him to be better. And I don’t know. He’s just not … he hasn’t caught a lot of breaks, but (he’ll) get a rebound and throw it out of bounds, or not go right back up with it when he’s in there tight and playing against smaller guys.
“He’s just thinking too much instead of playing.”
Black, a graduate transfer from Memphis, came to Kansas with the intention of playing one year in Lawrence for a top-10 team while prepping for a career in professional basketball — whether the opportunity came in the NBA or Europe.
Even after the slow start, Self is still confident Black can emerge as a major contributor.
“We’ll get that straightened out,” Self said. “Certainly, he needs to have some success. He knows he can do better than what he’s done, and we do, too. Because he’s practiced pretty consistently well since he’s been here.”
• 2. Will we see more of Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason at the same time? Tharpe and Mason, KU’s two primary point-guard options, have provided quite a lift while playing together in the Jayhawks’ first three games.
Mason is averaging nine points per game off the bench. Tharpe had 10 assists against Iona. And the two combined on a pretty impressive lob dunk in transition on Tuesday.
It’s perhaps not that surprising. Self’s teams have often looked best when playing multiple handlers and combo guards in the backcourt, and Mason, despite being just 5 feet 11, has the skill-set to score.
“I know they like playing together,” Self said on Tuesday. “And there are some things about that that I like. But Naadir doesn’t need to wait for Frank to change the pace. Naadir should be the one to change the pace. That’s something we gotta get. I thought we played too slow until Frank got in the game. And I don’t understand that because Naadir can do comparable things that Frank can.”
• 3. Perry Ellis has been even better than expected. Last week, C.J. Moore over at Bleacher Report found some pretty telling numbers from Ellis’ freshman season, which finished with him averaging just 5.8 points per game.
In KU’s first 30 games last season, Ellis finished on only 45.8 percent of his attempts at the rim, according to HoopMath.com. In the season’s final seven games, as Ellis began to find himself, the number improved to 72.7 percent of his shots at the rim.
This season, Ellis has been even more efficient inside. In three games, he’s converting on 86.7 percent of his field-goal attempts at the rim. It’s a small sample size, of course, and it will likely drop a little as the competition improves. But Ellis’ added experience and muscle appears to be paying off. He was always skilled enough to get himself looks at the basket. Now he’s added some strength and confidence to his crafty post game.
To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/rustindodd.