On Monday afternoon, sophomore guard Frank Mason estimated that Kansas has installed close to “20 to 25 percent” of its offensive playbook. This comes four days before the regular-season opener against UC Santa Barbara — and eight days before a monster early-season showdown with No. 1 Kentucky.
That may sound like a small portion of the overall system, but the Jayhawks often focus on the fundamental parts of their offensive system before adding in more plays as the non-conference season progresses.
“We still have a lot to learn,” Mason said. “The young guys are getting it, and once we started putting more of the plays in, it will become a lot on the young guys to remember. So just going over them every day in practice will help.”
The Jayhawks have four freshmen who could be part of the rotation, including potential starters Devonte’ Graham and Cliff Alexander. Graham, a 6-foot-2 guard, started Kansas’ first exhibition game against Washburn, while Alexander, a 6-foot-8 power forward, had 14 points and nine rebounds in his first game action.
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The influx of inexperience puts more pressure on the freshmen to master the offense quickly as Kansas prepares for a busy November. The process continues on Tuesday, when Kansas finishes its exhibition season against Emporia State at Allen Fieldhouse.
Then it really heats up. After the regular-season opener against UC Santa Barbara on Friday, the Jayhawks will travel to face No. 1 Kentucky at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis next Tuesday. The Jayhawks will then return home to face Rider on Nov. 24 before a three-game trip at the Orlando Classic tournament over Thanksgiving.
“We’re not easing into it at all,” Kansas coach Bill Self said on Monday. “And we need to be ready and take advantage of these early-season opportunities.”
On average, Kansas’ final play card will consist of 75 to 90 things that KU can do on the offensive and defensive ends. For now, Self says, KU is closer to having 20 options and plays on offense. But much of that is Kansas’ base offense.
“For the most part, it’s basically meat and potatoes,” Self said. “That’s what we got to understand better. Our guys have got to understand and execute what we’re trying to do on both ends.”
Mickelson ready to go
Junior forward Hunter Mickelson, a transfer from Arkansas, finished with six points, four rebounds and two blocks during Kansas’ exhibition opener against Washburn. For Mickelson, it was his first game action in more than a year after sitting out last season.
“I could practice all day long, but I couldn’t put it into game,” Mickelson said. “So this year I can practice and hopefully whatever I learn in practice, I can show in the game.”
For now, Mickelson appears to be battling sophomore center Landen Lucas for minutes as a reserve big man. Junior forwards Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor started against Washburn, while freshman Cliff Alexander played 17 minutes off the bench.
Self said Monday that Ellis and Traylor would start Tuesday against Emporia State. Alexander, meanwhile, could eventually be a candidate to start in the frontcourt, but Self has thus far cautioned against expecting too much from Alexander too early.