They woke up before 6 on Friday morning, slipping on their sweats and moving slowly across the Jayhawker Towers parking lot, on the way to Allen Fieldhouse. Although Kansas basketball coach Bill Self didn’t want to deem this early practice a “punishment,” it was certainly clear this was not a reward.
Just three days after the biggest loss of the Self era — a 32-point shellacking at the hands of Kentucky — he was still frustrated. Mostly, Self says, he was frustrated in how the Jayhawks practiced Thursday afternoon after a day off Wednesday.
“I thought there was very little sense of urgency compared to what I thought we should have had, because of the way we performed on Tuesday,” Self said. “So we practiced (Friday) at 6 a.m., and we’ll practice again this afternoon. Not as punishment. We got to get better.”
Three days after a humbling performance at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis, Self was still sorting through the wreckage on Friday afternoon, when he met reporters for a news conference. The Jayhawks return to the court Monday night against Rider in Allen Fieldhouse. Then comes a trip to Florida for a three-game expedition at the Orlando Classic tournament. For the moment, Self hopes the next week will provide an opportunity to move beyond the fallout from Kentucky.
“It’s a long season,” Self said, “too long of a season to put too much stock in a game that obviously was an opportunity for us to look better than we did.
“Let’s tell it like it is: We weren’t ready to play that game. That was a much more experienced, bigger, longer team that had had many more practices than us because of their trip (to the Bahamas in the summer).
“And that’s not an excuse. And then on top of that, we lay an egg.”
By now, the numbers have been hashed, dissected and rehashed. Kansas shot just 19.6 percent from the field while finishing with 11 total field goals in the 72-40 loss. And after just two games, the offensive trends are a little unsightly. The Jayhawks have shot just 20 percent (five of 25) from three-point range and recorded 15 assists against 27 turnovers.
“You have 11 field goals, (shoot) you’re not going to have a lot of assists,” Self said. “You’re not going to set any records on assists when you have 11 filed goals. So that’s a little bit misleading on assist numbers. But, yeah, we got to do better job of feeding the post without question.”
For the moment, Self has a long list of priorities and goals. But near the top: He’s still trying to figure out who his best players are. That label, Self says, should belong to sophomore guard Wayne Selden and junior forward Perry Ellis. But to this point, neither has played up to expectations.
“I think it’s probably discouraging for Wayne and Perry because they should be two of our better players without question,” Self said. “They should be our two best players, and they haven’t played better than any of the other guys so far.”
Ellis was limited to just four points on one-of-six shooting against Kentucky, while Selden is averaging 9.5 points while shooting 30 percent in two games. When asked what Ellis and Selden need to provide for Kansas, Self rattled off a long list of attributes.
“Productivity, leadership, calming influence, intelligence,” Self said. “There are a lot of things I think which need to see from those guys. That’ll definitely filter down to the rest of the guys.”
In recent days, Self has referenced past teams to put the Kentucky loss in context. It was one of the ugliest performances of his tenure, but he also mentions the 2012 team, which lost to Kentucky in the Champions Classic (and Davidson in mid-December, for that matter) and still rallied to reach the NCAA championship game. For the moment, these Jayhawks are also a work in progress. Some days, the progress moves slower than others. The veterans have to find comfort as leaders and load-bearers. The freshmen must develop. The entire rotation must learn to run offense in the way Self desires.
“I don’t think that was great game for us other than the fact it exposed us,” Self said, “and now hopefully we can get better.”
On Friday, that meant a 6 a.m. practice after a discouraging workout on Thursday afternoon. The morning workout was better, Self said, but by Friday afternoon, he still wasn’t totally happy.
“One thing about 6 a.m. practices that I failed to realize is it (stinks) for the guys,” Self said, “but I think it’s actually worse for the coaches. That may be something I want to adjust moving forward.”
Graham sprains shoulder
Freshman guard Devonte’ Graham suffered a sprained right shoulder against Kentucky and missed practice on Thursday and Friday morning. Graham played just 14 minutes against Kentucky, and Self was hopeful he could return Monday against Rider.
“Devonte’ sprained his shoulder against Kentucky from a fall,” Self said in a statement. “He left the game to get it checked. It’s sore, and he’s taken a couple of days off. But we anticipate him back in practice in the next day or two.”
WOMEN’S GUARD DONE
Kansas junior guard Timeka O’Neal will miss the rest of the women’s basketball season after tearing the ACL in her right knee during practice last week, the team announced Friday.
O’Neal, a Raytown native, played two seasons at Johnson County Community College before transferring to KU, where she played one game for the Jayhawks this year. Her surgery is set for Dec. 5, and she will apply for a medical hardship waiver.
| Kathleen Gier, email@example.com.