Bill Self believes that, at some point in time, freshman wing Kelly Oubre will be a productive player for Kansas this season. But that time is not now. Oubre, a 6-foot-7 wing and former McDonald’s All-American, played just four minutes in Kansas’ 76-60 victory over Rhode Island on Thursday.
It was the second time in four games that Oubre has played just four minutes.
In most cases, outside observers would perhaps chalk up Oubre’s limited minutes to freshman growing pains. But because Oubre is currently projected as a top-10 pick on many NBA Draft boards, the situation becomes slightly more delicate. Self understands this dynamic, but following Thursday’s victory, he explained why he did not feel added pressure to play top recruits, such as Oubre and Cliff Alexander, from the moment they step on campus.
“I think you play the guys that are playing the best and give you the best chance,” Self said. “I’ve said this all along. The media and the NBA has totally hurt many of these kids. It’s totally hurt them because it’s placed unfair expectations on them.”
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Self pointed to former Kansas players Mario Chalmers and Julian Wright, two standouts who didn’t play major minutes until mid December of their freshmen seasons.
“There’s a process that everybody has to go through,” Self said. “We’ve got a couple guys, obviously with Kelly and Cliff, that are going through it. They’re going to be terrific players, but they’re not terrific players yet. And the whole thing — you want to do what’s best for your team, first and foremost.”
Self continued, expressing frustration for the system and mechanisms that tout young players as top recruits and pro prospects based on AAU tournaments and showcase camps during the summer.
“It’s a big transition from high school and AAU ball, where things aren’t really ball,” Self said. “It’s like: Showcase your running and jumping and athletic ability, but what do you do with time, score and momentum? That’s not part of it in many cases. And it just takes a little time for these kids, and that’s what they are, they’re kids.
“I get frustrated because NBA people or whoever will project somebody based on a pickup game (at a camp) in Vegas, and to me, that’s ridiculous. So it places some unfair expectations on some, and it keeps some under the radar. These guys are going to be seen enough in practice and (by) all the NBA teams — they’re going to end up where they deserve to be. But they just have to play their way to it, and Kelly and Cliff will get a chance to. They just need to hang in there and be patient.”
▪ Kansas will face Tennessee, 2-1, in Friday’s semifinals. The Volunteers, led by first-year coach Donnie Tyndall, defeated Santa Clara 64-57 Thursday. The Tennessee program, though, has experienced an interesting couple of weeks. Two members of Tyndall’s first-year staff have resigned since a Nov. 6 announcement that the NCAA was investigating Southern Mississippi, the school where Tyndall coached the past two seasons. One of those assistants, Adam Howard, worked with Tyndall at Southern Miss.
▪ The KU starting lineup remained the same for the second straight game Thursday. Freshman wing Svi Mykhailiuk started alongside sophomores Wayne Selden and Frank Mason in the backcourt. Junior forward Perry Ellis and sophomore forward Landen Lucas started inside.
▪ The Jayhawks’ trip to Orlando began with some excitement Wednesday night. A group of players, including Jamari Traylor, Frank Mason, Cliff Alexander, Devonte’ Graham and Evan Manning were trapped in an elevator at the team’s hotel. According to players, they remained trapped for 10 minutes before the unit began working again.
“Some of the guys were panicking a little bit,” Alexander said, smiling.