As Kansas junior Brannen Greene nears the final two games of a six-game suspension, KU men’s basketball coach Bill Self still believes the junior wing can become a “major contributor” entering the final month of non-conference play.
“Brannen Greene can do basically just about anything Brannen Greene sets his mind to do,” Self said Friday, one day before No. 4 Kansas’ matchup with Harvard at Allen Fieldhouse.
Greene is serving a six-game suspension for what Self has termed as “conduct detrimental to the team,” part of which stemmed from a locker-room dispute following Kansas’ loss to Michigan State at the Champions Classic on Nov. 17. Greene has missed four games and will also sit out Saturday’s game against Harvard and Wednesday’s game against Holy Cross. He will be eligible to return for a Dec. 12 game against Oregon State at the Sprint Center.
“There’s been nothing from a basketball standpoint, from a talent standpoint or skill standpoint, that has been disappointing to me in the least,” Self said. “We just need to all be on the same page. I think his talent is high, and I think he can give us, not only great minutes, but I think he can be a major contributor to everything we’re trying to do.”
Greene, who profiles as Kansas’ best pure shooter, appeared ready for a more consistent role entering his junior season. He hit five three-pointers in the Jayhawks’ season opener against Northern Colorado before not taking a three while playing limited minutes against Michigan State.
“The thing about it is, it’s also up to him,” Self said. “He’s got to buy in to everything that’s going on and not just certain things. But if he wants to do it, which I believe he does, he will. It’s not that complicated.”
Self said that Greene has “done fine” since receiving the suspension. He’s continued to practice with the team, and Self suggested that Greene’s recent work in the classroom would also be considered as his suspension comes to a close.
“(There are) no indications that hasn’t been fine,” Self said. “I would say he’s done what he needs to do from that point of view. But that’s just a small piece of it.
“We want everybody to be on the same page and be fitting in as one. And certainly, when we’re all like that, I think it gives us a better chance to have more success.”
Self on his team: ‘We’re not far off’
On Thursday night in Los Angeles, an unranked UCLA squad stunned No. 1 Kentucky 87-77, snapping the Wildcats’ 40-game winning streak against unranked opponents. This was the same UCLA team that lost by 19 points to Kansas at the Maui Invitational, and it was the latest reminder that college basketball appears wide open at the top this season.
Self agrees with this sentiment — at least for the moment — and it could bode well for his veteran-laden Kansas team.
“There may be somebody emerge,” Self said. “Michigan State, without question, to date, has been the best team in the country. They deserve to be ranked No. 1. They’ve played a great schedule; they’ve got marquee wins. There’s no question, in my mind, that they deserve it, one month into the season.
“The thing about it is, we also had an 11-point lead (over Michigan State) with nine minutes left, and it got away from us, playing a team that had played so well. I don’t think we’re far off. But I’ll bet you there’s 20 teams right that think they’re not far off. And I think that’s a great point.”
Lucas expected to play Saturday
Junior big man Landen Lucas is expected to play Saturday after missing Tuesday’s victory over Loyola (Md.) because of a sprained big toe. Self said Friday that Lucas practiced full speed on Thursday.
“Knock on wood, we’re as close to full speed as we’ve been from a health standpoint,” Self said. “We don’t have our full complement of guys, because (Brannen Greene) is out for two more games, but we actually feel physically about as well as we’ve felt all year.”