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Highlights and observations from KU basketball’s scrimmage
06/11/2014 8:57 PM
Bill Self does this thing every year, right before his players scrimmage in front of a gym full of basketball campers. He lines his team up near midcourt, turns towards the hundreds of kids inside the Horejsi Center, and introduces his new basketball team one by one.
It’s pretty run-of-the mill stuff, really. Self is intentionally optimistic and positive about most of his players, as most coaches are wont to do. For instance: We learned on Wednesday that Self thinks junior forward Perry Ellis could “average 17 or 18 points” per game and challenge for first-team honors in the Big 12. We also learned that Self will say that sophomore guard Wayne Selden Jr. has the potential to be an All-American.
We learned that Self thinks freshman guard Devonte’ Graham can “play a lot” and that sophomore guard Frank Mason can fight for a starting spot. In all honesty, most of this stuff we knew before Wednesday. But next to a choppy scrimmage of basketball, it can be the most interesting stuff of the day.
And in one way, Self’s introduction always serves as the unofficial public introduction for his latest Kansas team. On Wednesday, 11 of Kansas’ 12 players appeared in public together for the first time. (Freshman wing Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk won’t be on campus until August or early September.)
Then Self and the KU coaching staff, per NCAA rules, left the gym, and the players held a brief scrimmage. Since most people have to spend their Wednesday afternoon doing something other than watching a loosely organized basketball scrimmage, here’s a quick look at each of the players that took part in the scrimmage.
Perry Ellis, junior forward
Ellis started at forward alongside fellow junior Jamari Traylor on the Blue team. For the most part, he looked like Perry Ellis. He didn’t do anything to stand out, really, but he was steady inside. He’s the oldest returning starter on the team, and he does look (slightly) bigger and more mature since last season. But mostly, he looked the same. He tried to step out a few times and shoot from three, but mostly to no avail.
Cliff Alexander, freshman forward
Alexander got sped up a few times and put up some off-balance turnarounds in the paint. Scrimmages, of course, are never great for big guys. And perhaps Alexander was a little nervous playing in front of a small crowd. If he catches in the right position, he’s a threat to tear the rim down. But his offensive game still appears to be a work in progress.
Jamari Traylor, junior forward
Like an edge-rusher who thrives on a quick first step, Traylor’s best skill is still his speed and athleticism. He got to the rim on multiple occasions, but his offensive game can still be one-dimensional. Traylor says he’s spending the summer working on his 12 to 15-foot jumper.
Hunter Mickelson, junior forward
How big is Mickelson? For comparison, Mickelson appeared to be slightly shorter than former Kansas center Cole Aldrich, who played in Wednesday’s game. Mickelson’s offensive game can be a little awkward — he can look pretty stiff and upright — but his length comes in handy on defense and he has decent touch from 15 feet.
Wayne Selden Jr., sophomore guard
Selden certainly has his bounce back. He threw down at least four dunks during the short scrimmage, and his handle looks a little tighter as well. His jumper still looks a little inconsistent, but Selden appears to be embracing a leadership role. On one possession, he kept bumping and grabbing freshman guard Devonte’ Graham, pushed him to be more physical.
Conner Frankamp, sophomore guard
Frankamp looks as if he’s added a few pounds to his frame since last summer. He knocked down a few three-pointers on Wednesday and got into the lane a few times. During the introductions, Self praised Frankamp for his play during the NCAA Tournament.
Brannen Greene, sophomore guard
Forget the offense. Greene can shoot, and he showed off his range again, hitting four three-pointers. For Greene, it will be about everything else. Can he guard? Can he do other things to help Kansas? You can’t really see that kind of stuff in a glorified pickup game, of course. But Greene also stayed positive when asked about the addition of freshman wing Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, another talented player at his position.
“He’s a really good player, a young kid,” Greene said. “I watched some film on him. I really respect his game. I think he’s a really good player. I can’t wait for him to get here.
“My goal is to start. I want to start,” Greene said. “How important is it to me? I wouldn’t leave the school if I didn’t start. I’d still give it my all. And I’d still be here at KU. But my ultimate goal is to start.”
Frank Mason, sophomore guard
By an unofficial count, Mason had 16 points. He threw one terrific lob pass to Selden for a one-handed jam. He also missed a couple of three-pointers. His biggest highlight of the week: Mason did a series of backflips to entertain the campers on Tuesday afternoon.
Kelly Oubre Jr., freshman guard
Oubre, a 6-foot-7 wing, looked a little like a freshman. His jumper is a little streaky and flat, and his release is reminiscent of former Mizzou star Kareem Rush — he’s left-handed and his body is almost perpendicular to the basket when he shoots.
Devonte’ Graham, freshman, guard
Earlier this week, Self said that Graham is probably the most college ready of all the freshmen — at least on June 10. Self cited Graham being a year older — he took a prep year at Brewster Academy — and mentioned the competition he faced on a daily basis last year at Brewster. Graham didn’t make much of an impact on Wednesday. He didn’t score, but a couple of things stand out: He has good hips, a rangy frame, and above-average quickness. From a purely athletic standpoint, he might have the tools to be Kansas’ best on-ball defender.
Landen Lucas, sophomore forward
Lucas sat out after hyperextending his knee earlier this week.