University of Kansas

KU notebook: Self hoping for major contributions from freshmen

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks about his team's upcoming NCAA men's college basketball season during the Big 12 Conference Media Day event at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Kansas head coach Bill Self talks about his team's upcoming NCAA men's college basketball season during the Big 12 Conference Media Day event at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. AP

The process might take a few months, Bill Self says, but the Kansas baseketball coach can envision at least one scenario in which all four of Kansas’ freshmen play a crucial role in the Jayhawks’ rotation. In the past, Self has traditionally played a rotation with four to five perimeter players and four big guys.

“They need to be impactful,” Self said Wednesday at Big 12 Media Day. “We’ve got some good returning players, but we don’t have near as much experience as what a lot of people may think.”

Power forward Cliff Alexander is projected to start alongside Perry Ellis in the frontcourt, while point guard Devonte’ Graham has impressed in practice. Swingman Kelly Oubre Jr. and guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk could also compete for minutes on the wing, Self says.

“In order for us to have a great season, those four guys have to play well,” Self said. “Cliff needs to be our inside presence. Devonte’ needs to be our lead guard, or if he’s not, at least play starter’s minutes. Kelly Oubre needs to be our best wing defender. And of course, Sviatoslav could be our best shooter.”

▪ The excess of options in the backcourt could lead to a playing-time crunch. Last season, that meant that wing Brannen Greene played sparingly during his freshman season. When asked if Greene, a former top 30 recruit, would factor into the rotation this season, Self was noncommittal.

“I don’t know,” Self said. “I do think he has the talent to do so, without question. Everybody can’t factor in the way that you want. If you really break it down, you can’t play 12 guys and have everybody be a major factor. But right now, he’s one of the guys (battling for time).”

▪ During the first three weeks of practice, Self tapped junior Perry Ellis and sophomore guards Wayne Selden and Frank Mason as the “best” players in practice. But Self added that Graham is “just comfort away from being the lead guard on this team.”

“I’m not going to say he’s going to start,” Self said, “but he could very easily be our starter by midseason or maybe before.”

▪ Sophomore center Landen Lucas, who could battle for reserve minutes inside, may be out another week because of a stress fracture in his foot, Self said.

▪ Self revealed that he voted for Texas to win the Big 12 in the preseason conference poll. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own teams. Last season, Self voted for Oklahoma State in the preseason poll. The Jayhawks then won at least a share of the conference for the 10th straight season. “Hope I’m wrong again,” Self said.

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rustindodd.

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