University of Kansas

Kansas coach Bill Self seeks faster pace, plans to start two point guards

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self (left) talked with ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla about the upcoming season during Big 12 Conference Media Days.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self (left) talked with ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla about the upcoming season during Big 12 Conference Media Days. rsugg@kcstar.com

Bill Self walked onto a makeshift stage neighboring the Sprint Center floor on Tuesday morning, and over the ensuing 10 minutes, he analyzed his roster for a basketball season that will commence next month. The assessment started with a comparison to the past two seasons, when the Kansas lineup featured superior size on the wings.

Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre — whose college careers lasted only one season each — had a way of making the small forward position not so small.

But in the 2015-16 season, change is coming to the Kansas lineup.

Speaking at Big 12 Conference media day, Self said his early plan is to start point guards Frank Mason and Devonte' Graham alongside each other, freeing up the Jayhawks to shift a shorter player — such as Wayne Selden — to small forward.

"If you really studied our team, the last two years, we were very, very big on the wing. And that was great in some ways, but we lost a lot of play-making playing that way," Self said. "... I think (starting Selden at small forward) gives us more play-making. I think it gives us more speed, and we'll create more easy baskets for our big guys because we'll have better passers in the game."

Self said Tuesday that Selden is battling an ankle injury, but the team plans to give him back-to-back days off in hopes he will be near 100 percent by the end of the week. A two-point-guard lineup would move Selden to the wing, where he could aid the desired improvement in tempo.

Add the presence of Graham, and the sum could alleviate some pressure off Mason, who played 33.5 minutes per game last season. Self envisions a rotation at point guard to prevent Mason from dominating the ball as often as he did last season.

"I definitely think it can" help conserve energy, Mason said. "With another ball handler in the game in Devonte', he can create just as well as I can. He can get in the lane and help our teammates get easier shots and help me play off the ball more."

University of Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self talks about the prospects of the upcoming season at Big 12 media day at Sprint Center.

Much of the plan, of course, is dependent on the health of Graham, which hasn't been a model of reliability since his arrival in Lawrence. Graham, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, sprained his right big toe last December, and he suffered a partially torn quadriceps tendon over the summer that caused him to sit out the World University Games.

But Self considers Graham a better fit for the distributor role.

"I think what Frank is — he's not a true point guard. People think he's a point guard because he's not very tall," Self said. "But Devonte' and him together, I think you'll see Frank playing a lot off the ball. Devonte', in a lot of ways, is more of a true point than Frank, and I think that will free Frank up to even score more."

Score. And push the pace.

"When we rebound something, either one of us can get the outlet and just push the ball. Or if either one of us gets the rebound, we can just push it up the court," Mason said. "It creates a faster pace, and that's what Coach wants."

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