NCAA Tournament

How these Jayhawks came together

Bill Self usually smiles when he talks about this team. He can’t help it. He doesn’t want to help it. He is proud of this team in ways that transcend the typical coach-player relationship, calling this the most enjoyable team he has coached in more than a decade and bragging how this group of players has exceeded his preseason expectations more than any other.

That is the overarching theme of this Kansas basketball season, of growth and development from a team that lost to Davidson in December but became a 31-win powerhouse by March.

Didn’t happen by accident, either. This is the product of everyone in the rotation making significant improvements over the course of the season.

Tyshawn Taylor

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Where he was:

A walking, tweeting turnover waiting to happen. He averaged 3.9 turnovers and 14.8 points on 43.8 percent shooting the first 16 games.

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Where he is:

A swagging highlight ready to be created. He’s averaged 3.1 turnovers and 18.2 points on 50.9 percent shooting against much better competition the last 21 games.

Elijah Johnson

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Where he was:

A five-star recruit playing passively and perhaps even underachieving to the point Self often said Johnson didn’t know how good he was.

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Where he is:

The guy who won the Purdue game with a smiling three-pointer, averaging nearly 16 points in the postseason as he figured out where his talents best fit.

Travis Releford

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Where he was:

A redshirt two years ago who played a total of 15 minutes over KU’s final 10 games last season.

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Where he is:

Averaging 30.8 minutes (that’s more than anyone played last year) often assigned to the other team’s best scorer, and one of five Jayhawks to have scored 25 or more points in a game this season.

Thomas Robinson

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Where he was:

Long on potential and short on production. Essentially an energy guy off the bench last year, free to foul and coached to play at full throttle in short spurts.

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Where he is:

One of the most productive players in college basketball. KU puts more on his shoulders than any other Jayhawk in a long time. The only question about potential now is what he’ll be in the NBA — one comparison is a poor man’s Blake Griffin.

Jeff Withey

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Where he was:

KU’s fifth big man last year, a stick who played more minutes than only Jordan Juenemann, Royce Woolridge and Niko Roberts.

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Where he is:

In many ways the key to KU’s rise, both with his school single-season blocked-shots record and ability to help Robinson conserve energy and avoid foul trouble defensively. A future pro.

Conner Teahan

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Where he was:

An invited walk-on who played almost exclusively in blowouts for three seasons before redshirting last year.

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Where he is:

The first guy off the bench, averaging 21.2 minutes and, according to teammates, providing a steady and veteran presence.

Kevin Young

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Where he was:

A year ago he was at a junior college in California after being the third- and fourth-leading scorer on Loyola Marymount teams that went a combined 21-44.

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Where he is:
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