It’s January, the time for Big 12 Conference play and a more grueling schedule, and that generally means that KU men’s basketball coach Bill Self likes to have his rotation pared down and configured just right.
The right number can depend on the year, but after evaluating his team over a quiet holiday break, Self sees his rotation crystallizing into an eight-man unit during conference play.
As KU prepares for its nonconference finale against Temple on Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse, the guard rotation appears set, with Naadir Tharpe coming off the bench to spell starters Elijah Johnson, Ben McLemore and Travis Releford. But Self says minutes in the frontcourt rotation could fluctuate as freshmen Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor continue to mature and push center Jeff Withey and forward Kevin Young in practice.
“You could make a case where Perry and Jamari have been the two best bigs we have in practice,” Self said. “And you could certainly make a case where Jeff and Kevin Young are the two best bigs we have in practice. The one thing that is very obvious to everyone is Jeff is so valuable, that he’s gonna play his minutes.”
Ellis recorded a double-double last week against American, and Traylor, who is averaging 13.1 minutes per game, has been a capable defender off the bench.
Meanwhile, Young has averaged 6.5 points and 6.7 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per game while securing the starting spot at power forward. But Self said Young has continued to help Ellis and Traylor find their footing.
“He’s an unbelievable kid,” Self said. “He coaches those other guys trying to get them better. And he knows the better they get, it’ll cut into his minutes.”
• Temple, KU’s next opponent, gave Self an easy coaching tool when it upset Syracuse on Dec. 22 at Madison Square Garden. If the Owls didn’t already have KU’s attention, they certainly do now. But more than that, Temple’s victory over Syracuse could give KU another lift.
“From a selfish standpoint,” Self said, “it gives us a better strength of schedule that will help us down the road.”
Temple, 10-2, suffered its losses to No. 1 Duke on Dec. 8 and Canisius on Dec. 19. Senior guard Khalif Wyatt leads Temple with 15.4 points per game.
• KU strength and conditioning coordinator Andrea Hudy, who works primarily with the KU men’s basketball team, was selected the National College Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Hudy is in her ninth season at Kansas.