Campus Corner

Kansas coach Bill Self gets a handle on a more versatile Jayhawk backcourt

For the last two seasons, Kansas didn’t have the personnel to play like a classic Bill Self backcourt. Last season, Naadir Tharpe was thrust into the role of primary ball handler.
For the last two seasons, Kansas didn’t have the personnel to play like a classic Bill Self backcourt. Last season, Naadir Tharpe was thrust into the role of primary ball handler. The Kansas City Star

If you listen to what Bill Self is saying about his team’s point-guard position, it may sound as if he’s embracing some kind of radical innovation.

“I don’t want to play a point guard anymore,” Self is saying.

But let him explain: What Self is really hoping for is a return to a style that often defined some of his best teams at Kansas: Multiple combo guards on the floor, versatile playmakers in the backcourt, and a shared responsibility at the point guard spot.

“I want to play, ‘You play three guards and whoever gets it brings it,’” Self says. “That’s how we’ve always had our best teams.”

For the last two seasons, of course, Kansas didn’t have the personnel to play like a classic Self backcourt. Two years ago, Elijah Johnson was the primary ball handler while playing alongside bigger wings in Ben McLemore and Travis Releford. And Naadir Tharpe was thrust into a similar role last season. Self had other options in freshmen guards Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp, but more often than not, the Jayhawks were stuck with one ball handler on the floor.

Now that his 2014-15 roster is on campus and working out — minus freshman wing Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk — Self is hopeful for a throwback backcourt in the upcoming season.

The Jayhawks return Mason and Frankamp, while adding freshmen point guard Devonte’ Graham. Self also believes sophomore Wayne Selden can grow as a ballhandler, and that Mykhailiuk could potentially be a secondary handler as well.

“Last year, it was obviously Naadir and we didn’t have any primary handlers besides him,” Self said. “I want Wayne to be able to play the point. I want Frank, I want Conner, I want Devonte’, I want Svi when he gets here. I want all these guys to be able to be a guy that can get it and bring it, so we’re playing a bunch of combo guards that can all play point.”

The template, of course, looks something like the 2008 backcourt, which featured Russell Robinson, Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins, or the 2010 backcourt with Collins and Tyshawn Taylor.

“Late-game situations, you need a guy that can be a closer and do certain things,” Self said. “But up until the last five to seven minutes, I hope we can have three point guards out there, or at least the appearance of three.”

Waiting on Svi

Incoming freshman Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is spending the summer playing for the U-18 Ukrainian national team, and his arrival in Lawrence could depend on his performance.

The FIBA U-18 European Championships will conclude by early August, but Self said that Mykhailiuk could stay in Ukraine and work out with the senior national team through August. The Ukrainian senior national team is coached by former NBA coach Mike Fratello.

“It will be a fun deal,” Self said, “but I do hope he has a chance to stay and at least practice with the national team through August or maybe September, depending on how it goes. But I know he’s in the gym.”

Oubre adjusts to physicality

Kansas’ players participated in a controlled, half-court scrimmage for the campers at Self’s basketball camp on Tuesday. Freshman wing Kelly Oubre Jr., who arrived in Lawrence two weeks ago, was dripping with sweat after a session that was short on fouls and long on hacks.

“As you can tell, by the way we practice, we’re all savages on the court,” Oubre said. “Nobody wants to get anything easy. We’re all going to go after every (loose) ball like it’s something to eat. We’re starving.”

Oubre, a McDonald’s All-American from Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, said he’s still adjusting to the speed and physicality of the daily workouts in a college program.

“I think he’s struggling like all freshman are as far as he’s used to doing it a certain way,” Self said. “Not that his way his wrong, but I really believe as he gets a little more comfortable, he’s going to be really good. He needs to be a defender, extra-possession, offensive-rebound guy — that can just make athletic plays.

“I think he’s going to be really good,” Self added. “It’s just a matter of time.”

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to Follow him at