Vahe Gregorian

‘Mad at the rim,’ KU’s Wayne Selden lifts Jayhawks to fun-filled win over Baylor

Wayne Selden's dunk was 'like he was mad at the rim'

Wayne Selden's second-half dunk over Baylor's Ish Wainright was the highlight of KU's 70-66 Big 12 semifinal victory Friday night at the Sprint Center. Photos by Rich Sugg, rsugg@kcstar.com
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Wayne Selden's second-half dunk over Baylor's Ish Wainright was the highlight of KU's 70-66 Big 12 semifinal victory Friday night at the Sprint Center. Photos by Rich Sugg, rsugg@kcstar.com

The best part of Wayne Selden’s furious dunk wasn’t just that it injected life into a lethargic Big 12 Tournament semifinal on Friday at Sprint Center and helped spark top-ranked Kansas to a 70-66 win over Baylor.

“When you see the bench going crazy like that,” he said, “you know that’s energy you’re fueling into the team.”

It wasn’t merely the sheer athleticism that left teammate Jamari Traylor trailing the play thinking “Oh, my God … Oh my God … OH MY GOD” as Selden soared and smashed it home over Baylor’s Ish Wainright.

It wasn’t even the spectacle in the stands of Selden’s uncle Anthony Pitts, oddly adorned with an oversized clock bearing a picture of Selden and being restrained by Selden’s mother, Lavette, and father Wayne Sr.

“I was just trying to hold him down and make sure he didn’t hurt himself,” Wayne Sr. said.

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And it wasn’t Selden’s stone-faced demeanor as he basically dropped the mike and stalked off to a swarm of teammates, a look he attributed to staying on an even keel but quite obviously was for dramatic effect.

Acting like he had been there before, in fact, was hamming it up.

“He probably did that for the cameras,” said guard Devonte’ Graham, who said it seemed like Selden was “mad at the rim.”

For all the considerable theatrics that went into the play, the most meaningful and promising element of it was why it happened.

It stemmed from a sense of self-awareness that could be crucial in the NCAA Tournament for a player who was shut out in KU’s season-ending loss to Wichita State a year ago.

“Recently, I’ve been thinking I’ve just got to jump more,” Selden said, simply. “I haven’t been playing to my athletic ability as much as I should have, and I’ve been thinking just take off and jump, because I have the ability to.”

Selden, in fact, had made just one of six field goals in KU’s Big 12 Tournament opener against Kansas State on Thursday, and he’d hit just two of five in the first half Friday.

Moreover, he was zero for three from 3-point range in each of the tournament games — just the sort of thing that can happen to a streaky outside shooter who even in this season of emergence tends to disappear at times.

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(Entering the tournament, he’d been held to single-digit scoring in four of KU’s previous five games.)

But being aggressive is something Selden always can control.

And having the sense to channel that in the moment is a reassuring sign for KU as it tries to win the Big 12 Tournament tonight and figures to enter NCAA play as the overall No. 1 seed.

Thus the play of the game by Selden, who had uncorked another dunk moments before.

In this case, he converted a three-point play to make it 46-33 with 10 minutes 52 seconds left after Wainright fouled Selden’s knee with his face as he stood planted beneath the basket.

“Every basketball player gets dunked on; you’re not a basketball player if you don’t,” said Wainright, a Kansas Citian who attended Raytown South for two years and laughed about the play afterwards. “I’m going to go hometonight. Hang out with my family. Talk about the dunk.”

No one was going to be talking about it more than Selden’s family, though, perhaps particularly Uncle Anthony — who explained that his clock-photo ensemble had grown out of keeping his nephew’s picture of him hanging on his chain.

He’s changed the getup frequently over the years and suggested he may come to the game Saturday wearing “a bigger (clock) with a mirror.”

As he watched a replay of his uncle’s antics, Selden laughed and noted how he “always comes out here and finds a way to make his mark.”

“He’s been with me every step of the way,” Selden said, “and he’s going to be there every step of the way from here on out.”

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More to the point, Selden seems to have a better sense of what he needs to do from here on out, something coach Bill Self noted with a nod to the play.

“Certainly, he more so than anybody else can give us confidence through physical plays,” he said, “and that was certainly one of them.”

One that stands out, but one that needs to be part of something more from Selden if KU is to go deep into the tournament.

“Oh, man, it’s got to be ‘SportsCenter’ Top 10, at least No. 2 or No. 1. Crazy athletic play,” Graham said. “That gave us a little spark.

“So he needs to make more plays like that.”

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