KU's Wayne Selden: 'People counted all of us out of this game'
As Kansas was being purged prematurely from the previous two NCAA Tournaments, Wayne Selden was seldom seen.
He mustered of four field goals on 21 shots in those four games, totaling 10 points and putting an exclamation point on the disappearing act with zero points in last season’s second-round loss to Wichita State.
Afterward, Selden found himself on the verge of sulking in what-ifs, he said in the KU locker room late Thursday night after the Jayhawks beat Maryland 79-63 at the KFC Yum! Center to advance to the Elite Eight at 7:49 p.m. Saturday against second-seeded Villanova.
But he fended off the temptation to mope.
“Sometimes, you’ve just got to wash it off and start clean,” he said. “Sometime you’ve got to forget about it. Sometimes you’ve got to just move on.”
It helped that KU last summer played the role of Team USA in the World University Games in South Korea.
Not only was it therapeutic for Selden simply to be right back at basketball, but he also prospered by a key lineup tweak made by coach Bill Self: installing point guards Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham both in the starting lineup and resetting Selden in his more true place as a wingman.
That was the start of a reinvented Selden, who started the season with a flourish that coach Bill Self suggested also had to do with a new context on the team.
“The first year he played next to (Andrew Wiggins); he loved Wigs, but it was about Wigs,” Self said, smiling. “The next year he played next to Kelly (Oubre), and he loved Kelly. But it was still more about Kelly.
“This year he can probably take more ownership of what’s going on. And he has.”
Even so, Selden still was prone to lapses: In one nine-game stretch of Big 12 play, he was limited to single-digit scoring seven times.
He reasserted himself by season’s end, but you might have wondered whether he would evaporate come tournament time again.
Whatever the reason Selden had faded the last two years, whether out of a seeming indifference or in deference to others or just being played out of his natural position, those days are behind him.
Sure, he seemed to assert that in the Big 12 Tournament, particularly with the posterizing of Baylor’s Ish Wainright and his 21 points against West Virginia in the title game.
But he has further validated and embellished that stance since.
Against Maryland, Selden buoyed Kansas in a wobbly first half and finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
For a third straight tournament game, he scored more in a single outing than he had in his first four NCAA games combined in 2014 and 2015.
And it was all essential, especially as Maryland exposed some KU vulnerabilities early.
The Terrapins grabbed the first six rebounds, flustered KU’s ballhandlers and nagged the Jayhawks into making only four of their first 18 field-goal attempts while swatting away five Kansas shots in the first 20 minutes.
There were a lot of ways and reasons KU withstood and then stiff-armed the Terps, and one of them was, as-ever, Perry Ellis, the portrait of consistency who led Kansas with 27 points.
But here, too, was Selden.
When KU was static, he accounted for half of its eight first-half assists. His 3-pointer in the last minute of the half was Kansas’ first make in five tries and gave KU a 34-32 lead.
The Jayhawks never trailed again, in no small part because they now seem able to count on Selden’s accentuating his athleticism to make himself a constant.
“He gives us a physical confidence, a presence, that I think this team really, really needs,” Self said.
Not that Self sees this as a huge transformation.
“I just think he’s playing to his athletic ability and strength more than he was the first couple of years,” he said.
Sophomore guard Devonte’ Graham sees something else here, and it’s hard not to agree.
“I honestly think it’s his mindset: He just has this aggressive attack mindset,” he said. “He’s way more focused than he’s ever been … You can just see it in him. In his voice, you can hear it when he’s talking.”
And what he’s saying is this: The time for what-ifs is over, and the clean start continues.