Monthly Archives: January 2010

Measuring Kansas players’ improvement

I thought it would be fun to rank the Kansas players in order of how much each player has improved from last year to this year. Freshmen, players who are redshirting and walk-ons are not included for obvious reasons (although I am sure that Travis Releford would be near the top of this list).

7. Tyshawn Taylor: After being a key component of last year’s team and a Team USA squad that won Gold this summer, big things were expected of Taylor. I think that Taylor believed he was destined for a big year and may have put too much pressure on himself to be a star this year for a loaded KU team. As this year has progressed, he has fallen out of the starting lineup because of his struggle to find his place on this team. The key for Taylor the rest of the way will be to focus on being a lockdown defender and creating for his teammates. I would guess if he does those things the points will come.

6. Cole Aldrich: The big guy was great last year, making first-team All-Big 12 on his way to becoming a preseason first-team All-American this season. His slow start has been well-chronicled, and even though he appears to be coming out of his funk, I don’t see anything in his game that tells me he has gotten much better since last season. Of course, as he regains his energy after getting over his bronchitis, he will be able to show more of whatever he has worked on with Danny Manning.

5. Sherron Collins: Sherron has improved some, although he was already one of the best guards in the country. Places I notice improvement are his ability to control his emotions on the floor and trust his teammates. Collins has realized that it’s not as much the Sherron Show this season, deferring to teammates like Xavier Henry and Marcus Morris at times, but has shown the ability to take games over when necessary.

4. Brady Morningstar: Morningstar’s minutes are going up into the 30 range again, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. I think Brady has been better this season than last year because he hasn’t had to play as many minutes. The fresher he is, the better he is. He’s an energy guy, a glue guy, and for now, KU could come unhinged without him. But if Taylor can get things figured out, split time between those two would make Morningstar a better defender and facilitator than he already has shown.

3. Tyrel Reed: The book on Reed last season was that he was still a bit of a defensive liability. The Jayhawks had to play him last year because of a lack of depth and his ability to shoot the ball from deep. This year, KU does not have to play Reed at all, but he has maintained his spot in the rotation because he has improved defensively and impacts the game even when he’s not swishing threes. Plus, just the threat of his shooting has to be in the back of the opposing team’s mind when he is on the floor.

2. Markieff Morris: KU coach Bill Self has said all along that Markieff is the most-improved player from last season, and Markieff has backed up that assertion. He led KU with 19 points at UCLA and has been a consistent force when he isn’t in foul trouble. Markieff is much stronger with the ball finishing near the rim than he was last season. And, basically, he’s just not as lazy anymore.

1. Marcus Morris: Wow. This guy is confident in his game and has the ability to back it up. Last season, Morris’ midrange game failed him. He air-balled numerous shots from the baseline, but now his favorite shot is the face-up jumper when given space by the defender. Marcus gets the ball in that area and forces a defender to make a decision every time. And no matter what the defender decides, whether to back off Marcus or come out on him, Marcus can beat him. That said, the biggest improvement is in his motor. The fact that motor is a term that Marcus is using about himself shows how far he has come from last season.

Self weighs in on Taylor

Kansas did not make sophomore guard Tyshawn Taylor available on Friday to talk about his Facebook post earlier this week that fueled rumors that he was considering leaving the KU program.

But KU coach Bill Self said he did not think that Taylor’s intention was to transfer.

“I don’t think that’s even remotely true,” Self said. “But if he has said that, which I do not think to be the case, then that’s the reason why he’s not playing well. Because his head’s not right. But I don’t believe he’s said that. What I believe has happened is he’s probably frustrated. He’s probably said some things that, because of his frustration and because of his popularity, things like that, everybody can take anything that any one of our players say and spin it in a direction they want to spin it. So I’m not remotely concerned about that.”

Self took the opportunity to send a message to any player that may be considering a transfer.

“If any of our players are thinking about that, then trust me, I will be the first one to help them find a place when the season is over,” Self said.

Taylor’s Facebook page has been taken down.

Back in September, when the fights between KU football and basketball players occurred, Taylor posted a status update on his page that detailed how he dislocated a finger while throwing a punch. He also posted numerous posts that used racial slurs and inflammatory language. After this latest Facebook-related drama, it appears Taylor won’t have that forum any longer.

“It won’t be a problem from this point forward, ever,” Self said. “I’ve talked to him. You will never ask me another question about that.”

Now, it will be up to Taylor to rectify things on the court. He has had an up-and-down season, which Self called a “sophomore funk” on Friday. Taylor has been removed from the starting lineup several times – the latest coming on Wednesday when Brady Morningstar got the start. Taylor played 15 minutes and had 5 assists and 0 turnovers.

Despite his struggles to figure out his role this season, Taylor has a solid 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Post-Baylor observations: Drew’s tactics and Taylor’s rumored frustration

When Baylor’s players walked off the Allen Fieldhouse floor when Kansas’ pregame video began, I actually thought it was pretty brilliant. I’ve seen so many teams come into Allen and watch that video and then just get absolutely blown out of the barn in the first 10 minutes. Scott Drew didn’t want that to happen to his team. I doubt it was truly a show of disrespect on Drew’s part.

But here’s what Drew risked with that move. He did something that had the chance of totally getting under the skin of Sherron Collins, and sure enough, Collins’ disrespect meter went “ding, ding, ding!” as soon as the Bears walked out on the video. So what you are measuring, if you’re Scott Drew or any opposing coach from here on out, is your team’s mental makeup versus Collins’. If your team is strong enough mentally to sit there for the video and not wet its pants, then you should stay in there because then you won’t give Collins an extra bounce in his step. If your team is not, then you risk riling up Collins. It’ll be interesting to see if any other teams follow Baylor’s lead. My guess: not going to happen.

Why? Because Scott Drew is a little “unusual,” as KU coach Bill Self put it when describing the decision to walk off the floor. One thing that really bothered me about Drew last night, more than his decision to pull his team off the floor, was that he was blatantly yelling directions to his players when Allen was quiet and KU players were seconds away from shooting their free throws. Drew is concerned with only one thing on game night, and that’s taking every avenue to victory. Hey, it is what it is.

***

What is up with Tyshawn Taylor? Rumors were flying around the building last night that Taylor had posted on his Facebook that he had had enough of Kansas. Soon after the rumors started, Taylor’s Facebook page was taken down (about time, right?)

Self benched Taylor for the first 17 minutes of the game, playing Elijah Johnson and C.J. Henry over him. Then, in the second half, Taylor played 12 crucial minutes and had 5 assists and 0 turnovers.

I am going to assume that Taylor’s FB rant, whatever it consisted of, was out of emotion. His entire family has moved to Lawrence from New Jersey, and I would hope that those close to him are talking some sense into him.

Taylor needs Kansas more than Kansas needs him. That’s the reality for most of the Jayhawks. He can still be a great player here, and if he runs away at the first sign of trouble, it could be a decision that haunts him forever. Just ask Russell Robinson, who nearly transferred early in his career.

CoachBillSelf @ Jayhawks: Tweets for Big 12 success

Kansas coach Bill Self has made it very clear that he is not all that excited about his new Twitter account, @CoachBillSelf. In fact, I would be shocked if he wasn’t forced into it by those around him who think he needs to be more technologically savvy.

Self, even though he is one of the more personable coaches in college basketball, is old-school at heart. But he began tweeting today anyway, in the name of recruiting.

“I’m emerging,” Self joked. “I feel more whole.”