By Rustin Dodd
After Kansas’ 97-57 victory over Pittsburg State in its first exhibition game on Tuesday, here are three thoughts on the performance:
1. Andrew White III showed why, after a month of practice, he went from a redshirt candidate to KU’s first guard off the bench. White, a sophomore wing, finished with 12 points — two of three from three-point range – in 15 minutes. He added four rebounds and shot four-of-seven from the floor.
But White’s emergence goes beyond offense.
Last season, he struggled to find minutes on a team that already had two bigger guards in Ben McLemore and Travis Releford. White could always shoot, the result of some late-night workouts at the KU practice facility, and effort was never the issue. But as a 6-foot-6 wing, he always appeared a step slow and his lateral quickness was lacking.
“As soon as we lost to Michigan,” White said on Tuesday, “I just recommitted myself to working, trying to emphasize some things I’m not good at — ballhandling, I wanted to get my body a little better and faster … just doing whatever I have to do to help this team.”
One year later, White is stronger — and perhaps a little quicker — and the hustle is paying dividends. On a team with freshman starters Wayne Selden and Andrew Wiggins on the wing, Bill Self will likely need a smart veteran to mix into the rotation — someone that can make shots and won’t make mistakes. So far, White appears to be capable of filling that role.
2. After one exhibition game, Bill Self wasn’t ready to make any decisions about redshirts. Not a surprise, of course. Self said on Monday that he was still thinking through the possibilities. Freshman wing Brannen Greene, who made three of four from three-point range against Pitt State, and Conner Frankamp, who went scoreless, appear to be the only candidates. On Tuesday, Self offered some more insight into the decision-making process.
“Brannen Greene can jump up and make a shot,” Self said. “Brannen Greene is talented; if he’d just bend his knees, he could probably move a little quicker. But I think he’s a good player. I think Brannen Green’s a good player, and he physically looks the part and can play the role. He’s just time away…
“But I thought everybody did fine. Conner is not making any shots because he’s thinking too much. We’ll make some decisions in the next week or so. And just because we make decisions doesn’t mean that’s the direction we’ll end up going, because maybe families don’t want to do it, or a kid doesn’t want to do it, or maybe we don’t want to do something. But certainly we’re not gonna be able to distribute the minutes evenly from this point forward.”
One thing to remember: The redshirt decisions don’t necessarily have to made by Kansas’ regular-season opener against Louisiana Monroe. The players in question could always lay out the first couple games and use more time to make the decision.
3. Considering that a heavyweight battle with Duke is looming on Nov. 12, it’s certainly not ideal that Naadir Tharpe has to sit out KU’s season opener for committing a minor NCAA violation last summer. (Tharpe played in a summer-league game in Chicago, a violation because he did not have prior permission, and it was not in his hometown.)
Freshman Frank Mason will start in place of Tharpe in the Jayhawks’ season opener against Louisiana Monroe, Self says. Of all of KU’s regulars, Tharpe is probably the most equipped to miss a game and still be ready to face Duke. But for Kansas’ young players, it could certainly hurt not having the extra game time to jell with Tharpe at the point.