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October 16, 2012

KU continues to reload for present, future

News came down Monday morning of the latest Kansas commitment, Wayne Selden, in the class of 2013. The now 4-man class adds to an already loaded roster built for a title run.

Before you even look into the future, the 2012-13 Kansas Jayhawks have the talent and experience to win a national championship. Whether they can get the production from at least two of their freshmen to help out seniors Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey, and Kevin Young, remains to be seen, but head coach Bill Self certainly has a team oozing with talent and depth to win in March.

Looking ahead, however, the commitment of top 20 player Wayne Selden-a physically imposing and athletically gifted perimeter player-to go with the already on-board Conner Frankamp, Brannen Greene, and Frank Mason, Kansas is shaping its roster for what could be a dominating title run in 2013-14 and beyond.

On paper, Self now has a roster with the desirable problem of teetering on too much depth. How and where do you distribute the minutes for what potentially is 13 players all capable of making an impact?

The possibility that guard Ben McLemore leaves for the NBA after this year exists, depending on his production and growth throughout the season as some draft gurus have him as a possible top 5 pick in June's NBA draft, but as it stands right now, McLemore may be more likely to stick around for another season.

Should that be the case, Bill Self and his staff have an incredible amount of talent to work with.

A backcourt of Frankamp, McLemore, Selden, Andrew White, Rio Adams, Naadir Tharpe, Mason, and Greene gives KU almost unlimited possibilities at all three perimeter positions.

Although Frankamp is more of an offensive threat as a shooter coming off screens and spotting up, he has point guard skills, giving Self three players (Mason and Tharpe) to use as points. Selden has the ability to play four positions if needed and can pass the ball as well as any guard in the country, which gives the staff yet another player to run the offense.

Per usual, Kansas will have multiple players on the court to handle the ball and initiate offense.

Looking back, Bill Self has always had a tremendous duo at the 1 and 2 spots, starting with Dee Brown and Luther Head at Illinois, followed by Aaron Miles and Keith Langford to begin his tenure at Kansas, then the great success and production from combinations of Russell Robinson, Mario Chalmers, and Sherron Collins, and lately, Collins, Tyshawn Taylor, and Elijah Johnson.

Kansas typically garners more attention for its success with big men, but the coaching staff has done a great job of producing excellent guards that can pass, shoot, and defend. For the first time in several years, Self now has a team with great shooting from the outside from multiple positions. Nearly every guard on the roster has the ability to knock down the outside shot, something KU has been missing, in particular last season. Despite an incredible runner-up finish, the lack of consistent outside shooting was a problem for the Jayhawks.

The loss of the current seniors will have an impact next season, but the amount of depth and talent gives the Jayhawks a chance to find themselves back in the Final Four, possibly more than once over the next several seasons.

Brannen Greene is a silky-smooth forward with size that gives KU a weapon at the 3 and 4 that they haven't had in some time. In the low post, Perry Ellis, Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor, Zach Peters, and senior-to-be Justin Wesley will give Kansas five legitimate big men with plenty of athleticism to play inside and out.

Ellis is the most polished of the group, and as he expands his face-up game, will serve as yet another all-conference type player which allows Kansas to run its offense from the inside-out.

As many recruiting and scouting experts have pointed out, Bill Self has landed four excellent perimeter players for 2013, all with different abilities and strengths. Mix those with the current group and you have possibly a favorite for the 2013-14 title, and the potential for a Florida-like run of back-to-back years if all goes right. An even scarier thought for opposing coaches, Self may still add another player to his already stacked class. Big men Aaron Gordon and Joel Embiid are both considering the Jayhawks for 2013.

Self has had talented teams at Kansas; none more than the 2008 title team, but looking ahead, he may be constructing his best unit yet, which is a great sign for the future of Kansas Basketball and for those who have questioned whether KU can still recruit with the other elite programs.


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