When Bill Self finally took the podium at a little after 10:45 this morning for Big 12 media day, there wasn't an empty seat on the floor inside the Sprint Center media room. Members of the media, both local and national, wanted nothing more than to spend a little quality time with Self. Not surprisingly, the status of freshman phenon Josh Selby was a hot topic of discussion. Jayhawk Slant was on hand for Big 12 media day, and has the latest inside.
Right as Self finished making an opening statement, he was asked about the status of freshman Josh Selby, the 6-foot-3, 183-pound guard from Baltimore, Md. Selby, the nation's No. 1 ranked prospect in the 2010 class, has been cleared to attend class and participate in practice all year, but has not yet been cleared to play in games.
"It hasn't been a distraction for our team," said Self when asked about Selby. "He has practiced every day. He is involved every day. He does the same thing everybody else does every day. So it hasn't been a distraction. Now, from the coaching staff's standpoint, we're going to have to see how we are going to approach things as we learn more information. But the thing about the Josh thing to me, it is unique. And it is a situation that we knew that we were going to be dealing with.
"It hasn't come as a shock to us," he added. "I do believe that we're hopefully going to have some answers sooner rather than later, but I'm still confident that he'll be in uniform. I hope that to be the case. And if the NCAA deems differently, then, you know -- or if there is any type of penalties at all, then we'll certainly deal with that and work with it. But he is a terrific talent and he wants to be in school and he is doing great in school. He has totally bought into what we are trying to do. He has been nothing but an asset since he has been there."
Having lost Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry to the NBA, Self knows how important it will be to add a player as talented as Selby. There wasn't a better player in the 2010 class than Selby, who was a McDonald's and Jordan Brand All-American, during his senior year at Lake Clifton High School.
However, it should come as no surprise that Self and the Jayhawks are extremely thankful to have a guy like Marcus Morris on the roster. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward from Philadelphia, Pa., is expected to have a monster junior campaign.
"We had a guy named Sherron Collins who was pretty good, too," said Self. "To me Marcus was our most consistent player last year. If -- he may not have been our best player in every game, but he was probably our second or third best player at worst in most every game. He is consistent.
"I think it will be different because the target will be on him more so and he will be the defense's number one option to stop, whereas in the past he probably had the luxury of defenses keying in on somebody else," he added. "He is ready. He is ready. He is prepared. He has worked hard. And he is poised, in my opinion, to have a big, big junior year.
Most importantly, Morris will be looked upon to emerge as KU's most vocal leader, but according to Self, he won't be the only one. Self expects Marcus, along with a number of other players, to step-up and take on a leadership role.
"You know, I would think the twins, I would think Tyshawn Taylor, Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed, Mario Little, you could say the whole team," said Self when talking about this year's team leaders. "I don't think we have one guy that you will say is definitely the guy. But in '08 when we had that great team, everybody asked all along who our leader was and we never gave a definitive answer.
"It was just kind of a collection of guys," he added. "I think we will have to do it more by committee this year, which I'm fine with. The guys are holding each other accountable. I think it remains to be seen who will be that guy on the floor. Marcus will probably be as much as anybody else because basically he can play anywhere on the floor."
While all the aforementioned players - Taylor, Morningstar, Reed and the Morris twins played major roles last year - the same simply cannot be said about Mario Little, the 6-foot-6, 218-pound guard/forward from Chicago, Ill. Little arrived in Lawrence two years ago as the No. 1 ranked junior college player, but injures have prevented Little from making the splash most expected.
This season, Little, along with Travis Releford, who also redshirted last year, are expected to play significant roles.
"Those guys really benefitted last year by not playing," said Self. "It is one of those situations. They probably could have both been in our top eight or nine last year. But they have a chance to impact the program in a much bigger way than that. And so Mario can score and Travis is a legitimate big-time college defender and he can steal extra possessions.
"They're different," he added. "Mario is probably a three-four, kind of a bad matchup big guy or a big guard. And Travis is definitely a tall guard. But I see them both being in our rotation and both having an impact."