LAWRENCE — During his first semester on campus, Brannen Greene’s role at Kansas basically amounted to this: Andrew Wiggins’ practice defender.
It’s not what Greene, a freshman small forward, envisioned when he signed with KU in the fall of 2012. He was one of the top 30 recruits in the country, a player with length and skill, and four-star prospects never plan on sitting on the bench.
But this is the way it can work at Kansas. Greene may have been a blue-chipper, but he was also just the fourth-highest ranked recruit in Kansas’ loaded freshmen class.
“It’s been tough,” Greene said Thursday. “But I know that my time is coming. History just shows that here at Kansas, your time comes. So I’m just trying to contribute in whatever way I can.”
But if playing alongside Wiggins and Wayne Selden means being squeezed out of the rotation, Greene also has the luxury of testing himself daily against future pros. So on most days, he takes on the task of guarding Wiggins at practice.
“It’s definitely helped me improve defensively and offensively,” Greene said. “Because he also guards me, and he’s such a great athlete. You learn to score over long arms and an athlete like that.”
For the most part, Self thinks Kansas’ grueling nonconference schedule helped turn his young team into a battle-tested group before its 5-0 start in the Big 12. But if there’s one thing that Self laments, it’s that players such as Greene and freshman guard Conner Frankamp did not see the floor more in the nonconference season.
KU’s rotation could continue to get shorter during the most important weeks of the Big 12 season. So as the Jayhawks prepare to travel to TCU for an 8 p.m. matchup on Saturday, the chances for Greene and Frankamp to earn playing time and stick in the rotation are winding down.
Freshmen recognized — Wiggins and Joel Embiid were among 23 players selected to the Oscar Robertson Trophy midseason watch list Thursday. The Oscar Robertson Trophy, presented annually by the United States Basketball Writers Association, is given to the national player of the year. The honor came one day after Wiggins was selected to the Wooden Award midseason watch list.
Black should play — Kansas senior forward Tarik Black, who sprained his ankle against Baylor on Monday, is slowly recovering and should be able to play Saturday, KU coach Bill Self said.
“I’m definitely feeling a lot better,” Black said. “I’m walking around normal. I’ll be on the court (Thursday), doing some things.”
Replay “too slow” — Self is not a fan of the replay system in college basketball that allows officials to go to a sideline television monitor to see if players committed flagrant fouls.
“I think that’s a negative part of our game,” Self said. “It’s too slow. It slows the game up too much. ‘We’re going to the monitors.’ But it’s not the officials’ fault because the rules say to do that.”
Football commitments — D.J. Williams, a three-star defensive tackle from Lufkin High in Texas, on Thursday picked Kansas over Oklahoma, Missouri, Houston, Miami and others, according to Rivals. Williams, 6 feet 3 and 270 pounds, is rated as the 75th-best prospect in Texas, according to Rivals.
Earlier this week, Josh Ehambe, a two-star linebacker from Arlington, Texas, made a verbal commitment to KU. And last weekend, KU landed two other players: Derrick Neal, a three-star receiver/defensive back, and junior college defensive end Kapil Fletcher of Hartnell College in Salinas, Calif.
KU has 18 members in its 2014 class.