LAWRENCE — Throughout this season, themes will emerge that will come to define these Kansas Jayhawks. One of them, inevitably, will be this: KU is a much different team than it was a year ago, which doesn't have to be a bad thing.
Through two exhibition games, the first manifestation of this theme has already emerged. The Jayhawks, who shot a brilliant 40 percent from three-point range last season, made only 7 of 31 threes against Washburn and Emporia State.
That 23-percent mark in two meaningless games is nothing to panic about, but it did bring forth an interesting observation from KU coach Bill Self. He thinks this year's team will have more capable shooters in its rotation than last year's team, but he does not know yet whether the volume will come from the right shooters.
Last season, 17 percent of the Jayhawks' field-goal attempts were three-pointers by Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry. They were KU's two best perimeter players by far, and they popped 354 threes, making 39 percent. Talk about a luxury.
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"That made it pretty easy," Self said, "when you have two guys like that who were great at it by major-college standards."
Thing is, nobody is better at it than Tyrel Reed, who made 47 percent (44 of 93) of his threes last season. Combined, Reed and Brady Morningstar hit 45 percent, but they only took 141 threes.
This season, there is volume to be had, and Self hopes that it will increasingly come from Reed and Morningstar.
"These guys took a third as many threes (as Collins and Henry) and made 40 percent," Self said. "But can they take as many threes (as Collins and Henry) and make 40 percent? I think they're capable of doing so, but they gotta be aggressive."
Collins and Henry had no problem being aggressive with the long ball. Because Reed and Morningstar have not been primary ball handlers and have also had to defer to better natural scorers on the wing, there simply isn't much evidence that suggests Reed and Morningstar can be focal points of KU's offense.
Reed appears poised for a breakout senior year. He began to surpass Morningstar near the end of last season, as Morningstar made just 4 of his last 17 threes. While Morningstar still has the green light, Self wants Reed to gun it.
"Tyrel, more so than Brady, is our designated three-point shooter," Self said. "He's the one guy in our program, regardless of time and score, when he's open, he should shoot it."
Kansas' poor perimeter shooting in the exhibition games was mostly because Morningstar went zero for five and Reed hit two of seven. Tonight, the stat sheet will be wiped clean.
"I think we're all due," Reed said. "We haven't really talked about it much. We've got proven shooters on this team."