LAWRENCE — Coaches around the country this week will look to their seniors to be their eyes and ears. This is default mode in college basketball, where the best players are often the youngest players, but still, it takes a strong-minded veteran to show himself worthy of respect.
Kansas coach Bill Self is confident that his Jayhawks will make good decisions and do the right things because he figures all they'll have to do is mimic the behaviors of senior starters Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar.
"I trust them totally," Self said. "They've been there, played in big games and had success in big games. They're very dependable, reliable. The (Morris) twins are the most capable leaders without question, vocally, but Tyrel and Brady do it by example."
For a team lacking in leadership, the NCAA Tournament can be a monster. Every year, Self goes on a rant about distractions —"This time of year, anything can get you off a little bit," he said Sunday — and Reed and Morningstar can almost finish their coach's thoughts.
"Distractions can really bring down a team if you have a lot of them," Morningstar said. "There are distractions wherever you go. They could come through the phone, through the hotel. Distractions definitely have to be kept to a minimum."
Off the court, it's a matter of making sure that KU's players with NBA ambitions stay away from agents and the runners who work for them. There's also the issue of family and friends trying to get tickets. With the Jayhawks playing just hours away in Tulsa this weekend, potential pitfalls could be more prevalent.
On the court, Kansas appears to be peaking at the right time after an 85-73 victory over Texas in the Big 12 Tournament title game. The Jayhawks won three games in three days with Reed and Morningstar playing more than 30 minutes in each contest.
Against the Longhorns, Reed gutted out 11 points and seven rebounds while playing with an injured left foot that will require offseason surgery. Morningstar had 13 points and six assists. Self knows exactly what he's getting with them, which has created a comfort level.
"Fortunately Brady and Tyrel have been constants," Self said. "They've become where they can play well without the ball going in the hole."
Reed was a rarely-used freshman when the Jayhawks won the national championship in 2008, and Morningstar was redshirting his sophomore season. They've experienced a Sweet 16 loss to Michigan State and a shocking second-round defeat to Northern Iowa since then. Reed and Morningstar may think they've seen it all by now, but there's one more tournament to go.
"For any player, I'd just say enjoy it," Reed said. "When I was a freshman, I don't think I understood the scope of things, just how big of a deal it is to win a national championship. I was spoiled to be on such a great team."
More for Morris — Marcus Morris was named a second-team All-American by the U.S. Basketball Writers of America on Monday.
Morris was also named one of 20 finalists for the Wooden Award, given annually to the nation's best player.
Perkins to coach — Former Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins will be an assistant coach for the Bishop Seabury Academy girls basketball team next season, according to a story in the Lawrence Journal-World.
Seabury is a small private school in Lawrence for seventh through 12th grades.
Perkins, who retired a year ahead of schedule last September, still resides in Lawrence and has attended numerous KU basketball games this winter.