LAWRENCE — Two players who will help Kansas improve will sit at the end of the bench in street clothes for Saturday's game against North Dakota and the rest of the season.
And they're happy to be there.
Forward Jamari Traylor and wing Ben McLemore have been practicing since the end of the first semester upon becoming academically eligible. They can't play, but the Kansas starters now work against two who at worst would have been part of this year's rotation.
"It's going to help us a lot," guard Tyshawn Taylor said. "Those two guys are really good, and they're going to help our second team compete against us."
That's the plan, and Traylor and McLemore are taking it seriously.
"We want to show them what we're made of," Traylor said. "We're treating it like games."
Traylor and McLemore are ineligible to play in games because not all of their high school course work was accepted by the NCAA. They also were prohibited from any team activities for the first semester, including practice.
Both players surpassed a 3.0 grade-point average for the fall semester. They're on track to suit up next season, but the workouts have given Kansas a glimpse into the future and it's natural to wonder how good the team would be with Traylor and McLemore.
"I wish they could play right now," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "They'd certainly help us."
The 6-foot-8, 215-pound Traylor would be part of a frontcourt rotation that consists of Thomas Robinson, Jeff Withey, Kevin Young and Justin Wesley. Newcomers Young and Wesley combine to average seven points and 6.2 rebounds and about 23 minutes.
McLemore's game has been compared to former KU star Brandon Rush. At 6-5, he's a bit smaller but possesses strong perimeter skills. McLemore, from St. Louis, was considered one of the nation's top prospects and likely was ticketed to start.
"I'm just so happy to be at practice now," McLemore said. "We're helping us get better."
Without the opportunity to practice with the team, the players hit the gym on their own in the fall.
"We'd find the best players to play with," McLemore said. "Sometimes, Jamari and I would play one-on-one."
They ran more than they ever had to stay in shape, and when they pulled on the practice uniform for the first time, Traylor and McLemore knew their roles. They not only work against the starters, they simulate opponents' top players.
And that will provide a major service starting next week when Big 12 play begins. The Jayhawks open at home against Kansas State on Wednesday.