Young Jayhawks focused on process

11/05/2013 9:15 AM

02/04/2014 7:11 AM

Just a few minutes into his exhibition debut, Kansas freshman Wayne Selden had already picked up two quick fouls. First came an offensive charge on a drive to the basket. Then a moment of overaggressiveness on defense. And Selden, 6-foot-5 guard, found himself on the bench, just a few feet away from KU coach Bill Self.

So on Monday afternoon, when Selden was asked if he learned anything from the Jayhawks’ victory over Pittsburg State last Tuesday, it didn’t take him long to respond.

“I want to be on the floor,” Selden said.

All of Kansas’ young players took something different from their first game in Allen Fieldhouse. But as KU prepares for its second and final exhibition game against Fort Hays State at 7 p.m. Tuesday, it’s the collective lessons that stand out. The Jayhawks are young, still learning and hopeful they can manufacture the type of chemistry that can take some teams years to build.

The question: Can you really speed up the process?

“I’d say probably no,” Self said. “The one thing that can certainly happen is you can have some success early, and that would probably speed it up as much as anything else. Sometimes when you don’t have success early, you’re thinking what we’re doing is not working.”

For now, there are plenty of things to work on. Self says he’s always been the type of coach who emphasized teaching offense in November. Defense was important, of course, but he didn’t need to teach it.

“I thought it was easier to teach them how to guard than how to score,” Self said.

But after watching film from the Pittsburg State game, Self wasn’t so sure. So for the last week, he said, Kansas has mostly focused on defense. Self believes that his young players — especially Selden and freshman Andrew Wiggins — can become elite defenders. But it may take some time.

“It’s really changed,” KU freshman center Joel Embiid said of recent practices. “We need to be better on defense.”

It may need to happen soon. The Jayhawks’ season opener against Louisiana Monroe is on Friday, just three days after Tuesday’s exhibition finale. But there are larger concerns inside KU’s locker room, namely a Champions Classic showdown with No. 4 Duke next Tuesday in Chicago.

Maybe KU can’t speed up the process of becoming a team, but they will certainly try. One week after their first night in Allen Fieldhouse, they are eager for another chance to correct some issues.

“You have 16,000 fans screaming, it’s mind-boggling,” senior forward Tarik Black said. “And we got to see how we’re gonna react in those situations. And it was good for us.”

Mason to start — Self said freshman guard Frank Mason would start in place of Naadir Tharpe against Fort Hays State. The plan is to get Mason more reps, because Tharpe will miss Friday’s season opener against Louisiana Monroe while serving a one-game suspension for playing in an unauthorized summer game last summer.

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