ST. LOUIS – The luxury in being the third or fourth scoring option for Kansas is that Wayne Selden doesn’t always have to assert himself.
Or he can. It’s pretty much always his decision.
Selden, a freshman guard, almost always makes the right choice. He shoots better when he shoots a lot, and when he’s not shooting well he dials back from a scoring standpoint to make an impact in other ways.
“I feel like we have different days when different people are on fire, and I’m not going to go out of my way to get shots up when someone else is playing good,” Selden said Saturday. “There are so many players that can put the ball in the hoop and so many other things that everybody on the team can do, like go rebound, go play defense, get assists.
“It makes no sense for me to hunt shots when we have so many great players.”
Such an awareness is rare for a freshman, but it is what makes Selden so valuable to the Jayhawks heading into Sunday’s third-round game against Stanford. More valuable, it could be argued, in some of his lowest-scoring efforts.
Selden, though, finds a completeness with games in which he carries KU offensively or at least serves as a reliable second option. He’s taken 10 or more shots in seven of 34 games, and in those games he’s averaging 16.9 points on 12.3 shots while shooting 50 percent (43 for 86).
Those seven games also account for 15 of Selden’s 42 three-pointers, as he shoots 38 percent from the behind the arc. And he’s been more aggressive, taking 27 free throws compared to 62 in the other 27 games combined, a sign he attacks the basket when he’s in a scoring groove.
“We need him to be a threat from the perimeter,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “ He’s also a guy that can attack the basket and get to the free-throw line.
“For a young kid, he’s had a great year, but certainly him being more aggressive (Sunday), and if we’re fortunate enough to play after (Sunday), is something that’s really important to any success we have.”
The 6-foot-5 Selden’s recognition of his own strengths and weaknesses is even more evident in his low-output games. In the 27 games he has taken fewer than 10 shots, he’s shooting 41 percent overall and 31 percent from three-point range.
Those are the games when Selden leaves the scoring to players such as Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis and, when healthy, Joel Embiid, and Selden helps facilitate their breakthroughs. He has more turnovers than assists in those seven high-point games, a ratio that shifts drastically in Selden’s favor when he isn’t scoring.
Selden’s offense doesn’t completely disappear in those games, either, as he manages 8.1 points on fewer than seven shots.
“It’s just playing basketball,” Selden said. “I’ve been playing for a while now, so it comes naturally on whether you know what type of game you’re going to have and whether you know different ways you can contribute. We all can contribute different ways in every game.”
Against Eastern Kentucky on Friday, Selden missed all five of his shots, continuing a stretch in which he’s made 12 of 41 over the last five games. That didn’t seem to bother Self, however, who kept Selden in for the entire second half.
That meant Selden was on the court for every minute while the Jayhawks turned a halftime tie into an 11-point lead. He had three assists and no turnovers and assisted as KU collectively stymied Glenn Cosey, EKU’s dynamic three-point threat.
“I think that Wayne has been pretty consistent in doing the things that he needs to do to give us the best chance to win,” Self said. “He’s given himself up a lot of times offensively to make sure used all of his energy on the defensive end, and that was his focus.”