LAWRENCE — Kansas coach Bill Self sold Travis Releford on redshirting his sophomore season by convincing him that he has the chance to be a 1,000-point scorer at KU playing the next three seasons.
From the sound of it, Releford has far eclipsed that number in practice this season wearing the red jersey of KU's scout team. Releford, a Kansas City native and graduate of Bishop Miege, will return home this week for the Big 12 Tournament and know that he is an improved player — even though he won't be able to show it at the Sprint Center.
That's because Releford has spent 2009-10 moonlighting as some of the top wing scorers in the country, guys like Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn and Oklahoma State's James Anderson.
"That's a lot of fun," Releford said. "If we're playing against a real good shooter, you get to come out and shoot jumpers every day. Every time I catch it, I get to shoot the ball. If we're playing a slasher, I get to do that."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Wichita Eagle
Releford came to KU with a slasher's game and knew coming into this season that he needed to work on his outside shot. The reps he has gotten this year have been much-needed.
Self said both Releford and fellow redshirt Mario Little have benefited from the experience.
"They can really advance their offensive skills a lot of times more than they can if they didn't redshirt because I'm not getting on them for taking bad shots," Self said. "I want them to be aggressive. It forces them to shoot the basketball and score, so there's a lot of things that happen through redshirting that are really positive from an offensive standpoint. It's probably not as good from a defensive standpoint."
Releford and Little both came to KU before last season with a chance to contribute right away. Releford, a four-star talent, averaged seven minutes and scored 86 points, while Little, rated the top junior-college prospect in the nation, battled injuries all season and averaged 4.7 points.
With the highly-touted Xavier Henry joining Kansas this season, it appeared minutes would be hard to come by for Releford and Little, who are both 6-foot-5 and play on the wing like Henry.
While neither player wanted to sit this season, redshirting appears to have paid off.
"I've built up a lot of confidence on offense," Releford said. "Coach came up to me one day and was like, 'Next year, when the blue shirt is on in practice, make sure you stay confident.' "
Releford, Little and the rest of KU's red team think that they may be talented enough to make the NCAA Tournament by themselves. Point guards C.J. Henry and Elijah Johnson, walk-on wing Conner Teahan and big men Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey make up the rest of the group, whose goal is to bring down the No. 1 team in the country each day in practice.
"If the blue team is not doing what they're supposed to be doing, we can easily put up points against them and kind of take advantage of their defense," Teahan said. "When they're on, they're a tough team to beat, obviously."
Releford has gained more than just a shooting touch. Quiet by nature, he is also known as the team's best trash-talker.
"If nobody's talking, it gets a little sluggish sometimes," Releford said. "I try to come in and start talking trash and then another person is talking trash and everybody gets after it."
For one season at least, that has been just enough to keep Releford entertained.
"I'm enjoying it, and every game I wish I could get out there," Releford said. "My time will come."
Dooley to East Carolina premature — On Monday, FoxSports.com reported that Kansas assistant coach Joe Dooley had been offered the head coaching job at East Carolina, where Dooley was the coach from 1996-99, going 57-52.
But Self said that negotiations between Dooley and East Carolina were not that far along.
"Nothing has been offered," Self said. "Nothing is imminent at all. (They are) still gauging interest."
Dooley has been on the KU staff for all seven seasons of Self's tenure.