Sometimes, these presumed one-and-done college basketball players need to be put back into the oven.
Take Kansas sophomore Wayne Selden.
He arrived in Lawrence last season with one-and-done aspirations. The NBA draft boards treated him kindly, expecting him to be a first-round choice.
But Selden wasn’t ready. As KU’s season progressed, those draft boards started to drop him like a hot potato. He needed more time, more seasoning, more everything.
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Selden could end up being a poster boy for why it’s sometimes good for the hot-shot, one-and-done types to return to school for another season or two. It could end up being the best thing that ever happened to Selden, who finally played like a future NBA draft pick during the Jayhawks’ 71-65 comeback win over Florida on Friday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
It was an incredible game. And it was a breakthrough performance for Selden, who scored a game-high 21 points.
Florida spent the first half impersonating the Harlem Globetrotters with crisp passing, uncanny shooting and a big 25-4 run to go up by 15 at the half. Meanwhile, KU was obliging with its Washington Generals act.
But at halftime, it was if the teams switched uniforms.
After a 6-2 spurt by Florida to start the second half, Kansas took off. The Jayhawks’ 33-7 run over a 13:20 stretch, which came out of nowhere, gave KU a 60-52 lead with 3:18 to play.
That the 6-foot-5 Selden led the Kansas charge was almost as important at the charge itself. Talk about a guy who needed to wash a bad taste out of his mouth.
In KU’s 61-56 win over Michigan State last week in Orlando, Selden took 10 shots and missed 10 shots. Through the Jayhawks’ first six games, he was shooting 26.5 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from the three-point line.
During the big run against Florida, though, Selden scored 11 points. He made 9 of 15 shots overall, including a pair of three-pointers. Perhaps this is the jump start his career needed.
Selden had his moments as a freshman, but he wasn’t as good as advertised. And his start to this season wasn’t reassuring.
“I think he’s always been a streaky shooter,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said of Selden. “But the one thing about him is that I think he has confidence in himself and believes in himself.”
Said Selden of his sudden hot hand: “You’ve just got to stick with it, keep playing through it.”
Selden needed this and Kansas needed to shake off a terrible first half that must have had people harkening back to the Kentucky game a couple of weeks ago.
Selden‘s strong back, though, helped pull the Jayhawks from a ditch.
“At times I would lose confidence last year, but there’s no reason to ever lose confidence,” Selden said. “You’ve just got to stick with it.”
The Jayhawks were better defensively in the second half, too, especially against the dribble-drive Florida offense that picked KU apart for much of the first half. It was fun watching the Gators move the ball around the perimeter, hit cutters, occasionally look inside and track missed shots on the offensive boards.
It looked like 6- or 7-on-5 in the first half. But in the second half, it was hard to find a Florida player out there. It looked like a court full of Jayhawks. They were everywhere.
Florida went from 53.6 percent shooting in the first half to 34.5 in the second, and it was only that high because of a little spurt late.
Kansas shot 34.8 percent in the first half and 48 percent in the second. The Gators out-rebounded KU, 24-9, in the first half. The Jayhawks had an 18-11 advantage on the boards in the second.
“It was like Jekyll and Hyde out there tonight, the first half to the second,” KU coach Bill Self said.
When the Gators went up 18 early in the second half, who would have thought KU had this kind of comeback in them?
It’s a team that has been searching for offensive identity, one that shot a meager 42 percent in its first six games. Identity sometimes can be slow to form.
“It was a terrible start for us tonight,” Self said. “Our best players were not very good in the first half and our bench didn’t give us anything.”
But once the KU run started, and once the Allen Fieldhouse crowd started to buzz, Florida was in trouble. The Gators never did stem the momentum.
“This was a good teaching experience for us, a good learning experience,” said KU point guard Devonte’ Graham. “But we shouldn’t have been down like we were anyway.”