The right mix
Sorting through deep roster is Self’s challenge with third-ranked ’Hawks
Outside of winning national and conference championships, few aspects of the KU basketball experience are more satisfying than watching Hall of Fame coach Bill Self juggle lineups and sift through a long bench before settling on his preferred rotation early in the Big 12 season.
Which means that, with eight recruits joining a roster loaded with returning starters for the third-ranked Jayhawks, this season could be as fun as any in recent memory.
“The challenge is, how do you get from 14 to 10,” Self says, “because 1 through 14, we probably never had a team with as many guys who are pretty similar to the other guys. Trying to determine who’s actually going to play will be the challenge.”
Big 12 coaches voted super-senior guard Remy Martin, an Arizona State transfer who last year led the Pac-12 with 19.1 points per game, as their Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year. Joining Martin on the all-league squad are senior forward David McCormack and senior guard Ochai Agbaji.
KU’s other returning veterans include junior guard Christian Braun and sophomore guard Dajuan Harris Jr., both of whom Self described as having made “the biggest jumps” from last season, and the fan-favorite sixth-year super-super-senior Mitch Lightfoot.
Self says super-senior guard Jalen Coleman- Lands, an Iowa State transfer, was the team’s best shooter during preseason preparations, and he describes sophomore guard Joseph Yesufu as the team’s best on-ball defender.
Outside of his headline stars, though, Self’s eventual starting roster and regular rotation are both TBD, and likely won’t be settled any time soon.
“I love our roster, I’m not downplaying that at all, but you don’t have a roster that people are looking at as top-10 picks, lottery picks, things like that,” Self says. “We got a bunch of guys who are good basketball players. One thing I would like to see that we haven’t seen yet is some separation. It always occurs, but it hasn’t occurred yet.”
As of Kansas Alumni press time, the Jayhawks awaited their Nov. 3 exhibition opener against Emporia State and the Nov. 9 showdown with perennial rival Michigan State in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. As the Jan. 1 Big 12 opener approaches, all eyes will be on Missouri’s Dec. 11 return to Allen Field House; also of note is the Jan. 29 home game with Kentucky.
“Unless you’re a junior, unless you’re Christian Braun’s age, nobody has felt what it’s like to play at Kansas,” Self says, referencing the abrupt closure of the 2020 season, when KU had been the consensus favorite to win an NCAA Tournament that never happened, and pandemic restrictions that muted last season’s Allen Field House experience. “Then you [bring in] a recruiting class and none of them have felt what it’s like to play at Kansas. None of them visited.
“Everybody has a home-court advantage, don’t get me wrong, but one of the things that makes it special about playing at our place is that we feel like ours is unique in many ways. They haven’t had a chance to experience any of that uniqueness. I don’t even know if 10 of our 14 scholarships know what it’s like to play ball at our place.”
Fresh starts for all. Let the fun begin.