Posted on: May 15th, 2013 by jayhawktalk 1 Comment
Quick, name the best NBA player that played for the University of Kansas under Bill Self.
Did you land on Mario Chalmers? I think I did too.
Self doesn’t lack many accomplishments over the last ten years. Top 10 recruiting classes, Final 4s, National Championship, average of 30 win seasons, tons of guys drafted into the league. But for all these accomplishments, he lacks one big one.
No real stars in the NBA.
Perhaps you’ll say this doesn’t matter that much. He is a college coach, after all. His job isn’t to develop NBA All-Stars. His job is to win college basketball games.
He may be the best in the business at the latter, but has unfortunately gained the reputation as a failure in the former.
It was this reputation that some insiders cited as the reason Self had been missing on many top blue chip recruits the last couple years. It wasn’t that the recruits themselves were worried about not getting drafted. Most kids think they’re good enough to get drafted either way.
It was other coaches, insiders, runners, and inner circles that were using it against Self in recruiting.
And their message had some legitimacy based in recent history.
Consider for a moment that you are a top 10 recruit. Your dream since you were a kid was to be an NBA star. All the big named coaches are courting you to spend your one and only year of college at their school. Calipari points out the many all-stars he has sent to the league. Coach K does the same. Roy Williams and Rick Barnes and Billy Donovan and Jim Boeheim show you more examples. They start comparing you to those guys and give you anecdotes about when they were in school.
“You remind me of Rajon Rondo.” “Your game looks just like “Kyrie Irving.”
Then you come to Kansas for a visit. And while you recognize and love the coach, the fans, the history, the Fieldhouse, the exposure, the town, and the team, you keep hearing voices of those other coaches in your head: “Look at Josh Selby. Look at Xavier Henry. Look at all the NBA players that came from KU. Self may get you to the league, but you will not be a star.”
“I’ll make you a star.”
As a fan, you might be thinking something like “who cares, we don’t want that kind of kid anyway.”
I beg to differ.
It’s easy to say you don’t want those kids when you don’t get them. Then you see the impact, albeit briefly, they have on a program for one year. Does Syracuse beat KU without one-and-done Carmelo Anthony? Does Memphis nearly beat KU without one-and-done Derrick Rose? What about Anthony Davis?
Let’s face it. Recruiting top guys takes your team from good to great. And the 2013-14 Jayhawks are a prime example. The addition of Andrew Wiggins changed everything for Bill Self. It changed the expectations from Sweet 16 to National Championship. It changed the starting lineup from Andrew White to Andrew Wiggins. In one afternoon, Kansas and Bill Self were the talk of college basketball.
But it’s even more than that for Self.
Unless every NBA scout, analyst, and front office person is wrong about Wiggins’ future, his commitment to Kansas will officially wipe away the narrative that Self can’t turn top 10 recruits into NBA All-Stars.
Because Andrew will be an All-Star. And he will have gone to Kansas.
In this the 23rd installment of the Jayhawk Talk Podcast, the guys meet up for a special offseason podcast devoted 100% to Andrew Wiggins aka Maple Jordan aka Basketball Jesus aka Naismith’s Canadian Nephew. Ok, I made some of those up. Come on in and listen to the guys break down the recruitment, decision, aftermath, strengths/weaknesses, impact, and other stuff related to Andrew Freakin Wiggins. Rock Chalk!
Find the podcast on iTunes HERE (iTunes, Apple devices, computers).
Find the podcast on Podbean HERE (non-Apple mobile devices)
As always, please remember to rate and comment on iTunes. It helps us spread the KU gospel to the masses. Rock Chalk!
One NBA scout says he is the best player to come out of high school in 10 years. Another says no one in high school or college basketball is on his same level. Still another says he would start for most NBA teams today if he were allowed in the league.
And there’s a chance this player could be wearing KU blue next year.
There’s also a chance he could be wearing Kentucky blue, North Carolina blue, or Florida State bl…garnet. Regardless, KU has a chance. Perhaps not a one-in-four chance, but a chance nonetheless. If Andrew Wiggins is anywhere near as good as everyone says he is, then there is no reason why coaches shouldn’t be pulling out all the stops to lure him to campus.
I’m not talking duffel bags of money or a new tractor for the family or a new house and job (nod to all the Blue Chips fans out there). I’m talking about the gray area in the recruiting game — the area every single high major program operates in.
Kansas is very good at operating in the gray and has been for some time. It’s time to continue this tradition of not breaking an NCAA rule but also not not breaking it too.
Let’s give his dad a front row seat to the games. Give him access to practice, to the locker room, to the team jet. Give him cool blue threads with three stripes and tell him not to worry about the lack of swoosh. Give him a competitive salary commensurate with others in his profession. And we can do all of this without breaking any NCAA rules.
Self needs to name pops KU assistant coach.**
** For this to work, a few assumptions need to be made: First, Andrew Wiggins would come to KU if Self named Mitchell Wiggins as assistant coach. Second, Andrew would probably not commit to KU if Self didn’t give Mitchell the job. Third, Self is cool with all the shit he would take from his peers and the media for making this move. Got that out of the way? Awesome. Let’s continue.
Some history is necessary. You might recall a certain other #1 recruit lured to Kansas after his father was named assistant basketball coach. The father’s name was Ed, and prior to arriving in Lawrence, he had been a truck driver for three years. Ed did play some professional basketball at one point, including two seasons on the Carolina Cougars of the ABA. But he had been out of basketball for some time. It didn’t stop him from taking the job when he got the phone call.
Ed received a good salary from Kansas. Somewhere between $27,000 and $30,000. He also received the use of an automobile — a 1983 Chevrolet Caprice.
And Ed also brought us Danny. And Danny brought us a championship.
Here’s another history lesson you might recall. A man named Ronnie was a head high school basketball coach, amassing a very impressive 109-28 record and two state championships. He had 20 years of basketball coaching experience, though on a much smaller scale than high major Division 1 hoops. Nevertheless, he was asked to join KU’s coaching staff and was given a shiny title as “Director of Basketball Operations.” Coincidentally, perhaps, Danny Manning was also on the staff at the time. He, too, had a shiny title: “Director of Student-Athlete Development.”
Ronnie brought us Mario. And Mario brought us a championship.
Because he can bring us Andrew. And perhaps Andrew can bring us a championship.
You might be wondering if this practice is even allowed under NCAA rules. In the years following the Ronnie Chalmers addition, other schools began hiring family members and AAU coaches in director-type roles in order to secure players. The NCAA finally caught up to this practice and instituted the IAWP (Individuals Associated With a Prospect) rule. It pretty much banned the hiring of individuals “associated with a prospective student athlete in any athletics department noncoaching staff position” (NCAA Bylaw 11.4.2).
But the above rule applies only to noncoaching positions (i.e., “Director of Basketball Operations” and “Director of Student-Athlete Development”), not coaching positions. And it just so happens KU has an open assistant coaching position waiting to be filled.
The timing could not be more perfect. Kansas is done with the 2013 recruiting class for the most part. Self and Co. may find a transfer or two, but Wiggins is really the only ’13 target left on the board that would require an assistant coach’s recruiting prowess. For the most part, Self won’t have to worry too much about 2014 either. Norm Roberts and Kurtis Townsend are very capable recruiters and Self can play closer role with guys like Okafor, Jones, Winslow, Whitehead, Vaughn, and Pope. If there is ever a year to be fine without a third established assistant coach or recruiter, it is this one. Plus, let’s be honest, this would be a 1-year contract.
So get on the horn, Coach Self. Bring Mitchell to Kansas. Bring Andrew to Kansas. And bring that next father-son championship to Kansas.
Posted on: April 2nd, 2013 by jayhawktalk 6 Comments
A disappointing end to an otherwise fantastic season.
It’s a tough life being a college basketball fan of a high major program. Every year, only one team goes home satisfied. 68 enter and 1 leaves with the ‘ship. It’s almost mean if you think about it.
Football has all those bowl games. A great season can end in an Orange Bowl victory. Hell, a great season can end in an Insight Bowl victory. Neither one of those is a national championship, but it’s still pretty cool.
But not basketball. Not at Kansas.
Success is unfortunately judged in terms of banners — and not just any banners. Sweet 16 banners aren’t interesting to us. Neither are Elite 8 banners, while we’re at it. Final Four or bust seems to be gauge of a successful season, which, if you think about it, just isn’t very fair.
31-6. Regular Season Conference Title. Conference Tournament Title. Those are absolutely incredible feats, especially when you couple them with the story line of nine straight (the most impressive streak in college basketball).
Yet, here we are. Moping about and telling ourselves it should be Kansas in the Final Four. Playing the sequences over and over again in our heads. Arriving at the same result every time… “How did it happen?”
I don’t want to talk too much about the game because I’m sure you’ve talked about and read about and heard about it enough. There is plenty of blame to go around for the loss, and Bill Self is certainly not immune to it.
That’s not the point of this piece.
The point is that Kansas had another incredible season. A season that will be remembered for Ben McLemore’s dunks. A season that will be remembered for Kevin Young’s fro. A season that will be remembered for Travis’ defense and Perry’s growth and the Harlem Shake. A season that will be remembered for the “McLemore” dance and Elijah’s heroics in Ames. A season that will be remembered for Tharpe’s emergence as a point guard and Rio’s tweets and Self’s 500th. A season that will be remembered for the Withey Block Party and all the coaches’ sons. A season that will be remembered because we lost to TCU. A season that will be remembered because we beat K-State…thrice. A season that will be remembered for a team that started four seniors in the modern age of college basketball.
And, unfortunately, it will be remembered for the “nut tap” game — the head-scratching collapse in the Sweet 16 against an overmatched Michigan team that woke up and grossly outplayed Kansas the last few minutes. It will be remembered for Elijah’s turnovers and lack of killer instinct at the end of the game. It will also be remembered as another far-too-early-exit from the tournament.
But hopefully we remember those other things too. Because this group of guys deserves that much.
Rock Chalk and a fond farewell, 2012-2013 Jayhawks. You’ll forever be remembered by this Jayhawk fan.
(Editor’s Note: The following is brought to you by JHT Contributor, @CrimsonBlueKU. Give him a follow on twitter for more KU insight. Rock Chalk!)
The Jayhawks will be arriving in Dallas Wednesday night as it prepares for Friday’s game against the Wolverines of Michigan.
Back in January when these two teams were ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the country (Michigan: 1, Kansas: 2), I thought this could be a potential Final Four matchup. Well, we’re seeing it in the Sweet 16 and I’m not complaining. We’re going to see Michigan’s potent offense against Kansas’ suffocating defense. It’s going to be fun.
I’m going to try and explain why this matchup is great for Kansas. Had this been Kansas/VCU Part Deux, I think it would have been a nightmare. VCU’s havoc defense would put a lot of pressure on KU’s guards and they’d force a lot of turnovers. Luckily, we don’t have to talk about that.
Michigan does a very good job of taking care of the basketball. It averages 9.3 turnovers a game — best in the nation. The Jayhawks don’t do a very good job turning teams over, forcing 12.7 per game (220th in the nation). Kansas on the other hand, as we all know, has a huge problem hanging on to the ball. Poor dribbling, bad passes, dumb mistakes. But Michigan forces less turnovers than Kansas. They don’t put heavy pressure on the guards, which is good for Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe.
Both Michigan and Kansas shoot relatively well from deep, 38 percent and 36 percent, respectively, but the Wolverines take 34 percent of their shots from outside. Kansas will have to key on Tim Hardaway (43 percent of his shots come from outside) and Nik Stauskas (60 percent). I have a feeling Ben McLemore and Travis Releford can give them all sorts of fits.
Michigan’s All-American point guard Trey Burke is fantastic. He does a good job at creating his own shot off the dribble and he shoots better than 40 percent. He does a good job at taking care of the ball and distributing to his teammates.
Where Michigan struggles is inside. If you look at the roster, the Wolverines have size, but I think Withey, Young and Ellis will give Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford fits inside. McGary is just a freshman and he’s never seen a big like Withey. Morgan gives up four inches to Withey and Horford doesn’t get many touches. Kansas blocks 23 percent of shots at the rim, whereas Michigan only blocks eight percent. Also, Michigan allows opponents to shoot 62 percent from close while Kansas holds teams to 51 percent.
If Michigan is going to beat Kansas, it’s going to be from outside, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Shooting in a dome, especially Jerry World is much different than shooting in a regular arena. Shooters use the ceiling as markers and domes have higher ceilings, which throws off depth perception.
Kansas is the 12th best rebounding team in the nation, while Michigan is 141st. If the Jayhawks can clean up the glass on the offensive end and score-second chance points, it’s going to be difficult for Michigan.
Kansas, as we all know, is defensively sound. They’re the best team in the nation in opponent’s field goal (35.7 percent) and effective field goal percentage (41.1 percent). If anything is going to give, I believe it will be Michigan’s offense, ranked No. 2 by KenPom (120.9 points per 100 possessions). We saw Michigan State’s defense, ranked No. 6 by KenPom (86.1 points allowed per 100 possessions) shut them down.
We’ve seen Kansas struggle on offense at times, but it’s 25th in the country scoring 74.9 points per game.
Kansas’ offensive and defensive KenPom numbers are similar to Michigan State: No. 5 on defense (85.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) and No. 31 on offense (111.2 points per 100 possessions). Michigan State’s offense is 21st (113 points/100).
Michigan’s defense gives up 92.5 points per 100 possessions. John Beilein does slow it down, but they can get out and run and they’re fantastic on the fast break.
If Kansas can take care of the ball, force Michigan to miss from deep and play this game in the paint, it has a very good chance of advancing to play Florida or Dunk City on Sunday.
After being thoroughly worked-over by Baylor, I contemplated how exactly to handle the loss. Like all KU fans, I was pissed that we squandered an opportunity to win the Big 12 outright, and more than likely cost ourselves a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. We’re forced to share the Big 12 title, although we probably helped the Kansas economy considering the number of t-shirts K-State will manufacture and sell.
But amidst all my negativism, I also couldn’t help but think back to the season that was, and how wildly entertaining and successful it has been up and to this point for a team that was without question one of the least talented teams Coach Self has had at KU. In a year where we struggled at times, we still found a way to win difficult games down the stretch in Stillwater and Ames to extend our Big 12 title streak to nine years.
The gloomy weather today also got me thinking. You know the old adage that’s thrown around when describing the Kansas climate… “Oh you don’t like the weather? Well, just hang around for a few hours and it’s bound to change.” I mean, it’s pretty damn accurate. It wasn’t but a couple weeks ago we hit 60 degrees on Sunday, and followed that with a foot of snow on Thursday. Today, 36 degrees and rain after pushing mid 60 yesterday. I guess what I’m saying is the variation in weather you experience living in this state is quite remarkable.
Kansas basketball, on the other hand, is quite different from the weather. In fact, almost completely opposite. Variation in Kansas basketball doesn’t really exist… at least not in the last nine years. As a fault to KU fans, we don’t know any different. Streaks like this don’t exist at other schools from power conferences. Teams aren’t supposed to continuously perform at an incredibly high level without experiencing the ebbs and flows of college basketball. ‘One and done’ players happen, missed recruits here and there happen, and suddenly a “Blue Blood” program happens to lose a few more games than anticipated.
Except this hasn’t happened at KU. We’re spoiled rotten, and when we experience a three game losing streak that threatens our quest for a ninth straight Big 12 title, or blow an opportunity to win that title outright, we throw a fit. I’ll put myself to the top of this list.
It’s statements like mine above that probably add fuel to the claim that KU fans are arrogant, and I’m fine with that. I have no problem recognizing this season as a “shared” title as by the law of the Big 12, K-State did fulfill their requirements to also stake claim as Big 12 champs. But shared or not, nine in a row is a unbelievable streak, and doesn’t happen in any other conference. Anyone who argues otherwise will claim it’s a “senseless” opinion in their efforts to diminish the accomplishments of the program. That’s fine and all, but KU’s streak is abnormal, and that’s a fact. There’s examples all over the country, from Lexington to Chapel Hill, that justify this. They have down years, and it’s normal… Just not normal in Lawrence, KS.
The point is, failing to knock out Baylor last night may have fallen short of the expectations we put on KU, but those expectations from year to year are also absolutely absurd, and so incredibly awesome at the same time. So to not be forgotten in the shuffle of a disappointing Saturday, I think it’s important to remember just how good we have it as KU fans, and be thankful for that. There’s still a tremendous amount to accomplish the next month, and the ultimate success of our season will be determined by how we perform in March.
I’m just saying let’s not forget how much has been accomplished from November through February.
Posted on: February 28th, 2013 by jayhawktalk No Comments
Editor’s note: The following is brought to you by Jayhawk-Talk contributor, @pay_heed. Great follow and twitter, so give him a shout. Rock Chalk.
Travis Releford needs to be more offensive.
Not like Anthony Jesselnik offensive, but more aggressive on offense. If you have watched much Kansas basketball this season (and since you’re reading this blog I think that’s probably a safe bet) you have probably heard commentators like Fran Fraschilla and others praise Travis Releford for his great perimeter defense. And while his defensive contributions cannot be discounted, he is much more than just a stopper on that end.
Carrington Harrison of 610 sports radio likes to point out that KU is 43-1 all time when Trav scores in double figures, which might just be a coincidence, but during the 3 game skid this season Travis scored 8, 1 and 8 respectively. So why do I think that Travis needs to be more offensive (or maybe just aggressive)?
Because the numbers back me up.
DISCLAIMER: If you don’t like advanced statistics just skip down to the last two paragraphs.
At a glance, it might be easy to mistake Ben McLemore as the most offensively efficient Jayhawk, but the numbers don’t back that up. According to KenPom.com Travis has an Offensive Rating (ORtg) of 129.8 (good for sixth in the Nation) to McLemore’s 120.1 (80th).
So why am I making a big deal about Travis being more offensive? The problem is that Travis, while playing the most minutes per game of any Jayhawk, uses the fewest number of possessions of any starter. Not only that, he actually has only the SEVENTH highest usage of any KU player.
Let that sink in for a second.
The sixth most offensively efficient player in the nation uses fewer possessions (by percentage) than six of his teammates.
ORtg – 120.1
% Possessions – 22.2
ORtg – 96.4
% Possessions – 22.0
ORtg – 112.5
% Possessions – 21.7
ORtg – 105.4
% Possessions – 20.9
ORtg – 96.2
% Possessions – 20.0
ORtg – 110.8
% Possessions – 19.3
ORtg – 129.8
% Possessions – 15.7
Adapted from KenPom.com
Travis’ offensive numbers cannot be overstated. He leads the nation in True Shooting percentage, which is the new fancy way of saying points per weighted shot, at 71.3%. After starting the season 0-11 from deep, he now leads the team in 3pt FG % at 46.2%. In addition to his ridiculous ORtg, he has a very impressive 60.63 Floor Percentage, good for third in the Big XII, behind only Corey Jefferson and Romero Osby. He also is second in the NCAA in effective FG% at 69.1% and has the second highest free throw rate of any KU player (with a qualifying number of field goal and free throw attempts) at 41.2 (Jeff Withey leads at 63.4).
In other words, Travis has a multifaceted offensive game from a numbers perspective. While his offensive numbers are certainly helped by a high number of transition baskets, he not only can be, but needs to be, more assertive in the half-court. He is too valuable and too efficient to defer to the likes of Perry Ellis and Naadir Tharpe.
The necessity of another efficient scorer to emerge has never been clearer since the mysterious disappearance of Ben McLemore in both Stillwater and Ames the past two weeks. Not many teams have the luxury of a fifth year senior with the abundance of experience to call on in a time of need. For Kansas to have a successful March, Travis needs to become more aggressive and finish more possessions for the Jayhawks.
Posted on: February 28th, 2013 by jayhawktalk No Comments
Much has been made about the Big 12 statement that was issued on Tuesday regarding the Kansas-Iowa State game. I made a pretty big deal out of it in this story.
I wanted to provide the statement and then provide what I think the Big 12 should have said. Then I promise I’ll move on. I’m sure we’re all ready to move on.
Before you read it, put yourself in shoes of the Big 12. What are your goals in issuing this? Do you want to address the game because of media pressure? Do you want to make Iowa State feel better? Do you want to talk about officiating? Personally, I’m not sure this statement accomplished any of these goals.
Here is the actual statement in all its glory:
“The Big 12 Conference acknowledges that officiating errors were made at the end of regulation during last night’s Kansas at Iowa State men’s basketball game. The plays have been reviewed and appropriate measures will be taken by the Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officials to adjust the number of future assignments for the two officials involved in conjunction with Conference policies.”
As you can see, the Big 12 acknowledges errors made at the end of regulation, but does not make mention of any other errors potentially made by the officials which may have also impacted the game. All this statement does is acknowledge what everyone knows — the last call wasn’t a very good one. What it doesn’t do is also acknowledge that there were 39+ other minutes of basketball that happened in that game too.
Whether it meant to or not, the Big 12 put a big, fat asterisk on an otherwise amazing basketball game. It downplays Iowa State’s amazing shooting performance. It downplays Elijah Johnson’s ice-in-the-veins heroics. It gives every Big 12 coach a silver bullet the next time one of these officials works his game. It demeans a basketball game where up to the time of that one tiny possession was considered one of the best games of the year and must-see television.
Here is what I think the Big 12 should have said:
“The Big 12 Conference is committed to reviewing and improving officiating in our league games. As a result, we are constantly reviewing game tape and providing feedback to officials that work our games. From time to time, we will privately reprimand or suspend an individual official or team of officials as a result of our internal review. Consistent with our normal procedures, we have reviewed the entire tape of Monday’s Kansas-Iowa State game and will handle all potential officiating errors discovered by this review internally.”
It gets the same point across. It doesn’t incite a riot. And it doesn’t put an asterisk on the game.
Alright, I’m done. No more blog posts on this. I promise!
Posted on: February 17th, 2013 by jayhawktalk No Comments
In the 14th episode of the Jayhawk Talk podcast, the guys talk some Texas postgame, preview the big week in the Big 12 (including the upcoming OSU game), talk about College GameDay, analyze the KU Harlem Shake video, and share thoughts on the Julius Randle visit. Come on in, grab a beer, and enjoy some KU Hoops talk.
As always, we appreciate you leaving us a comment on iTunes and giving the podcast a nice star rating. Rock CHALK!
Find the podcast on Podbean here (non-iTunes users and non-Apple mobile users)
Posted on: February 16th, 2013 by jayhawktalk No Comments
I’ll admit it. I’m kind of a slut for flash-in-the-pan Internet crazes.
You know how it works. You receive a link in a chat window, a message on Facebook, a retweet into your timeline. It’s a video, a picture, a “meme” or a dance. You watch it, you love it, and you find yourself searching out other examples.
Only thing I love more than awesome things on the Internet is KU basketball. This team has found a way to marry these two wonderful things.
What follows is a beautiful little video from the KU basketball team. It’s their version of the “Harlem Shake.”
It makes sense if you think about it — this team getting on board with a dance craze. As we’ve surely all seen by now, these guys are all about dancing. Who can blame them? Dancing is awesome.
There are about a million different Harlem Shake videos out there right now. This is obviously my favorite. First, a quick background. The Harlem Shake meme generally requires three things (1) at the beginning of the video one person is dancing with the crowd not paying attention; (2) when the bass or hook drops, everyone is dancing, usually with some sort of costume or general ridiculousness; (3) well, that’s it, really.
I thought it’d be interesting to take a closer look at this video, person by person. I urge you to re-watch the video each time you read a paragraph and focus only on that one person or group. It’s worth the individual attention to detail.
Bill Self: He doesn’t really fit into the meme recipe described above, but I appreciate his involvement in the shoot. He’s pictured drawing up some spectacular inbounds plays (I’m particularly impressed with the top left play, which aims to open up Ben for a corner 3). Self’s cameo ends with him erasing four of the six plays (he keeps the good one) and writing “Harlem Shake!!!” on the board and walking away. Note: Evan Manning is the only player pictured and he doesn’t seem to give one shit at all about what Coach is drawing up.
Ben McLemore: Of late, he has been the star of the Kansas basketball dance troupe. This video probably wouldn’t be a thing if not for Ben’s previous escapades, first documented in a post-Ohio State locker room celebration and later in a post-KSU dance. Ben gets us started with a solo version of “The McLemore” dance — a healthy mix between Hava Nagila, the C-Walk, and Saturday Night Fever. In any event, it’s freakin’ awesome. So there he is, dancing away while everyone is suiting up for practice — everyone except Elijah Johnson, who seems to have discovered nappy time. Ben’s also wearing the head of a chicken costume, just because. Cut to the new scene and Ben has shed the mask but found the rest of the chicken costume, again, just because. His chicken walk through the last few seconds of the scene is pure amazeballs.
Justin Wesley: Of any Jayhawk, Justin should know what it takes to shine in front of a camera. He spent the offseason playing Wilt Chamberlain in the upcoming movie, Jayhawkers. It makes you wonder why he chose one of the easiest theatrical stunts — that is, struggling to put his practice jersey on over his head — during Ben’s dance. He certainly makes up for it after the break, center frame, going full on kilt and chains. I have 10:1 that look will be in a new Chief Keef music video within the next calendar year. Flawless.
Naadir Tharpe: We’ve seen his dance moves a few times this season. His default move seems to be the “Robot.” You probably have that buddy that has a default move to the “Robot” too. Your buddy isn’t very good at it. Neither is Naadir. But it’s still sort of endearing. You have to think his teammates told him to wait in the wings and then when the time is right, just sachet across the shot from stage left to right, employing that signature move. I also tend to think that Naadir owns that green vest and did not need to make a visit to the KU Theatre Department’s prop room before filming.
Niko Roberts, Christian Garrett, and Landen Lucas: These three really need to be discussed together because of their roles in a truly meta sub plot going on inside this video. We first see Niko, in full-on onesie pajamas, a bib, and a pacifier. He seems to really be into his dance moves until he is completely distracted by a gigantic fly hanging from a 6-iron. What pacifier-sucking kid wouldn’t want to follow that? Especially if that pacifier sucking kid is also armed with a butterfly net!!! Too bad we couldn’t see just three more seconds of the video. I hope he caught that pesky fly. Meanwhile, Christian decided to go with the half-KU football player in December after a workout coat, half-Roman soldier look. He has some nice moves with that shield before taking Santa Landen on a ride in the equipment cart. Landen is holding the 6-iron/fly thingy while seemingly jamming to his own Keith Sweat slow jam that only he can hear.
Jeff Withey and Jamari Traylor: Jeff is attempting his best Slash impression, but is failing miserably. I would have preferred to see Jeff play a more vital role than “awkward white 7-footer with wig that plays fake guitar in socks,” but that’s just me. To his credit, he actually makes out a couple legit power chords between the three or four times he adjusts his hair. Like a true 80s guitarist. Jamari, on the other hand, goes with the mini-acoustic, black leather vest, and sombrero get-up. He seems to be the most accomplished musician in the bunch, with most of his focus going toward his craft. He’s also, umm, very muscly.
Travis Releford: He is probably the one in the video that makes me giggle the most. He is sporting the black boots, shorts, and soccer jacket of one of those club teams or countries or something (Germany, maybe? Clearly a huge soccer fan here), and is swinging the everliving shit out of some beads (?). His facial expressions are the real sell, though. Absolute gold, especially in slow motion.
Elijah Johnson: We know he’s been struggling to find his place on the court of late. Not here. He plays the creepy, masked joker Santa PERFECTLY. You might miss him the first couple times you watch it, but he emerges from behind Ben and finds his way to orchestra right by the end of the shot. He looks confused, but don’t let him trick you. That’s what he wants you to think.
Kevin Young and Company: Speaking of creepy, let’s talk about the guy in the back wearing the Jason mask and holding a knife. Oh, but he’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt, so it’s not near as bad. He’s standing on a chair, slashing at the air with all his Kevin Young might. You’d think Evan Manning next to him would be just slightly scared, but once again, he’s still not giving one shit. Perry Ellis looks a little scared, but that’s probably more about his discomfort with being in a group setting than a Hawaiian with a huge knife. Then there’s Andrew White III with a big goofy hat. Like Jamari, it appears he’s jamming to a different song as well. Maybe U2 or Bonnie Raitt or something.
Tyler Self: Tyler made the mistake of going shirtless in this shoot. He’s standing near Jamari Traylor, who can pull of shirtless. Tyler, not so much. I do appreciate his decision to play jungle gym on the water pipes running across the ceiling, although I think he geared up to try a “pull-up” and realized he didn’t have the arm strength for it yet. He does earn some points for his mink throw he has draped across his shoulders. Keeps him warm and hides his underdeveloped delts.
Not pictured: Supremely disappointed Rio Adams was not involved. He is the best dancer on the team not named Ben McLemore and he has an argument that he’s even better than Ben. Not sure where he was during the filming, but I’m sad he wasn’t there. Same goes for Joe Dooley and Andrea Hudy, both of which could have added a lot to this just by making a one second cameo.
I hope you enjoyed my write up as much as I enjoyed watching the video 35 times. Happy gameday!