The latest edition of the KU basketball team will take the court this evening in an exhibition game with Fort Hays State. I’ll explore more about the team in the near future. Let’s start out by looking at the roster and trying to determine who will play, who will redshirt and who will get mop up minutes.
In total there are seventeen players on the roster and coach Self claims that he will have an 8-9 man rotation. We know that two of the walk-on players will have very limited minutes. Let’s put Jordan Juenemann and Chase Buford near the end of the bench. While they are valued members of the team, they just aren’t going to play very much. That leaves fifteen players.
For the first semester, we also know that Brady Morningstar is suspended and Jeff Withey is not yet eligible to play after transferring. Both players have exhausted their redshirt year so they will play this season. As Morningstar was a starter most of last season, we can expect that he will be part of the rotation this season. Withey brings size and mobility to the front court, as well as five more fouls, so he should also be added to the rotation on his return. That leaves thirteen players.
Mario Little and Travis Releford will sit out tonight’s exhibition game so that they have the possibility of redshirting if they won’t be playing meaningful minutes. Freshman players are allowed to play in the exhibition games without forfeiting their ability to redshirt. It would make sense for both Little and Releford to sit out this season. Mario hasn’t been healthy since he arrived at KU and he would have the opportunity to get fully healed by sitting for the season. Travis Releford has a lot of raw offensive talent, but hasn’t shown the ability to be a stopper on defense. Both of these players could get limited minutes this season, though they could play a lot in future seasons. I say they should sit for the season and that leaves us with eleven players.
Another player that could get lost in the shuffle this season is Elijah Johnson. While I’d love to see him play, I don’t think he will get many minutes this season. Take the redshirt and learn from the upperclassmen. Now we are down to ten players and I think they will all play significant minutes this season. Of course there will actually be twelve once Morningstar and Withey are eligible.
Now that we’ve determined who won’t play, let’s talk about who will play. We’ll start in the front court. There is no doubt that Cole Aldrich will start at center and will play a huge role on this team. He was spectacular last season and should only improve in his junior season, especially since it will probably be his last season in Lawrence. Joining him at the post and power forward positions will be sophomore Markieff Morris, sophomore Marcus Morris and freshman Thomas Robinson. The Morris twins were very unpolished in their freshman season and they should be much improved thanks to their great workouts over the summer. Coach Self has had wonderful things to say about Robinson and his “motor”. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him playing at least 20 minutes a game and tearing up the glass.
At the small forward, Marcus Morris could see some time. Yet it is expected that Xavier Henry will be the starter at this position by the end of the season. While many expect him to only play one season, it is possible he could stick around for more than one if he isn’t yet ready for the NBA. Tyrel Reed should also see some time and could even be the starter early in the season since he has experience. Connor Teahan has also seen some time at the small forward and we can only hope he has regained the shooting touch he displayed as a freshman.
There is no doubt that Sherron Collins and Tyshawn Taylor will be the starters in the backcourt as they were last season. Taylor played on the national team this summer and led the team in scoring. Collins is a senior and a pre-season All America. CJ Henry is a big unknown as he hasn’t played organized basketball in several years. He will not be playing in the first exhibition game due to a minor knee injury. His health will probably determine the number of minutes he will get this season. If healthy, he will be a valuable player on this team. It is also quite possible that Tyrel Reed and Connor Teahen will see some time in the backcourt.
This team is extremely deep and should be very fun to watch. They have experience and they have very talented young talent. If everyone plays to their expectations, the Jayhawks could be cutting down the nets in April. Let’s see what happens tonight and go from there!