Editors Note: Spring football defensive preview in about an hour.
Enough of the looking back, it's time to look forward. We've already discussed this somewhat at length in previous comment sections, but here are a few final thoughts to wrap it up and one last chance to look ahead and distract ourselves from the fact that we aren't playing this weekend.
Kansas basketball was full of high expectations headed into '09-'10 and most of those were fulfilled but one gigantic goal fell out of reach. So what about the 2010-2011 season? Will Kansas face similar expectations, who will compete for time, what will their biggest challenges be and will any last minute recruits play a major roll.
Let's begin in the backcourt. Kansas will return two seniors in Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed, a junior in Tyshawn Taylor, a sophomore in Elijah Johnson and of course true freshman Royce Wooldridge who's already signed for the 2010 class.
Potential wildcards here include CJ Henry, should he choose to remain at Kansas with or without his brother Xavier. Another two names floating around are current high caliber recruits Josh Selby and Doran Lamb.
Kansas will have experience and consistency provided by Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed. Where Morningstar falls in the rotation is a bit of a question as we've likely seen his game hit the peak and his minutes have dwindled. Tyrel Reed on the other hand has been on a bit of an upswing late in the year and is about as passionate a competitor as the Jayhawks had this season.
With Tyshawn the big question is how he recovers from a season of turmoil. There have been questions as to his return, but most expect him to remain at Kansas.
Elijah Johnson will be looked at to step in and perform after a season learning the college game while practicing on one of the best teams in the country. As Coach Dooley said, he's likely played against better competition every day in practice then he ever could have in the game. Johnson is explosive, fast and athletic and should provide an upgrade on the perimeter in that area for Kansas.
Should CJ Henry stick it out you'd expect he can compete. His attitude has come into question but many will point to that being pure speculation. When he played early in the season CJ appeared to provide speed, quickness and the ability to score or create for others. After a pretty painful injury, he rarely saw the court.
Royce Woolridge has been a big time scorer in high school and has the NBA pedigree. The suggestion that he might redshirt has floated around, but Coach Self might want to see how much of a spark he can provide offensively off the bench first.
Doran Lamb and Josh Selby still hang out there as potential recruits. Lamb(SG) is very much up in the air and no one seems to be sure where that will end. Kansas is on a list with Kentucky, Arizona and West Virginia. At this point it's anybody's guess but if he should choose Kansas he'll push for starter minutes immediately.
Selby(PG) is rumored a HEAVY Kansas lean expected to announce on April 17th. Coincidentally Lamb will announce that same day as well at the Jordan All Star game. Selby would actually be a higher rated recruit than Henry and likely would find himself the starter at the point. His final list includes Kansas, Kentucky and UConn. Not long after his second visit to Kansas, he canceled his visits to both UConn and Kentucky. Good news? maybe.
It's likely Kansas enters the season with Mario Little and Travis Releford the two wing position players. Little played much of his junior season injured before redshirting this season. He provides a smooth mid range jumper with the ability to step outside. Little even played underneath during the '08-'09 campaign but with the depth and development at the position that wouldn't appear necessary.
Travis Releford played spot minutes as a true freshman and like Little spent the year as a redshirt. It may seem small but one thing that stood out about both of these is how excited and passionate they seemed from the bench on a team where they practiced all day long but never played.
Coach Self has complemented the potential of Releford at length. He's shown the ability to attack the rim as just a true freshman and reportedly has improved his shooting touch in the last year. While neither are viewed as players with the same NBA potential as Xavier Henry, they could end up doing just as well for Kansas.
Xavier Henry is a bit of a wildcard here should he choose to return although it looks unlikely. The other wildcard, Marcus Morris. Can he play the three? He had a breakout season in 2009-2010 and has a good mid range shot, the ability to step out for a three and put the ball on the floor. He certainly presents matchup problems but by the same token he might prove somewhat a defensive liability on smaller, quicker, more traditional wing players.
Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris both return on the interior after making tremendous strides as sophomores. Marcus was one of the best players in Big 12 play and Markieff turned into a reliable 6th man for Kansas. With the two on the court together Kansas has an extremely athletic set of bigs that can play inside, outside and get after it on the boards.
Thomas Robinson has been described by Coach Self as the best natural rebounder he's ever seen. Offensively he looked lost in spot minutes this year, but that's somewhat to be expected for a player who doesn't see the court often. Where he did look decent, especially late in the year, was on the defensive end and on the boards. Robinson has the potential to make the kind of strides the Marcus Morris made this season. If he does that, Kansas will be in good shape underneath.
Last but not least is Jeff Withey. A seven footer with a jumper, Withey isn't a Cole Aldrich clone. Withey is not the beast that Cole was defensively but should still create issues for teams with his length in the middle. On the offensive end, like Robinson, we haven't seen what Withey has to offer but his offensive game was perceived as a strength out of high school and hopefully with more consistent minutes he can find a groove.
Wildcard of the bunch is Cole Aldrich. Does he return? I'd guess it's unlikely and the fact is, the big man should go and get paid. He's been incredibly unselfish during his career at Kansas and it's time for him to go take care of himself and his family. If they should decide that he's that passionate about playing Kansas basketball and he wants to return, then fantastic, we'll have another epic senior night on tap come March 2011.