What could have been? That's the question that actually seems to have pretty much faded from the minds of most Kansas fans as the Jayhawks have steadily exceeded expectations this year with the help of several players that would have been counted as unproven commodities heading into this year.
Meanwhile in Memphis Josh Selby, a Jayhawk just a year ago, averages under 10 minutes per contest for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. It wasn't long ago that Selby was celebrated coming in, then suspended and injured through much of his only year in Lawrence.
Jayhawk fans still pay attention to what he does and certainly everyone seems to wish him the best, but with the recent run by Kansas up to no. 5 in the rankings some of the 'what if' questions just don't come up as often. The emergence of Jeff Withey and Travis Releford as key contributors in the starting line up has something to do with that. Elijah Johnson's potential also probably has something to do with that. But if we take this season, this team and insert the thought of Josh Selby what do you get? Is Kansas better off? Who's minutes are diminished and perhaps most importantly is Josh Selby better off?
The first thing everyone is going to do is say that without question Josh Selby would have been better off in Lawrence this season and not sitting on the bench in the NBA. ESPN's College Gameday has done it, fans talked about it early on and it seems to be accepted as fact.
Is that without question the case? First you have to ask yourself where his minutes are going to come from. Odds are he takes most of Connor Teahan's time and perhaps splits the minutes with Elijah Johnson. Travis Releford has proven to be a strong enough player that I'm not sure it would happen, but Bill Self could also go three guard with Johnson, Taylor and Selby.
Regardless of where he settles in or where those minutes are, Taylor has been at the point for several seasons now and I don't think Selby's return changes Bill Self's usage of Tyshawn. So is Selby once again reduced to a shooter similar to what Johnson and Teahan have become? That was pretty much his role a year ago and it didn't serve him well and I don't think doing it again improves his place in life as far as the NBA goes. In fact maybe the continuation of that style paints him further into the label of a player 'exposed'.
That's how it feels when things are going well. On the other hand a game like Monday night might change that opinion. Elijah Johnson was ice cold and settling for three point attempts all night long. Why doesn't the uber-athletic junior guard take a cue from Tyshawn and attack the rim? Is there something preventing Kansas from having two guards who are equally adept at penetrating into the lane and getting to the basket?
This was probably one of the abilities that was always talked about when referencing Selby's potential, but it was also never realized for a variety of reasons. If he chooses to remain at Kansas and shows that ability similar to Taylor, perhaps he elevates himself back up the draft board. Considering Taylor seems to be doing that at the moment by playing that style, it's hard to see how a player with the initial hype of Selby couldn't do the same.
I guess with Selby you really are looking at a situation where it's hard to argue that a team could be worse off with him on the roster. With this team you are likely removing Teahan from the equation at the level that he has played which gives Kansas more athleticism and depth in the backcourt. Basically if you're Kansas you have nothing to lose and a substantial amount to gain.
For Selby it's probably a little more uncertain. A return to the court at the college level could prove a good decision by reproving what everyone believed you could be and working back into a lottery position in the NBA draft. On the other hand it could be another underwhelming year and things get exponentially worse.
I suppose it all depends how you believe the experiment would have gone in year two. Is this team so obviously Thomas Robinson's and Tyshawn Taylor's to lead? If so, where does Selby fit in and can he work his way into a better position without playing outside of what this Kansas teams identity is?
Ultimately Selby was here to spend a year and move on to the NBA. That's what he did, he was drafted and he is on a roster. Those are all positives. Kansas has also done well as a program so in the end it doesn't seem all that hard to move on and avoid looking back. But every so often in instances where Kansas is searching for a spark, do you ever wonder how or if things could have been different?