USA TODAY Sports
This year, Jeff Withey and Ben McLemore have been getting much of the headlines for the Jayhawks, but it's Travis Releford who has held them together as much as anyone.
Jeff Withey and Ben McLemore are each having All-American type seasons, but the player who hasn't been getting his due, both nationally and within the Kansas fanbase, is Travis Releford.
Coming out of high school, Releford was a top 100 recruit, but got offers from only Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma in addition to Kansas. He didn't play much as a Freshman, leading him to redshirt in his second year. Kansas fans were a bit disappointed that a top 100 recruit who had also played for the USA Under 18 team would have to redshirt, but Bill Self famously declared that Releford would be a 1,000 point scorer by the time his career was over. And, sure enough, Releford is on pace to do that by the end of his Senior season.
But it's not the points that is impressive, it's the way he has come about them. He currently leads the nation in true shooting percentage (a formula that gives extra credit for making threes and factors in free throw shooting as well). For the year, Releford is shooting 74% from two (ungodly for a non big man, or anyone really), 42% from three and 88.5% from the line. HIs eFG of 69.8% ranks 4th nationally, and he's done it in every way possible: he takes just over half his shots at the rim, and is shooting 78% at the rim (a mark, I should add, just shy of what Anthony Davis shot last year at the rim). He's shooting 57% on two point jumpers, and as previously mentioned 42% from three. Releford is also creating his shot: of his two point jumpers, just 12% of them are assisted on. Only Elijah Johnson has had fewer than half of his two point jumpers assisted on this season.
Perhaps most impressive about Releford is that he does all of this while still being the team's, and perhaps the nation's, premier perimeter defender. In Kansas's last game he (along with other people of course) only allowed Brady Heslip to attempt one three. In the Ohio State game, Releford helped hold DeShaun Thomas to 1-4 shooting from two. Last year he dominated William Buford in Allen Fieldhouse and also Harrison Barnes in the Elite 8. He can chase guys around screens, defend smaller ball handlers, and also body up bigger wings. He allows Bill Self to use multiple looks on defense, and because he can score from anywhere he can function as a spot up shooter, a penetrator, or a post feeder (more on this later when I can do video posts again).
Releford also passes well (15% assist rate) and is second on the team in free throw shooting, which, combined with his Senior leadership, makes him the ideal late game player. He's not a high usage guy because he doesn't need to be, but at 134.1 he is on pace to have the second highest offensive rating of the Bill Self era (Tyrel Reed had a 136.2 in 2010, but he rarely played and rarely shot).
With his ability to finish in traffic and shoot the three, as well as guard almost any opposing perimeter player, he should get at least cursory looks from the NBA, but at the very least has positioned himself to make a lot of money in Europe.