All in all that was pretty easy. The Kansas Jayhawk basketball squad got a chance to get out and go up against someone besides themselves for a change and while it may have actually been less strenuous than a practice scrimmage at least the fans got to see this one.
Now I have to preface this with the fact that I watched this via a web feed that made individual players somewhat difficult to decipher, but nonetheless we got to see a little bit of what everyone might have to offer this team in the 2009-2010 season.
So this certainly isn't going to have any earth shattering analysis but I did have a few quick thoughts on the game, the team, Bill Self and our newcomers. Please, anyone else who caught the action feel free to jump in with comments.
First off Sherron Collins. I think this year is going to be a great experience for Sherron. Statistically he may not have the same year as last, but I think the key word here is efficiency. Last season it was no secret that Sherron was going to have to play a lot, get a high number of touches and he certainly couldn't be bashful about making plays.
With the improvements around him and the increased depth Sherron won't be forced to play as many minutes all season long. Certainly later in the year when it matters you'd expect he'll see major playing time but it will be nice to save his legs a little bit throughout the season.
Sherron will also be able to show a little more discretion in his shot selection which will likely mean a high level of production without having to demand such a high percentage of the teams overall offensive possessions. Plain and simple there are other guys around him now. Sherron can truly take the shots and make the plays that make sense and not feel like he has to force things just to get things going. Last night 6-11 from the field, 3-6 from the 3 point line and 19 points.
Next up is Cole. It may be hard to remember but we harped and complained about Cole's post awareness and lack of offensive post moves last season as he sometimes looked lost when double teamed or facing stiff competition down low. Now clearly Fort Hays State doesn't present that challenge but Cole did show a few new moves in his repertoire and appeared much more decisive in whatever move he made. Like Sherron I think Cole is going to be much more efficient and a major load to deal with underneath the basket. 13 points, 13 rebounds and 1 induced lane violation.
The Morris twins as a duo have clearly bulked up and while there is still improvement to be made there were positives to be drawn from their game last night as well. First off a combined 1 turnover between the two of them is a great thing too see to go along with only 5 fouls between the duo. Last year this time those two numbers would have likely been closer to 10 turnovers and 10 fouls so it would appear the basketball IQ might be catching up to the college game a bit. I also felt like they were more aggressive around the basket and while finishing at the rim still needs work the Morris' line wraps up at a solid 22 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 blocks. Not sure why but I will forever present these two as one stat line.
Tyrel and Tyshawn are the other returning guards that made their way onto the court last night with Tyrel starting and Tyshawn off the bench. It's pretty clear that as the season goes on Tyrel will likely be a key role player while Tyshawn could be a pretty key player in general. Reed was efficient 3-5 from the field 1-2 from the 3 point line for 7 points. At times his defense is still a concern but I'm all for bringing back the patented Tyrel Reed 3 pointer at the buzzer to end the first half.
As far as Tyshawn, he was dropped out of the starting lineup, but he'll be a factor and may find his way back in. Tyshawn is fast, he scores, he get's to the line and his decision making looks improved over last season. It's early yes, but 15 points including 7-8 from the free throw line and leading the team with 5 assists in 21 minutes of play is pretty efficient for a 6th man off the bench.
Lastly there was the freshman trio of Xavier Henry, Thomas Robinson and Elijah Johnson. These three bring some pretty unique things to the team and I don't see any way all three don't make an impact.
Xavier is fluid, he doesn't jump out at me for his athleticism or speed but he's clearly very strong and has a great stroke from outside. His strength and physical play will get him to the line. Another positive is Xavier appears very confident in his outside shot so I don't expect him to be bashful to take it when it's available. 14 points on 3-7 shooting, 2-4 from the 3pt line and 6-8 from the charity stripe. If there was one area I maybe expected more it was in rebounding where Xavier only had one on the defensive end. Still a solid first outing for one of the more hyped freshman in Kansas history.
Thomas Robinson, much like Henry, is already a physical presence as a true freshman. All the things we've heard about his motor appear to be true. His first moment in the game resulted in an offensive rebound and put back on a missed free throw. His rebounding was solid, has a nice stroke from the free throw line which is good for a big man and another area that impressed me was his passing which appeared rather creative for a freshman big man. Sure he fouled out, but isn't that what freshman big men do under Bill Self? 6 points, 7 rebounds and 3 rather nice assists for TRob.
Last one on the list is Elijah Johnson, who was often mistaken for Tyshawn Taylor due to the number switch this year. Johnson stood out for his speed and his athleticism. One breakaway dunk, one authoritative throw down on an alley-oop and a nice split of two defenders on a fast break for a layup. 9 points for EJ and while Kansas' deep bench at the guard spot may force a redshirt, EJ certainly showed he might be able to contribute immediately if needed.
As a team it's certainly difficult to get up for these games. However watching it, it's impossible not to see the passion Bill Self has and his constant quest to motivate his players. Defense is clearly where he wants this team to improve and they responded after the half with a pretty solid stretch of keeping FHSU scoreless.
This team can score in bunches and there is no shortage of weapons, but you get the feeling that Coach Self already knows that if he can get them playing a championship caliber defense they will be VERY difficult to stop. Long way to go, long season but it's hard not to like the preview given last night.