If we are talking best careers at KU, Brandon Rush has as good of an argument as anyone. He started all three of his seasons at Kansas, averaged 13ish and 6ish all three of those years, and was a versatile defender who was also an elite shooter from three. I’ve said this before, but injuries robbed him of a really good NBA career as a 3 and D guy. As it is, however, Rush played the part wonderfully at Kansas and cemented himself into KU lore with a standout performance in the 2008 Final Four against North Carolina, when he scored 25 points on 11-17 scoring, provided the world with a great photo to use as your future twitter profile picture, and prompted one of the better Final Four soundbites ever.
What stands out to me about Rush as we get further removed from that season is his maddening consistency. He averaged 13.5 points per game in 2008, and scored more than 20 just three times and fewer than 10 just eight times.
Rush won the 2008 Big 12 tournament MVP, scoring 28 points in the semifinal against Texas A&M and 19 in the title game against Texas, including going a very nice 6-9 from three.
He continued to play well in the NCAA tournament, scoring in double digits in every game and at least six rebounds in every game other than the Sweet 16 game against Villanova.
It’s tough to write about Rush’s maddeningly consistent play frankly. He’s 15th since 2008 in box plus minus among KU players. He’s 4th among KU wings or bigs since 2008 in assist rate. Among KU wings and guards since 2008 he had the highest block rate, the highest offensive rebounding rate, and the third highest defensive rebounding rate.
It was also Rush who Bill Self counted on to guard Steph Curry in the last possession of the 2008 Elite 8 game, and while Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers probably got more defensive plaudits, one could often find Rush guarding the best perimeter player on the other team in key moments.
A lot of people on this list would have been much higher or lower depending on era, but I think Rush landed right in the sweet spot. If he had come along now he would obviously still be a major weapon as a versatile defender who could handle the ball a little bit, shoot jumpers really well, and chip in on the glass and via rebounding. However, it’s hard to imagine him getting as many open jumpers these days with the emphasis on three pointers, and while he was a good ball handler, he wasn’t consistently able to get his own shot. And while he shot it more than people remember or give him credit for, he is definitely best served as a very very rich man’s ancillary part of the offense rather than a cog to run things through, which is what I think he would get shoehorned into in today’s game. While he was a good passer, he also turned it over more than he assisted, which is a bit of a black mark on his record.
Still, Rush is a huge reason why Kansas won the 2008 national title, and was one of the best and most versatile defenders in the country that season. Add in the fact he could pass, rebound, and shoot 42 percent on almost 200 threes, and you have a valuable player indeed. Some might even say a top 15 player at KU in the Bill Self era.