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Kansas Jayhawks Basketball Facing Offseason of Change

Jayhawks Basketball Heads for Another Big Season

By any account, the 2013-14 Kansas Jayhawks were one of the most prominent teams of the college basketball regular season. Kansas started two of the best 2014 NBA Draft prospects in Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, and those players led them to a Big-12 regular season championship. The Jayhawks were in the AP Top Ten for most of the year, and Wiggins was under the microscope every game after his highly publicized recruitment. The team’s postseason ended in disappointment after the excitement of the regular season, with the team bowing out with a third-round loss to tenth-seeded Stanford. 

 

Wiggins was quoted before the season even started that he was likely to leave for the NBA after his freshman season, but there was hope that the talented center Embiid would stay for one more season. The loss of both players is compacted by the transfer of point guard Naadir Tharpe, which was announced in early May. 

 

The loss of three impact players would leave most teams reeling, yet incoming freshmen should give Kansas a fighting chance. It will be on coach Bill Self to integrate that talent well and lead the team further in the postseason. 

 

Cliff Alexander was the No. 4 ranked prospect by Rivals.com for the class of 2014.  Alexander, a 6’8 power forward from Chicago, will be trying to fill big shoes in taking Wiggins’ star role on the team. Talent evaluators say he has the post skills to be a star for Kansas, and he has a pedigree of competing against top talent in Chicago. During his senior season he was seen as a regional rival of Duke’s own top 2014 recruit, Jahlil Okafor. Alexander seems like a good choice to come in and  lead the 2014-15 Jayhawks.

 

Kelly Oubre is the other top recruit that Kansas landed for 2014. The 6’7 small forward from the Findlay Prep basketball team will be counted on to give the Jayhawks a forward combination that few teams will be able to contend with. Oubre looks to be a force at both ends of the court, and was ranked the #11 overall prospect by ESPN for the 2014 class.

 

To replace the departing point guard Tharpe, the Jayhawks will bring in Devonte Graham, the 6’2 guard coming from New Hampshire’s Brewster Academy. Graham took a circuitous route to Kansas, first signing a letter of intent to Appalachian State in the fall of 2012. He asked for and was granted his release from the commitment the following year, instead spending the 2013-14 season honing his game at Brewster. At the time of his signing in early May Rivals had Graham ranked as the top prospect left unsigned. There is hope Graham will bring some much needed stability to the point guard position next year.

 

Coach Self will have a challenge next season integrating these new players. One important returning player he will have is sophomore Wayne Selden Jr, who will likely have the starting shooting guard spot. Selden was a five-star recruit coming into Kansas, but during his freshman year he was seen as a supplement to the Jayhawks’ two big stars. Selden will have an important leadership role for next year’s team and could blossom into the star he was projected to be coming into college. 

 

The 2014-15 Kansas Jayhawks should have the talent to succeed next season. For the second straight year, they will likely be one of the top teams to watch. The development of their incoming stars as well as their returning one will be key if the team wants to improve on their disappointing tournament showing, as even the most talent-laden teams have questions around them when they are in the spotlight. Kansas is just one of many in that regard.