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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Sports Potpourri: Young Jayhawks finding stride

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  • Kansas basketball teams under Bill Self have improved significantly in practices during the semester break, and this season is no exception.
    KU’s current team has a realistic chance to be the best of the Self era.
    There was little to find fault with as the Jayhawks mauled, 86-60, a Kansas State team that had won 10 games in a row.
    KU has shown progress in almost every facet of the game. As a team, ball handling is probably the biggest step forward — KU had no turnovers in the first half against a talented K-State defense.
    Freshman center Joel Embiid continues to amaze with his development.
    Embiid hit two outside shots against K-State and his ball handling, defense and footwork are moving to a higher level.
    Embiid, however, has a problem.
    KU’s center has a little mean streak. That’s a good thing if it’s harnessed, but he was correctly ejected late in the K-State game for throwing an elbow to a Wildcat’s head.
    Embiid is a pleasant, easy going young man off the court, but he’s becoming a fierce competitor during games. That’s positive, but it must be controlled aggressiveness.
    Rival teams are now aware of Embiid’s proclivity to lose his temper and start mixing it up with opposing players. They are going to start baiting him.
    Embiid needs to continue to play aggressively, but he has to stop letting it get personal, or he’ll have the officials watching every move he makes.
    If Embiid were a young hot dog with a huge ego, this would be a major problem, but that’s not the case. He’s a pleasant young man who is just finding his way.
    Embiid can nip this in the bud if he listens to Self and learns to control his emotions during games.
    After the game, Self said, “Regardless of what took place prior, if there was anything, you have to be tough enough to think, ‘next play,’ regardless of the situation. It’s frustrating to me that it would happen, even if it was a situation where it was retaliatory, and I have no idea if it was.”
    Shooting guard Wayne Selden has made the most vivid improvement during the break. He had 24 points against Oklahoma and 20 in the K-State game. His confidence is growing and Selden’s outside shooting has been stellar.
    Perry Ellis is also coming on, just like the rest of the team. Ellis has been solid in most of KU’s games and his overall game keeps getting better.
    Andrew Wiggins is settling in, too. His 3-point shooting is becoming more consistent, and when Wiggins takes his time and gets set, he’s an excellent outside shooter. His drives to the basket, rebounding, free throw percentage and defense continue to improve.
    Page 2 of 2 - Freshman guard Conner Frankamp, from Wichita, is going to push for more playing time. Frankamp’s ball handling is unspectacular but steady, and he’s hit his outside shots in the last two games.
    Frankamp is going to be one of the finest 3-point shooters Self has had at KU, and he might become the best.
    Self’s bench has also moved forward. Center Tarik Black and power forward Jamari Traylor have given KU valuable minutes coming off the bench. And, Andrew White and Brannen Green could still develop into important rotation players.
    Kansas has a chance to take an early stranglehold on first place. After the Cyclones, KU plays Oklahoma State on Saturday and Baylor on Monday in Allen Fieldhouse.
    Following KU’s win in Ames, the Jayhawks are in a position to take down OK State and Baylor and move to 5-0 in the Big 12. If that happens, KU will be hard to catch.
    After coming back from an 18-point halftime deficit, Wichita State’s basketball team defeated Missouri State, 72-69, on Saturday. The 17-0 Shockers are one of only five teams that remain undefeated, and they could go through the regular season without a loss.
    Coach Gregg Marshall has the two ingredients a successful, big-time coach needs: He is an excellent recruiter and a skilled coach on the floor. Wichita State is gaining invaluable national publicity with its winning ways.
    Kansas State’s basketball coach, Bruce Weber, has been unjustifiably criticized for his recruiting.
    Some of the critics have based their negativity on Weber’s recruiting history at Illinois, which wasn’t successful. But, his freshman class at KSU is outstanding. He needs two or three inside players, but his first class is a success.
    K-State will be competitive in Big 12 play and Weber looks to be an excellent fit for the Wildcats.

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