Bill Self has a problem a lot of major college basketball coaches would like to have: That is, how to find playing time for a roster loaded with 14 highly capable scholarship players.
“The challenge to me,” Self, Kansas’ 19th-year coach said at Wednesday’s Big 12 men’s basketball Media Day at T-Mobile Center, “is how do you get from 14 (scholarship players) to 10 because 1 through 14, we’ve probably never had a team with as many guys that are pretty similar to the other guys.
“It will be harder to get to 10 (than past years). I’m talking about 10 guys having a chance to play double-figure minutes.”
While excited about the chances of his Jayhawks to live up to their current No. 3 national ranking (by the AP) and status as favorite to win the league (by the conference coaches), he faces the task of finding minutes for a rotation of perhaps 10 players.
“I like our team. I think we’ve added some experience. We’ve added some athleticism. Hopefully some shooting,” he stated, noting the team has a “high ceiling.”
Small forward Ochai Agbaji who attended Media Day with fellow senior David McCormack, said KU’s deep squad could be “great.”
McCormack used the word “fantastic” to describe the 2021-22 Jayhawks.
As far as which 10 players could garner the most of the minutes for a projected Final Four contender, Self said he isn’t sure. Asked if he “liked” having “so many bodies,” he said simply, “No.”
“We’ve got too many bodies,” Self said, noting “we didn’t anticipate the COVID relief year (that allowed “super seniors” to stay in college basketball another year such as Mitch Lightfoot, Remy Martin, Cam Martin and Jalen Coleman-Lands). We anticipated losing some players to the (NBA) Draft. We didn’t anticipate both (Agbaji, McCormack) guys coming back. It’s a good problem to have, but the reality is keeping 13 happy is more difficult than keeping 10 happy,” he added noting, “we’ve got to figure out a way to massage it (roster).”
That would mean possibly redshirting one or more players. Self said he doesn’t have anybody in mind yet, though he did note that freshman guard Kyle Cuffe Jr., may not be ready to contribute at this level since he is coming off an injury and actually graduated a year early from his natural high school class.
Self did discuss some individual players Wednesday.
Of Big 12 preseason player of the year Remy Martin, an Arizona State transfer, Self said: “We’d like Remy to be our energy, our energizer bunny rabbit, a guy our fans love to watch and support. I’d probably like for him to be less of a risk taker, hit more singles and doubles than home runs.”
Of Coleman-Lands, Self said, “he’s the best shooter on the team..”
Self said sophomore point guard Dajuan Harris and junior small forward Christian Braun have “made the biggest jumps,” in terms of improvement from one season to the next.
Of freshman forward KJ Adams, Self said: “He’s a good basketball player. He doesn’t have to score to dominate a possession. Marcus Garrett was like that. KJ won’t score the ball shooting; he may score the ball getting it off the boards.”
Of senior big man McCormack, Self said: “David is a really good player. He can do some things that are hard to guard.”
Self said though super senior forward Cam Martin figures to get minutes, he probably will not play at the same time as McCormack.
But Self did say he envisions guards Remy Martin and Harris on the court at the same time.
“As of now, Zach (Clemence, freshman forward) is pretty good when we play small as a backup five,” Self said of frosh forward Clemence.
He said freshman guard Bobby Pettiford “will be the next guard at Kansas (in the mold of standouts Devon Dotson, Frank Mason, Devonté Graham).”
And he lauded sophomore combo guard Joseph Yesufu for perhaps being “the best on the ball, not off the ball (defender) we have.”
Self said he envisioned “Jalen (Wilson), Christian (Braun) and Ochai” as perimeter players who “all potentially could be draft picks this year and I’d want it for all of them.”
While reiterating the Jayhawks “had a high ceiling” he noted that “we haven’t played a game yet. I love our roster. I’m not downplaying that at all, but you don’t have a roster that people are looking at top 10 picks, lottery picks, things like that. We have a bunch of guys that are good basketball players. What we haven’t seen yet is some separation. It always occurs, but it hasn’t yet.”