Darrell Arthur might be considered Bill Self's most successful big man in the NBA at the moment. Three years into the league Arthur finds himself playing a key role for a playoff team in the Memphis Grizzlies.
Next on our list of Bill Self era Kansas bigs that have made their way to the NBA is a player that very nearly ended up elsewhere in the Big 12 before a last minute dream led him to Kansas. As the story goes Dallas forward Darrell Arthur headed to sleep the night before making his college decision known and fully expected to select Scott Drew and the Baylor Bears. Sometime between his head hitting the pillow and sun up, Arthur had a dream and pictured himself in a Kansas jersey playing in Allen Fieldhouse.
Arthur was another top level talent landed by Self early on during his Kansas tenure. Shady as he would become known was the 16th ranked player on a national level and the 3rd ranked power forward behind Brandon Wright and Brook Lopez. Arthur was viewed as a key addition along with Sherron Collins and both would play an instrumental role in ultimately bringing the National title back to Lawrence.
For Arthur it was a journey, like many college journey's that began with huge expectations. Many believed Arthur could be a one year player at Kansas before heading to the NBA and his upside and more natural fit at power forward made him a very attractive candidate to do so. But as with any freshman player joining the Bill Self program, it's not a given. Self does turn freshman loose and gives them the opportunity to play, but it's going to be a situation where defense and fundamentals are important. If a player lacks in either department the trust that Bill Self values at a premium can often diminish.
For Arthur it was a matter of walking into a talented and developing group of bigs that were already in their junior seasons. Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson were both showing improvement and Julian Wright was entering his last year. Arthur managed just shy of 20 minutes per contest while averaging slightly less than 10 points and 5 rebounds per game. Things weren't always smooth; Arthur sometimes struggled on the defensive end and found himself battling foul trouble on a fairly regular basis.
Still that first year at Kansas and his second would provide Arthur the opportunity to face top level talent day in and day out and learn on the job with less of the burden on his shoulders. Fast forward to his sophomore year and Arthur stepped into that role of a consistent starter and a major contributor. Interestingly enough Arthur wasn't seeing a substantial increase in minutes, although he did bump up to 25 per game, what he did see was a nice bump in his efficiency and overall understanding of the game. Arthur would finish the year averaging 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds while playing a key role in a Kansas National title.
While it wasn't a foregone conclusion that Arthur would enter the draft following the '07-'08 season it certainly made sense. Much like the situation with Julian Wright a year before, Self saw a player of his projected as a lottery pick in the draft and a player that had developed to a level where he was prepared to make that jump. Despite a late slide due to some draft day rumors, Arthur was drafted 27th by the New Orleans Hornets before eventually finding himself traded to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Despite the lower than expected draft position and a fairly slow start both from a personal standpoint and as a team, Arthur has developed into one of the more successful Kansas big men in the league today. During last seasons playoff run by the Grizzlies, Arthur averaged nearly 10 points and 5 rebounds while playing 20 minutes per contest. The season represented a bit of a coming out party for Arthur and his production has firmly established him as a key player of the Memphis bench and it's a bench that needed players like Arthur to progress as an organization.
It's another example of a Kansas Jayhawk who has followed the path from high school recruit, to productive college player and on to a career in the NBA. The story is really just beginning for Arthur as he looks to hit his stride going forward, but without question the time at Kansas working with Danny Manning, Bill Self and others has helped lay a foundation for success.