With the DeAndre Daniels saga finally drawing to a close the Kansas Jayhawk basketball team seems to finally be settling in to their 2011-2012 look and things aren't half bad. What we know about Kansas is that Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor will likely be handed the keys. Going back to Sherron Collins and then this year with the Morris twins, Bill Self tends to reward those that have been in the program and proved themselves. Taylor and Robinson have done that and the two talented upperclassman will be expected to lead the Kansas basketball team.
After that the perception by some on the outside seems to be that this is a team that is thin on talent. Simply put, that's just not the case. Elijah Johnson is the first player that stands out as someone who could step in and make an impact. The junior to be slowly broke out of his shell late in the 2010-2011 season and with an unmatched level of athleticism he could provide a huge lift to the Jayhawk backcourt.
Next in line in the frontcourt seems to be Jeff Withey. Withey was a highly recruited seven footer that initially signed with Arizona out of high school before transferring to Kansas following turnover with the Arizona staff. While there seems to be some hesitancy among the fanbase he's a player that hasn't ever been given the opportunity to show what he can do because of the depth at the position. Obviously if he was a super talent he would have found the court, but that doesn't mean he can't be a late bloomer that develops.
Another player that will likely play a major role is junior shooting guard Travis Releford. Even though he's listed as a shooting guard Releford probably qualifies more in the small forward slot and can even shift down to play an undersized power forward. Releford strength in his limited action has been his defense and that is certainly going to be a focus with next year's team as the scoring options are less clear than they have been over the past several seasons.
Throw in newcomers Ben McLemore, Naadir Tharpe, Braedon Anderson and Jamari Traylor along with veteran walk-ons Connor Teahan and Justin Wesley and the Jayhawks have a team that has the makeup to compete in a down Big 12.
Bill Self holds a series of camps in the summer time and during those camps Jayhawk fans are given a glimpse of the future and the past during a series of alumni and current player scrimmages. One of those scrimmages took place this week. Elijah Johnson, Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson all looked the part. Jeff Withey appears to be getting more comfortable as does Travis Releford and just a week after arriving on campus both Tharpe and McLemore showed glimpses of their potential.
It's not the most glamorous Bill Self Kansas team, but then again Kansas fans have been waiting for and anticipating a rebuild since his arrival. It's never happened unless you count the 2008-2009 year a rebuild, and that was a year where Kansas won the Big 12 as usual and made a run to the sweet 16 before losing to Michigan State.
It's a bit of a curse for Bill Self and the Jayhawks. Expectations are always through the roof and it's fueled by the fact that Kansas typically delivers. That doesn't mean you are consistently winning national championships, but Kansas is continually in the conversation and without question the class of the Big 12. A big reason for that seems to be that those players and coaches that are a part of the program never seem to lower the expectation they have for themselves. 2011-2012 might not be a smooth ride, but Self has the pieces in place and it could end up being one of those more enjoyable seasons where fans get to watch a Kansas basketball team take shape throughout the course of a season right in front of their eyes.