Despite intense turnover, Kansas basketball likely to maintain a veteran roster | Tale of the Tait

Despite intense turnover, Kansas basketball likely to maintain a veteran roster | Tale of the Tait


Kansas head coach Bill Self disputes a call with a couple of officials during the first half on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse.
by Nick Krug

About a month ago, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self told me he and his coaching staff were still in search of one more good guard who could shoot.

In the time between then and now, the Jayhawks landed commitments from two players who fit that description — Arizona State transfer Remy Martin and Iowa State transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands.

Both players are double-digit scorers with the 3-point shot in their arsenal, and both bring added versatility and options to the KU roster.

Last week, paperwork for both players arrived on KU’s campus, making their additions official.

Martin, of course, is still exploring his NBA draft status. And, like 2020-21 starters Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson, he has until July 7 to decide whether to stay in the draft or return to Kansas.

Although those unknowns do exist, the bulk of the spots are set in stone, and Self likes what he sees.

“It’s a good class,” he recently told the Journal-World. “We were able to hopefully address some things that we were missing. Hopefully we got a little more athletic and certainly I think we’ve gotten bigger.”

In all, nine new faces will be a part of the Kansas basketball family this season, with four coming via transfer, four from the prep ranks and one more prep player planning to walk on.

That group will join returners Christian Braun, Dajuan Harris, David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot, along with walk-ons Chris Teahan and Michael Jankovich, to form what figures to be a completely different looking Kansas team.

Despite all of that newness, most national analysts believe it’s a group that can contend for a national title. KU is an offseason top five pick by almost every major outlet and many of them moved KU from the 8-10 range into the top five after the news of Martin’s commitment.

In Self’s eyes, the beauty of this remade roster is that it remains rooted in experience.

“Granted, in a perfect world, we’d be better off having continuity,” he said. “But hopefully we’ll have three or four guys who either started this past year or played substantial minutes.”

With the definite return of Braun and McCormack, that seems all but certain. Both players started every game they played in last season — all 28 for Braun and 27 for McCormack — and as long as at least one of Agbaji or Wilson returns, the Jayhawks will welcome back another player who played a huge role last season. Maybe two more.

Add to that the five years worth of experience possessed by Lightfoot and the 15 minutes per game played by Harris last season — a number that is expected to go up a little this season — and it’s clear that KU’s new-look roster will still have plenty of players who have been around the block a time or two under Self.

“If we were to get Och and Jalen back, you’re looking at a very veteran squad, even though you don’t have many (veterans) because of what those guys have been able to do and accomplish in their time here,” Self said.

Those veterans, and some of the older transfers, will not be the only players who have a role in how the 2021-22 season plays out.

Self is also high on his four incoming freshmen — guards Bobby Pettiford and Kyle Cuffe Jr., wing KJ Adams and stretch 4 Zach Clemence.

“It’s not going to be Joel (Embiid) and Wiggs (Andrew Wiggins) and Wayne (Selden) and Frank (Mason), but we think we got four good freshmen that, over time, will turn out to be really good players at Kansas,” Self said. “So I’m excited about that.”

While Agbaji, Martin and Wilson continue to prepare for the upcoming workouts and pre-draft combine, the rest of the Jayhawks are expected to report to campus for the start of summer workouts next week.

That’s a far cry from what college teams across the country experienced last season, as the pandemic forced most players to stay home, working out on their own for nearly the entire summer in 2020.

That time, and the weeks and months ahead, figure to be valuable in getting all of these new faces up to speed on what Self expects and how Kansas plays.

“This is a bad analogy to use,” Self said. “But for this one particular year it kind of feels like a juco. It kind of feels like, you know, we’re replacing two-thirds of our team, which I know that junior colleges or prep schools have to do that year in and year out.”

As for the uncertainty surrounding the players exploring their draft prospects, Self said the plan all along was to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. That’s part of the reason they added so many new pieces and brought so much new versatility to the roster.

“We’re hopeful that they’re able to get done what they need to get done in order to make a good decision,” he said. “If the decision is to stay in the draft, we respect that. And if the decision’s to come back, we’ll be better for it and they’ll be better for it eventually, too.”