5 thoughts on Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball’s rotation, should it really go 10-deep consistently
LAWRENCE — Bill Self didn’t anticipate having as many players on his roster as he does.
Kansas’ head men’s basketball coach didn’t see it coming, that players would be afforded an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic. There were some who declared for the NBA draft who decided to return. It’s led to a roster that’s 18-strong, with 14 scholarship players.
But while Self doesn’t like how much the Jayhawks’ numbers have ballooned, he didn’t deny that it’s a good problem to have. He will have to “massage” the situation, as he put it, because it’d be harder to keep that many more happy. But he has options.
Self foresees the possibility of having a 10-man rotation, and to Self finding 10 guys isn’t the challenge.
“To me, the challenge is, how do you get from 14 to 10?” said Self, who thinks a rotation that large would allow the Jayhawks to play with more pace. “Because … one through 14, we probably never had a team with as many guys that are pretty similar to the other guys. And trying to determine who’s going to actually play will be the challenge. So, there could be redshirts, things like that. We don’t know that yet.
"But I think it will be a challenge playing 10. But if we can play as fast as I’d like to play, I don’t think it will be something that will be near as challenging as what maybe some other people think.”
Senior guard Ochai Agbaji and senior forward David McCormack, members of the preseason All-Big 12 Conference team, have confidence in Kansas being able to go 10-deep. If everyone’s being effective in the time they have on the floor, McCormack thinks there isn’t any reason the Jayhawks can’t have a chance in every game.
It’d just take everyone approaching the playing time they’d receive with the right mindset.
Self doesn’t know exactly how things will look right now. At the moment, his best team would have Agbaji, junior guard Christian Braun and redshirt sophomore forward Jalen Wilson in the game together. In the future, Self envisions their best team at least part of the time having super senior guard Remy Martin, sophomore guard Joseph Yesufu, redshirt sophomore guard Dajuan Harris Jr. and freshman guard Bobby Pettiford on the floor at the same time.
Here are five things to consider as the rotation is determined:
How much Cam Martin plays with David McCormack
At one point, Self envisioned McCormack and super senior forward Cam Martin playing together. But the more time’s gone on, it seems Self’s mindset has shifted and he doesn’t know if that’ll happen very much.
Defensively, Self doesn’t know if it would play out the way they’d like it to. He wonders if, in the big scheme of things, the way Kansas guards is more important than having Martin and McCormack on the floor together offensively. As of the Big 12’s tipoff event for men’s basketball this week, Self is siding with the defensive side of things.
So, Martin is currently the backup at the 5-spot. Maybe Self plays McCormack 25 minutes and Martin 15 minutes, or McCormack 28 minutes and Martin 12 minutes. There’s also freshman forward Zach Clemence to consider, as well as freshman forward KJ Adams Jr. if Self wants to play a smaller lineup.
“In either sense we’ll have a post presence, whether it’s him or I,” said McCormack, who thinks it’ll be great playing with Martin. “We’ll have a big that can be out and shoot some, whether it’s him or I. So, I think it’s going to be great in either position. We’re just compatible.”
McCormack values Martin’s versatility and has been working on his own shot to be more versatile offensively as well. It’s a breath of fresh air for McCormack, comparatively to last season, having someone like Martin who can sub in for him to the effect he doesn’t have to worry as much about foul trouble.
Who Bill Self turns to in order to inject some energy into the game
Self considers former Kansas athlete Kevin Young the perfect example of someone who can be inserted into a game to inject some energy into it. Who’s that on this year’s team? According to Self, it’s his preseason Big 12 player of the year and preseason All-Big 12 team member — Martin.
Self said Martin likes attention, and will play to the fans like he’s “a little bit of an actor” in a way that’s positive. Self said Martin is animated in the way he plays, and will show his personality on the court more so than someone like Agbaji or Braun. Self noticed that in Martin from the times Martin, who transferred in from Arizona State, played against Kansas.
“He beat us twice,” Self said. “I mean, he came to the Fieldhouse and beat us. So, I saw it when he was a freshman and a sophomore.”
How often Remy Martin and Dajuan Harris Jr. are on the floor together
Self said Harris and Braun are the two returning talents who made the biggest jumps from last season. And the improvements Harris has made could lead him to an increased role that also sees him play a lot alongside Martin. Self thinks the two could play really well together.
“When he and (Harris) play together, I think that gives Remy more of a chance to be a guy that’ll score more points,” Self said. “But I like them playing together. I do. We practice that quite a bit.”
Both McCormack and Agbaji praised what Harris brings to the game as a defender. McCormack highlighted Harris’ intelligence, and how Harris can bait an offensive player into a move in order to get a steal. Agbaji pointed out that Harris and former Kansas star Marcus Garrett were close last season, and that Harris has learned from Garrett’s defensive prowess.
If KJ Adams Jr. continues to embrace his role
Self isn’t saying Adams is Garrett, he made that clear, but there are similarities between the two offensively. Garrett wasn’t a lethal shooter when he was younger, but could get teammates shots. And to Self, Adams is comparable in that way. Adams doesn’t have to score to dominate a possession — a trait in a player Self said he hasn’t had often — and could get his points off of offensive rebounds.
Agbaji has acted as a mentor for Adams, and commended Adams for being mature enough to embrace his role. In a way echoing what Self said, Agbaji said it doesn’t matter if Adams scores or not because they’re not looking for him to score. They want him to facilitate for teammates and play unselfishly.
That could be how Adams sees significant minutes in his first season at Kansas.
How much Jalen Coleman-Lands improves defensively
Self didn’t hesitate to call super senior guard Jalen Coleman-Lands, an Iowa State transfer, the best shooter on the team. And he thinks the team would agree with him. But as Self talked about Coleman-Lands, the discussion turned to Coleman-Lands’ defense.
Self said the role Coleman-Lands has will be determined by how well Coleman-Lands guards. That’s what the Jayhawks need.
“His amount of minutes played will probably be determined by how he plays when he doesn’t have the ball as much as anything,” Self said. “So, he’s gaining. He’s trying hard. So, I love the kid.”
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.