With basketball training camp in Kansas in full swing and late at night in Phog now less than a month away, it’s time to start looking forward to the 2022-23 college ring season.
Yes, we can do that with the hot Kansas football team still covered as well.
It’s certainly a little different for both sports to be as important as they are at this time of year, but this is clearly good news for KU.
It is also still unknown to what extent football fever will remain within the reach of Kuwait University fans.
The Jayhawks (2-0) are playing in Houston this weekend and will be back home to play Duke at 11 a.m. on September 24 before diving into conference play the rest of the way.
No matter how these games go on or how long people’s interest in Lance Leipold remains as high as it is now, college basketball season will be here before you know it. That means it’s time for the 2022-23 Jayhawks to start playing as the defending national champion in just over six weeks.
Even though many key parts of the 2022 title team are no longer on campus, there’s still plenty to like about Bill Self’s kit this season.
The 2022-23 Jayhawks have a good mix of returning players and talented newcomers, and there are at least five or six players who stand a chance of taking a big step forward while filling in bigger roles over the next season.
I met with Self that day to talk about the roster while he was in Florida enlisting and here are the five things that stood out from our conversation.
• Daguan Harris Jr. will be special
If you’ve ever paid any attention, you know Self has loved Harris from the moment he arrived on campus. But hearing him talk about his base now is something entirely new.
Not only does he still value Harris’ first-team mentality and defensive presence, but he also feels that the base has improved his game in every way imaginable and that he will enter the 2022-23 season with high expectations for himself and the team.
He can’t improve much as a defender, but I think there is a lot of room for improvement as a goalscorer and captain and it looks like we should expect to see Harris shine in those areas as well in the coming months.
It wasn’t built from the same mold as Frank Mason III or Devonte’ Graham, but Self is certainly a huge fan of Harris as he was one of these two KU greats.
• Zubi Ejiofor and Ernst Ode Jr. will play
Speaking of the two new men, Self said both Audi and Ejiofor were “ahead of their schedule” and that they would play minutes on the spot. This is very important news and it is likely due to their athletic style and approach.
They both look like players who are ready to do anything and play anywhere to help the team. They are both energetic and strong and willing to learn and train.
Udeh projects as 5 and Ejiofor are probably more than 4, but that just means there can be room for both of them to play meaningful roles. If either of them (or maybe both) could reduce their physicality and toughness to a level that the others couldn’t, their role would become even more important.
• For Kevin McCullar, it’s all about dropping hits
Self knew what McCullar could do on the defensive side when he signed him, and during our last conversation he referred to former Texans Tech excellence as “defensively advanced.”
He also knew that given McCullar’s size, experience, and versatility, including him in the squad wouldn’t be a problem. A man can play anywhere from 1 to 4 and can blend in with any style and anyone on the floor.
The biggest question about how good he has been this season is related to his ability to shoot the ball. If he could consistently drop open shots, he would have a huge 12 potential.
• KJ Adams ultimate luxury
There was a lot of talk in the summer about whether Adams was more of an inside player or a periphery player. He said then that a lot of his place to fit was related to his jump shot, and this summer Self said he fancied Adams playing on the ocean more than last season, when he scored limited minutes and often in 5.
While the distinction between Adams living on the ward or on the ward wasn’t made clearer during my last conversation with Self, there was one thing – I called self Adams no position and added “How do you get him off the field?”
For my money, you can’t. And I think Adams would have as good a chance as anyone on the list to have a real breakthrough season. And this even if it does not start.
Leading the Dog by Galen Wilson
Last but not least, I spoke to Self for a minute about Jalen Wilson, the team’s top scorer from the title team, and there’s nothing but good news out there.
Self said Wilson was “hungrier than ever” and that his versatility, attitude, and approach were remarkable. While this isn’t exactly a surprise, it’s definitely big news though.
Remember that most of the guys that Wilson came with and won a title are now gone, and it wouldn’t be crazy for him to need some time to adjust to that. However, this does not appear to be necessary.
From the moment he announced his return to school, Wilson has embraced his role as senior veteran and captain of the team and it is clear that he wants to lead this group the way Ochai Agbaji led the Jayhawks last season.
On top of that, clips from recent KU practices showed Wilson hitting the ball, and as you all know, this has been an area he has set aside to improve this season.
Wilson is staring at a big season ahead of him and seems to be putting in the work needed to make sure he delivers when things get rolling. He would be the perfect player to lead this team and it seems as if Self thinks Wilson is ready to take on the responsibility of filling that role.
After this weekend, KU will conclude its 20th training camp under Self supervision sometime next week and shortly thereafter will begin the first official practices of the 2022-23 season, which begins with late night on October 14 and an exhibition match against Pete. state on November 3.
The KU season opener is set for November 7 against Omaha at Allen Fieldhouse, and Jayhawks will face North Dakota at home on November 10 before heading to Indianapolis for the classic Champions Match with the Duke on November 15.
The conference schedule is yet to be released, but it should be released soon, most likely before the end of the month.