I’m not sure there is a coach in the country that is better at developing players in his program than Bill Self at Kansas.
Over the years, the best players that have come through Lawrence during his tenure have been moderately recruited — i.e. somewhere around the top 40 or top 50 of most lists — and have spent two or three years on campus, slowly-but-surely getting better before heading off to the NBA Draft’s first round.
Think Thomas Robinson and the Morris twins, Cole Aldrich and Jeff Withey. Sherron Collins was a five-star recruit, but it took him a few years to be more than a bench player. Even Ben McLemore belongs in that conversation, as Kansas and McLemore used his redshirt season turned him from another top 50 kid into a top three pick in the NBA Draft.
In fact, Self does more with redshirts than just about anyone.
And that is what may end up being one of the most important aspects of Andrew Wiggins’ decision to attend Kansas.
Obviously, bringing in a talent like Wiggins — not to mention a transfer like Tarik Black — to bolster an already rock-solid recruiting class is enough to make the Jayhawks a national title contender. But look down the road here. Wiggins is going to be on campus for a year, just like Black. Five-star recruits Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid may not make it that much longer. So while Wiggins’ presence makes a young-but-talented Kansas roster that much more crowded, it also creates a situation where a couple of kids aren’t needed this season.
Take, for example, sophomore Andrew White and incoming freshman Brannen Greene. Those two are talented wings, but they are also the third and fourth wings on the Kansas roster this season. How much playing time are they going to get with Wiggins and Selden starting? Is it worth to have one — or both? — of them take a redshirt to develop the rest of their game?
What about Jamari Traylor? He’s a freak of an athlete, but he’s, at best, the fourth big man on the Jayhawk roster, behind Embiid, Black and Perry Ellis. He could use an extra year of development.
Remember, Travis Releford redshirted after his freshman season, and look how his career ended up panning out. I don’t think Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga is complaining about taking a redshirt in the middle of his career. Neither did Notre Dame’s Tim Abromaitis.
It’s weird how quickly things can change for college basketball coaches.
Earlier this month, Self was wondering whether or not he would have a real chance at extending his Big 12 title streak. Now, he’s has to figure out a way to plan for the future while Kansas makes another run at a national title.
The Power of the Wiggins.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.