By now you should know that No. 2 Kansas had other heavily-sought after recruits not named Andrew Wiggins. One was starting guard Wayne Selden and the other was 7-foot center Joel Embiid.
The latter of the two had his best performance to date in KU’s 86-66 win over defending MAAC champion Iona on Tuesday night at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Embiid started the game off the bench to score 16 points, grab 13 rebounds and reject two shots, connecting on all seven shots he took.
“You guys saw just a small glimpse of how good his feet are,” Kansas head coach Bill Self told reporters after the game, via Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. “And he’s smart, and he gets it, and he’s just figuring stuff out all the time. I’m real pleased with his development, but I still think we’re not even scratching the surface of what he can become.”
The Cameroon native, playing in front of his father, showed enough glimpses to warrant a second half start over transfer senior Tarik Black. In the first half, Embiid showed terrific footwork in the lane for the smooth finish at the rim. And in the first minute of second half he rose up and caught a high alley-oop feed from Naadir Tharpe.
Kansas led 41-36 at halftime, but pulled away in the last 20 minutes behind Wiggins’ defense and Perry Ellis’ team-high 21 points. Wiggins and Ellis connected on a great play, that started with Wiggins picking off a pass at halfcourt, before surveying the court. Wiggins attacked the basket and hit Ellis with a pass, and from there the sophomore forward went up and under the hoop for the acrobatic lay-in, to stretch the Jayhawks’ lead
I get it, a double-double game against Iona may not be a big deal, but this is a big step for a kid that didn’t start playing basketball until he was 16. Embiid is full of potential, and this was a step in the right direction. What’s even better for Kansas: he’s got 10 more games to get more reps, more minutes before conference play starts. And by then he’ll have games against Florida’s frontline, Joshua Smith of Georgetown and Alex Kirk of New Mexico under his belt.