Late on Sunday night, Bill Self announced that his starting back court of Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson will be suspended for both of the team’s exhibition games.
“Tyshawn and Elijah have both been terrific since school began in August,” Self said in a statement. “They’ve not only performed well, they have been very responsible and disciplined the first few months of the school year. But during the offseason they violated a rule that I told them, because of some past experiences, their punishment was going to be severe and I was going to hold them out of the two exhibition games. They have been aware of this for several months and also are disappointed but have had very positive attitudes about it.”
Its easy to write this off as a non-issue.
The rules violation happened in the summer and Taylor and Johnson have been well-behaved since then. They are also only going to miss exhibitions. If the suspension is for games that don’t count, is it really a suspension at all?
Its also not that simple. Kansas is an inexperienced team this season. They lost a lot of players that played a lot of minutes over the past two or three years. A lot of players — Taylor and Johnson included — are going to be adapting to playing new roles this season. That’s the benefit of the exhibitions. It affords an opportunity to practice your offensive and defensive sets against an opponent that isn’t simply wearing their practice jersey on the opposite color. That’s a valuable experience for anyone, let alone a team with so many new pieces that will be facing off with Kentucky just a week after the second of the two exhibitions.
There’s a bigger issue here as well. Taylor, and to a lesser extent Johnson, are supposed to be the veteran leaders for Kansas this year. Both were suspended from the team last season, however, and Taylor also played a large role in inciting the brawl with the Jayhawk football team.
And now they have been suspended during an important time for a rebuilding Kansas team. Is that the kind of maturity you want your veteran leaders and starting back court to show? Can Bill Self truly rely upon these two players when both of them have been suspended multiple times from the team?
Kansas is not a deep team this season. With Thomas Robinson’s knee injury, one sprained ankle in Monday’s practice means they will be starting a walk-on in their exhibition on Tuesday. Taylor and Johnson are critical to Kansas having a shot at winning the Big 12 title.
If you’re a Kansas fan, is that something that makes you comfortable?
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.