College basketball season is upon us. Dreams of cutting down the nets in March are dancing around the heads of hundreds of college basketball players. Many programs have started their official seasons with midnight madness events, signifying the official day the NCAA allows teams to start organized practice.
The Kansas Jayhawks held their Late Night in the Phog, and are eyeing their first game of the season against Emporia State on October 30.
The team may look a little different from last year as far as the starters go, which should be no surprise in this day and age where players leave early for the NBA. Returning only one starter, last season the Jayhawks went 32-7 overall and 16-2 in the Big 12 Conference race, winning their school-record eighth-straight Big 12 regular-season title, 12th overall Big 12 championship and NCAA-leading 55th conference regular-season crown. Kansas advanced to its 14th Final Four and ninth NCAA Tournament title game in 2011-12.
For the 2012-2013 season, three seniors comprise the returning starters in guards Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford, and center Jeff Withey. Johnson is KU’s leading returning scorer averaging 10.2 points per game in 2011-12, while Releford scored 8.5 points per contest and averaged 4.2 rebounds per outing. Last season, Withey, the 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, broke the Kansas and Big 12 Conference single-season blocked shots record with 140 blocks, including an NCAA Tournament-record 31 blocked shots in six games. Withey averaged 9.3 points per game and his 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 blocked shots per contest make him the returning stat leader in those categories. Other KU regulars from last year include senior forward Kevin Young (3.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg) and junior forward Justin Wesley (1.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg).
Like death and taxes, bringing new talent on to the team is inevitable. Kansas has nine freshmen on its roster this season with two redshirt freshmen that were NCAA partial qualifiers, Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor. Five of the other seven freshmen on the roster are on scholarship: guards Rio Adams and Andrew White III and forwards Perry Ellis, Landen Lucas and Zach Peters. Adding depth at the guard position are invited freshmen walk-on guards Evan Manning and Tyler Self. Manning and Self have lived basketball all their lives as their fathers are current, or previous head coaches.
Bill Self is no stranger to reloading and returning to winning ways from decimated teams from graduation and NBA draft. As mentioned before, the 2011-2012 season saw only one returning starter and ended up playing for a national title. Head coach Bill Self enters his 10th season at KU with a 269-53 record for an 83.5 winning percentage.
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