After two years of seemingly wandering around aimlessly in the darkness, the light has come on for Kansas’ third-year player Wayne Selden Jr.
Selden originally was regarded as the crowned jewel of the Jayhawks’ recruiting class a couple of years ago before coach Bill Self moved late to sign Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.
All three were thought to be OADs (one and dones). Wiggins and Embiid took the money and ran after their one-year apprencticeship, with Wiggins being the NBA’s Rookie of the Year while it’s been a disaster for Embiid, who hurt his foot and never played a game. His career could be in jeopardy as there are reports he may not be ready for this season.
Selden, meanwhile, played in their shadows as a freshman. He showed flashes, but a lack of consistency led to his return for his sophomore year to improve his stock for the 2015 draft.
With Wiggins and Embiid out of the picture, Selden figured to take over. But it was another disappointing season, as he lacked confidence and maddeningly alternated good games with bad. There were games he would play 30 minutes and make little contribution, while other times he would get 20 and look like the best player on the court.
At 6-5 and 230 sculpted pounds, Selden has the NBA look. But he hasn’t displayed the explosiveness that would separate himself from other players.
However, all of that may be changing. Selden and his KU teammates, along with a couple of fill-ins, are competing for Team USA in the World University Games in South Korea and Selden has emerged, leading the tournament in scoring so far. Most of the teams KU has played had more experienced players who are accustomed to the rough-and-tumble international style of play.
Selden has relished the physicality. He has been slashing to the rim, while also displaying improved marksmanship in his 3-point shooting. He’s probably never going to be prolific from long distance, but is getting to the point he has to be respected.
This Korea experience should be a boon for the Jayhawks. While they don’t have their full team — they’re missing four players — they are getting valuable court time together in anticipation for a potential Final Four run. A lack of experience has held the team back the last two years, but now you’ve got a team dominated by upperclassmen, with a sprinkling of younger players. They are going to be far ahead of the curve when practices roll around in October.
Selden, Perry Ellis, Frank Mason III and Jamari Traylor give KU a quartet of players who have at least three years together. Hunter Mickelson also is a senior and he’s improved by leaps and bounds, sending Landen Lucas back into the shadows as maybe the odd-man out even though this will be his fourth year in the program.
Freshmen Carlton Bragg and LeGerald Vick bring raw athleticism to the table and strengthen the bench.
When you add in Brannen Greene (recovering from hip surgery), Devonte Graham (bad quad), Svi Mykhailiuk (who is going to be a sleeper in my opinion) and heralded freshman Cheick Diallo (the latter two couldn’t play in Korea because they’re not from the U.S.), it’s no wonder KU fans are going to be watering their mouths at the possibilities this season. They’re certainly hungry for a Final Four because the 2008 national championship season is becoming dimmer and dimmer in the rear-view mirror.