Team preview: Kansas

Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: October 20, 2004, 5:10 PM ET
Blue Ribbon Yearbook

Editor's Note: Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, long known as the Bible of college basketball, to provide a comprehensive look at all 326 Division I teams.

COACH AND PROGRAM

Bill Self had one of the toughest jobs in America last season. Not only did he have to replace the beloved Roy Williams, who spurned his long-time school for a return to his alma mater, but Self also took the reins of the storied Jayhawk program that was coming off a three-point loss in the national championship and was minus a couple of NBA lottery picks in Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich.

"I think last season was a transition for everybody," Self said. "We switched a lot of things around."

It was evident early that there would be an adjustment period. The Jayhawks were still good, rolling out to a 15-4 start, but hardly looked the part of a team that was supposed to challenge for the national championship.

Kansas wasn't exactly in mid-season form in the season-opener against an underrated Chattanooga squad, but still took a 90-76 victory. And despite ascending to the nation's No. 1 ranking after beating Michigan State, 81-74, the next time out, there were still doubters.

A 64-58 loss to Stanford was one thing, as the Cardinal went on to hold the top spot in the rankings for most of the rest of the season. But a 75-61 loss at eventual Sweet 16 participant Nevada started the grumblings in Lawrence, and when the Jayhawks were upset by Richmond, 69-68, at Allen Fieldhouse in late January, the red flags were raised.

"How in the name of Phog Allen did a team named the Spiders snap our 52-game home winning streak over non-conference opponents," some might have said.

KU later did the unthinkable, losing three consecutive Big 12 road games. Iowa State captured a 68-61 victory in Ames on Jan. 31, and the Jayhawks were routed by Self's alma mater, Oklahoma State (80-60) and Nebraska (74-55).

But Kansas regrouped and used a strong finish (winning five of its final six regular-season games) to enter the Big 12 Tournament with 20 wins (12 in Big 12 play) for the 15th straight season and a second-place tie in the league standings.

Self's squad blasted Missouri in the opening round only to lose a hard-fought game to fellow second-place team Texas. But by then, KU's late-season surge had lifted the team to a No. 4 seeding in the St. Louis region and earned a trip to Kansas City for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

The Jayhawks didn't disappoint at Kemper Arena, breezing past Illinois-Chicago in round one and dispatching Pacific in round two.

From there, it was on to St. Louis, where Kansas entered its Sweet 16 match-up against surprising UAB, which had upset top-seed Kentucky, 76-75, to advance to the Edward Jones Dome.

KU played possibly its best game of the season against the Blazers, routing the sentimental favorites, 100-76, to return to the Elite Eight for the third consecutive season.

In the regional final against Georgia Tech, freshman J.R. Giddens drilled a three-pointer with 16.2 seconds left to send the game into overtime tied at 66. But the Yellowjackets, who eventually finished runner-up in the tournament, outscored the Jayhawks 13-5 in the extra session to end KU's bid for a third consecutive trip to the Final Four.

Though the loss was disappointing, there were many positives to take from the season and build on in the future.

"The last six weeks we got pretty good," Self said. "We may have maxed out the last six weeks, but I never felt like we played up to our potential.

"Sometimes your most challenging years are your most rewarding and this will definitely go down as one of the most rewarding years we have had," Self added. "We did fight and we did come back from some very average to poor performances -- we spun negatives into positives. I think we grew a lot as a program. When you lose two lottery picks [Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich] and you are in an overtime game trying to go to the Final Four -- that says something for your players and your program."

That also says something about their coach, whose 24 wins tied him with Dick Harp for the most wins by a first-year KU coach. Only Harp's 1956-57 team, which went to the NCAA championship game, advanced further in the NCAA Tournament.

Now, Self looks to the immediate future and sees a team mixed with experience and youth, and one that should again be capable of winning it all.

"We're very fortunate to have four returning starters who have played big games and won big games," said Self, who took his squad on a four-game preseason exhibition tour of British Columbia, Canada over Labor Day Weekend. "Our senior threesome is one that very few teams in college have.

"There is no question, I think we will be good ... as long as everything stays status quo. I think we will have a chance to be very good."

STARTERS NOT RETURNING

F-JEFF GRAVES (6-9, 6.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.6 bpg, 0.5 spg, 18.1 mpg, .622 FG, .630 FT). Graves was often in the doghouse during his two-year career at Kansas, battling former coach Roy Williams over weight problems and Self over tardiness.

There's no doubt that Graves' playing time suffered because of those distractions. However, he was a gamer who always seemed to emerge in big games down the stretch, and that's not easy to replace.

As a junior, he stepped in for an injured Wayne Simien during the NCAA Tournament and nearly led the Jayhawks to a national championship. He averaged 8.7 points and 9.7 rebounds during KU's run to the national title game, a game in which he scored a career-high 16 points and added a career-best 16 rebounds in a loss to eventual national champion Syracuse.

Last season, Graves started just 14 times, including the final eight games. During that eight-game span he was at his best, averaging 9.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and shooting 66.7 percent from the field.

C-DAVID PADGETT (6-11, 6.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.4 bpg, 0.4 spg, 19.2 mpg, .531 FG, .681 FT). Although he signed in the fall of 2002 when Roy Williams was coach, the former McDonald's All-American prep star declared that he would honor his scholarship upon Self's arrival.

Thus, many KU fans were shocked when the sophomore announced in mid-June that he was transferring to Louisville after just one season in Lawrence. He started 19 games as a freshman and had some bright moments.

Padgett blocked a team-leading 43 shots, surpassing the likes of Danny Manning and Greg Ostertag on the school's all-time freshman list, and finished 19 shy of Eric Chenowith's class record set in 1998.

While he battled a stress fracture throughout the season, Padgett still came up with some big baskets. His turnaround jumper with two seconds left beat arch-rival Missouri, 84-82, in the final game ever played at the Tigers' Hearnes Center.

However, in the Elite Eight game against eventual national runner-up Georgia Tech, Padgett was hardly a factor. He played just 15 minutes against the Yellow Jackets, scoring four points and grabbing three rebounds.

OTHERS NOT RETURNING

G-OMAR WILKES (6-4, 1.4 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 3.5 mpg, .385 FG, .308 3PT, .500 FT). The son of former UCLA and Los Angeles Lakers great Jamaal Wilkes decided to transfer to California after playing brief stints in 21 games off the bench as a freshman. He rarely saw action in conference play, and played more than six minutes only three times all season. His best game was a nine-point, five-rebound effort in nine minutes of action in KU's 78-46 win over Binghamton in late December.

F-BRYANT NASH (6-7, 1.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 0.3 bpg, 4.9 mpg, .257 FG, .000 3PT, .706 FT). After shooting 40.6 percent from the field and averaging 2.9 points and 12.0 minutes per game over 38 games as a junior reserve, many expected the athletic Nash to have a breakout senior season. But the long-armed leaper's defensive potential wasn't enough to overcome a terrible offensive slump that pushed him a few seats further down the bench. At one point, he missed 18 consecutive field-goal attempts over a span of 14 games. He finished the season making just 9-of-25 from the field, including a dismal 0-for-17 performance in Big 12 play.

F-BRETT OLSON (6-7, 0.3 ppg, 0.3 rpg, 2.3 mpg, .200 FG, .500 FT). The Academic All-Big 12 selection saw action in only nine games, playing a total of 21 minutes. He earned his lone career start on senior night against Nebraska along with fellow classmates Jeff Graves and Bryant Nash.

PROJECTED STARTERS

PG-AARON MILES (6-1, 175 lbs., SR, #11, 9.1 ppg, 7.3 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.9 spg, 33.8 mpg, .402 FG, .333 3PT, .699 FT, Jefferson HS/Portland, Ore.). Miles is poised to become the Jayhawks' all-time assists leader. The three-year starter had 738 career assists at the end of last season, and should shatter Jacque Vaughn's school record of 804. Last year, the third-team All-Big 12 pick handed out 242 assists (including seven games with 10 or more), the fifth-best total in KU single-season history. His average of 7.3 assists per game ranked third in the nation and is the top returning average in NCAA Division I.

In addition, he's a great defender, a solid scorer and a capable rebounder. He's coming off a season in which he led the team and ranked second in the Big 12 with 63 steals (including seven against Michigan State), ranked fourth on the team in scoring and fifth in rebounding. He had five double-doubles and narrowly missed a pair of triple-doubles at Texas A&M (11 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds) and against Richmond (10 points, nine assists, eight rebounds).

Miles is like an extra coach on the floor, as he enters his senior year with 108 career starts (all but senior night his freshman year) and played the most minutes of any Jayhawk last season.

But Self believes that it's important to keep him fresh.

"I would love to take the ball out of Aaron's hands and not wear him down like we did [last] year," Self said.

However, Miles' leadership abilities are so important, it's hard to take him out of the game. After all, he's been the leader of a program that has advanced to a pair of Final Fours and a trip to the Elite Eight during his three-year tenure.

Miles' pass-first, team attitude is what separates him from most others, Self says.

"I think Aaron Miles cares as much as any player I've ever coached,'' Self said. "And he's obviously a very good basketball player. He's excellent in transition, intangibles, and how much he cares."

SG-KEITH LANGFORD (6-4, 215 lbs., SR, #5, 15.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 0.6 bpg, 1.1 spg, 31.7 mpg, .479 FG, .358 3PT, .669 FT, North Crowley HS/Fort Worth, Texas). One of KU's two preseason candidates for the Wooden Award, Langford is a slasher type who has proven to be one of the best in the nation at taking the ball to the rim.

"Keith Langford is the best I've had as far as getting to the basket," Self said. "He's athletic enough to go around [bigger opponents in the paint] and he's added strength in the off-season."

While he isn't a great outside shooter, Langford has worked hard on improving his three-point prowess. He shot .268 as a freshman, .289 as a sophomore and .358 as a junior (38-of-106) from long range.

"I would like Keith to continue to improve his stroke from the perimeter and become a secondary ball-handler with point guard skill," Self said. "He has to be a guy that can create for others. I think his assist totals should go way up."

Last season he ranked second on the team in scoring (ninth in the Big 12), rebounding and assists while starting all 33 games and earning second-team All-Big 12 honors.

He had 27 double-figure scoring nights, including six 20-plus point games. Langford's scoring high was 24 points against three teams, Chattanooga, TCU (9-of-10 FG) and Villanova.

Langford has outstanding leaping ability, which makes him play taller than his size and hold his own on the boards. He notched a double-double in the Big 12 Tournament win over Missouri, scoring 10 points and tying his career-high of 10 rebounds for the fourth time.

But perhaps his best trait is his ability to perform in big games. He has earned a spot on three NCAA all-tournament teams in his career.

SF-J.R. GIDDENS (6-5, 200 lbs., SO, #15, 11.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.6 bpg, 0.7 spg, 25.9 mpg, .475 FG, .407 3PT, .667 FT, John Marshall HS/Oklahoma City, Okla.). One of the biggest surprises in the Big 12 last season, Giddens was voted to the league's All-Freshman team after knocking down a team-leading 74 three-pointers and exciting crowds with plenty of acrobatic dunks.

"I thought that he would be good, but didn't have any idea that he would be that good," Self said. "J.R. improved in his first year more than any player I've ever coached."

He started 29-of-33 games and scored in double-figures 21 times, including a career-high 24 on 7-of-12 shooting from three-point range against Iowa State. He also had seven rebounds in playing a career-high 40 minutes in the win over the Cyclones.

For his efforts, Giddens was selected the team's "most improved player" and also earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors.

In four NCAA Tournament games, Giddens averaged 15.8 points, shooting a blistering .610 (25-of-41) from the field and .435 (10-of-23) from three-point range.

But Self knows that Giddens still has work to do in order to become an all-around threat.

"J.R. is not a complete player yet, but he's working on it," Self said. "Hopefully his defense and rebounding will come around.

"We certainly anticipate him having a big sophomore campaign but he knows there are certain things he has to improve on. We need him to be hungry and eager to do his part in making sure these seniors go out with a bang."

PF-WAYNE SIMIEN (6-9, 255 lbs., SR, #23, 17.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.9 bpg, 0.9 spg, 32.7 mpg, .532 FG, .182 3PT, .811 FT, Leavenworth HS/Leavenworth, Kan.). The Big 12's top returning scorer and rebounder is perhaps the top candidate for winning the Wooden Award, annually given to the nation's best college basketball player.

He could have entered the NBA draft after last season, but decided to stay with his fellow senior teammates as they embark on their final quest to win the national championship. "I want it for Wayne as much as anybody," said Self. "Especially considering all the injuries he had to endure."

Simien, who missed the end of the 2002-03 campaign because of a shoulder injury, battled a strained groin throughout much of his junior season. He was held out of most practices, but still found a way to make 32 starts and post some incredible numbers against quality opponents.

Simien scored 28 points in an early-season triumph over Michigan State, hitting 9-of-12 from the field, including a three-pointer, and making all nine of his free throw attempts. He also grabbed eight rebounds against the Spartans.

He later added the first of his 11 double-doubles last season with a 19-point, 14-rebound effort against Oregon and followed with 16 points and 15 boards against UC Santa Barbara the next game.

In Big 12 play he exploded down the stretch. He had 22 points and a career-high 17 rebounds against Texas Tech in early February, blistered Iowa State for 20 points, 14 rebounds and a season-high four blocks two weeks later, and opened the conference tournament with an impressive 31-point (12-of-14 FG) outing in the win over Missouri.

Simien was just two rebounds shy of notching four double-doubles in the NCAA Tournament. He opened the Big Dance with 13 points and nine rebounds in just 23 minutes of action in the Jayhawks' 78-53 win over Illinois-Chicago, In the second round, he posted an 18-point, 12-rebound effort in a 78-63 win over Pacific.

Against UAB in the Sweet 16, Simien scored 30 points in just 28 minutes, making 6-of-8 field goal attempts and 18-of-20 from the free-throw line. Those 18 free throws tied Wilt Chamberlain for the second-most in school history.

While Georgia Tech ended KU's hopes of another Final Four run with a 79-71 victory in the Elite Eight, Simien still posted 11 points and 11 rebounds to record the 22nd double-double of his career (fifth on the school's career list).

Despite his outstanding season, which culminated with a host of post-season awards (AP third-team All-American, first-team All-Big 12, Naismith and Wooden Award Finalist), Simien still has work to do to reach his full potential.

Self would like to see him put the ball on the floor more and extend his defense on the perimeter this season.

"At the next level he is going to have to play a lot of perimeter defense," Self said.

If Simien, who averaged a team-leading 21.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in the Jayhawks' four-game exhibition tour of Canada over Labor Day weekend, is able to stay healthy and continue to improve, he might just be KU's third consecutive NBA lottery pick.

C-C.J. GILES (6-10, 220 lbs., FR, #33, 17.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 6.0 bpg, Rainier Beach HS/Seattle, Wash.). Giles is one-half of possibly the nation's best freshman center combo. And while he may not be the starter here at the beginning of the season, it probably won't be long before he gets his first start if he can hold off classmate Sasha Kaun. Both bring impressive credentials to Lawrence, ranking among the top 10 prep centers in the nation by Rivals.com last season.

Giles initially signed with Miami but opted out when Perry Clark was fired. The Hurricanes released him, and he decided to attend the alma mater of his father Chester, who was also a basketball Jayhawk.

That was good news to Self, who needs a new player to compliment Simien's inside game.

"C.J. is an athlete," Self said. "He's a shot-blocker and he can run and jump with the best of them. Since we started school he has been very consistent and tries hard, and been a sponge."

Giles averaged 6.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in four games on KU's Canada tour over Labor Day weekend. He shot .625 (10-of-16) from the field.

KEY RESERVES

G-MICHAEL LEE (6-3, 215 lbs., SR, #25, 5.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.6 spg, 18.5 pg, .375 FG, .354 3PT, .800 FT, Jefferson HS/Portland, Ore.). Lee may be the team's forgotten senior, considering he isn't a long-time starter like Simien, Langford and Miles. However, Lee's play will be just as important to the Jayhawks this season for a variety of reasons.

For one, Lee gives KU a solid three-point shooter coming off the bench. In 88 career games, he has drained 49-of-117 (.419) from long range, including 23 last season. He is also a career .750 free-throw shooter, missing only eight-of-40 attempts last season.

Lee started the first three games last year before suffering a broken collarbone in practice that caused him to miss nine consecutive games. Although he never returned to the starting lineup, in part because of the emergence of J.R. Giddens, Lee still made his presence felt as the team's first player off the bench a team-leading nine times.

Lee scored a season-high 16 points in his first game back from injury, against Kansas State on Jan. 14, and added a career-high eight rebounds, six assists and seven points in the win over Colorado two weeks later.

In KU's practices leading up to its Canadian Tour in September, Self was impressed with his "other" senior.

"I think that he has prepared himself, better than anybody else on the team, to have a big senior year," Self said. "He's proven that he wants it. He's provided good competition in the gym and doesn't plan to let any new guys take his spot."

Lee didn't disappoint in Canada, averaging 10.0 points and 3.0 assists. In three games, he made 4-of-6 from three-point range (.667) and was successful on all six of his free throw attempts.

F-CHRISTIAN MOODY (6-7, 220 lbs., JR, #34, 1.4 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 7.0 mpg, .682 FG, .333 FT, T.C. Roberson HS/Asheville, N.C.). Beginning his third season at Kansas, Moody might be the poster child for walk-ons. He played just 49 minutes as a freshman, scoring just seven points all season after shooting a dismal 16.7 percent from the field.

But with hard work and dedication, Moody became one of the Jayhawks' most valued frontcourt reserves last year. The Academic All-Big 12 selection played in 25 games and more than tripled his overall playing time (175 minutes). He also matched his freshman point total with a seven-point, four-rebound effort in seven minutes of action against Texas Tech, and proved to be a solid contributor around the basket, making 15 of his 22 field goal attempts.

His experience, although limited in the big scheme of things, could be enough to put him in the starting line-up next to Simien early in the season.

"He's further along right now than the freshman," Self said. "When he starts believing he's a really good player he'll produce more. We need him to play well."

Moody did play well in Canada, as he shot .615 (8-of-13) from the field, including two of three attempts from three-point range. He averaged 4.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 12.3 minutes per game during the exhibition tour.

C-ALEXANDER "SASHA" KAUN (6-11, 235 lbs., FR, #24, 15.3 ppg, 12.6 rpg, Florida Air Academy/Melbourne, Fla.). Kaun could just as easily be penciled in as a projected starter, as he will battle fellow top-recruit Giles at center.

A native of Siberia, Kaun didn't begin playing basketball until the 10th grade. He averaged 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks as a junior at Florida Air Academy, and increased those numbers to a double-double average as a senior.

Ranked the fifth-best center and the 23rd-best overall player in the nation by Rivals.com, he once scored 29 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in a high school game.

"Sasha is a great prospect," Self said. "He's tall and long-he has a great frame. He's just repetitions away."

Kaun also played well on the trip to Canada, as he averaged 7.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in shooting .500 (10-of-20) from the field.

PF-DARNELL JACKSON (6-8, 240 lbs., FR, #32, 18.0 ppg, 16.0 rpg, Midwest City HS/Oklahoma City, Okla.). At just about any other school, and possibly even at KU in any other season, Jackson might be considered the top recruit. But his arrival in Lawrence has been overshadowed by the additions of Giles and Kaun, the Jayhawks' freshmen big men.

"Darnell is the unheralded recruit of the [freshmen] group, but he's been very good [in practice]," Self said before his team's trip to Canada.

Jackson was also very good as a senior at Midwest City High School. In one game last year, he scored 38 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked five shots.

Like Kaun, he's still raw, having played basketball for only four years. However, he has a great body and a huge upside. He was rated as the nation's 13th-best power forward and the 52nd-best prospect by Rivals.com, and earned invitations to the NBA and NIKE camps.

In four games on the Canadian tour he averaged 6.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 18.5 minutes per game. He shot .579 (11-of-19) from the field.

SF-ALEX GALINDO (6-7, 205 lbs., FR, #2, 16.8 ppg, 9.0 rpg, St. Benedict's Prep/Newark, N.J.). Another heralded newcomer, Galindo is a native of Puerto Rico who played his final two years of high school in the United States.

As a senior at St. Benedict's, he was rated as the third-best player in New Jersey by NJ Hoops and the 65th-best player in the nation by Rivals.com.

He initially signed with UTEP, but was granted a release from his scholarship when Billy Gillispie left to coach Texas A&M.

"We are fortunate to get him," said Self, who was Gillispie's boss at Tulsa and Illinois. "J.R. and Alex are considered by most everybody as the best shooters on our team."

Galindo, who will play on the wing, had a chance to showcase his talent over the summer. He was chosen the MVP of the Southern Invitational and averaged 10.1 points at the Adidas ABCD camp.

On the September trip to Vancouver, Galindo proved to be the Jayhawks' top newcomer in terms of statistics, averaging 10.3 points (.471 FG, 16-of-34; .333 3PT, 6-of-18) and 5.0 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game.

G-RUSSELL ROBINSON (6-1, 185 lbs., FR, #3, 22.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, Rice HS/New York, N.Y.). The combo guard is a solid ball-handler and defender, and is being counted on to back up Miles at the point before taking over the starting role next year. He will also see action at shooting guard, where he was rated as the eighth-best prospect in the nation by Rivals.com (No. 31 overall) coming out of high school.

Robinson helped Rice High School to a state championship as a sophomore, averaged a team-leading 18.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 4.0 steals per game as a junior, and added 22.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game last season.

Before the Jayhawks' preseason Canadian Tour, Self said that Robinson was "the furthest along" of his five freshmen.

While Galindo was the top newcomer in terms of scoring, Robinson certainly didn't disappoint with his play across the border. He averaged 9.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists on the trip.

F-MOULAYE NIANG (6-10, 215 lbs., JR, #55, 0.9 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 4.7 mpg, .227 FG, .700 FT, Christian HS/El Cajon, Calif.). Niang (pronounced Nyawn) thought about transferring because of his lack of playing time, but reconsidered after Padgett announced that he was leaving the Jayhawk program for Louisville.

With Simien now the only returning big man who saw significant action last season, Self believes that the native of Senegal could put himself in a position to get more minutes on the court this year.

"He can certainly make this team better from an athletic standpoint," Self told the Lawrence Journal-World. "He knows we added a couple of big guys in recruiting, and certainly he will have to get in there and fight, earn his way, like everybody else does."

Niang has shown the ability to be a solid defender and rebounder, but like many of the Jayhawk reserves he needs to improve offensively. He already has decent quickness and good footwork, thanks in part to his days as a soccer player in his native country of Senegal. He also has a nice jump-hook and fade-away in the lane. Over the summer, he stayed in Lawrence to work on his post moves and add muscle to his lean body.

"I didn't have the opportunity to play much my freshman and sophomore years, but I'm willing to work hard and do anything I possibly can to help Kansas be the best team we can possibly be," Niang told the Journal-World.

OTHER RETURNEES

G-JEFF HAWKINS (5-11, 180 lbs., JR, #1, 1.7 ppg, 0.6 rpg, 0.6 apg, 8.9 mpg, .273 FG, .196 3PT, .615 FT, Sumner Academy/Kansas City, Kan.). Hawkins is a hard-working perimeter defender who could see more playing time if he can be more consistent on the offensive end.

He showed flashes of his ability last season, especially early. In the team's first road game, at TCU, he poured in a career-high 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field (5-of-7 from three-point range) in just 23 minutes of action.

However, the cat-quick guard struggled mightily once conference play rolled around. He made just 2-of-14 (.125) from the field and 1-of-12 (.083) from behind the arc, while playing a total of just 89 minutes against Big 12 foes.

Hawkins did bounce back to have a solid 11-minute performance in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, scoring four points and handing out three assists in a 78-53 win over Illinois-Chicago. That should help him restore some confidence heading into this season.

However, Hawkins was forced to take an indefinite leave while the Jayhawks were preparing for their trip to Vancouver in order "to address some team issues that demand immediate attention," Self said.

"Although the leave is indefinite, we hope to have Jeff back on the team if these issues are addressed properly," Self said.

G-NICK BAHE (6-3, 185 lbs., SO, #21, 0.7 ppg, 0.6 rpg, 0.2 apg, 4.0 mpg, .267 FG, .250 3PT, Southeast HS/Lincoln, Neb.). Bahe, an invited walk-on, is a smart ball handler who adds depth to the backcourt after playing in 16 games off the bench as a true freshman. While most of his action came in a mop-up role, he did play nine minutes against Nebraska and buried two of his three three-point attempts against the Cornhuskers on his way to a career-high six points. However, he made just one of his nine other long range attempts to finish the year 3-of-12 beyond the arc. He's terrific at the free throw line, as evidenced by his state-record 58 consecutive makes as a high school junior.

G-JEREMY CASE (6-0, 165 lbs., SO, #10, 1.2 ppg, 0.5 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.4 spg, 3.9 mpg, .250 FG, .231 3PT, .667 FT, McAlestar HS/McAlestar, Okla.) Case did not accompany the team on its preseason trip to Canada and Self said that he would talk to Case about red-shirting this season if it turned out that he wasn't going to be a part of the Jayhawks' regular guard rotation.

Like teammate J.R. Giddens, Case was a highly touted signee from Oklahoma entering last season. In fact, as a senior at McAlestar High School, Case edged his future fellow Jayhawk for the state's scoring title by averaging 25 points per game.

However, Case had a more difficult time making the immediate transition to Division I basketball after being heralded as possibly the program's best long-range shooter since former star Jeff Boschee.

The son of longtime Oklahoma City University coach Win Case (a former teammate of Self's at Oklahoma State) played in just 21 games and made only six of his 26 three-point attempts as a freshman.

His best overall game came against his hometown team in late February, as he knocked down a three-pointer and made both of his free-throw attempts in eight minutes of action in a 79-58 win over the Sooners.

G-STEPHEN VINSON (6-2, 190 lbs., JR, #20, 0.2 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 0.2 apg, 1.9 mpg, .143 FG, .000 3PT, Lawrence HS/Lawrence, Kan.). Another invited walk-on, Vinson begins his third season with the Jayhawks. A hard worker, he's capable of playing both guard spots and is a solid free throw shooter.

Last season, he played in 12 games and saw just 23 minutes of action overall. He scored his only two points of the season at TCU and added a career-high two assists against NCAA Division II foe Fort Hayes State.

NEWCOMERS

C-MATT KLEINMANN (6-10, 230 lbs., FR, #44, 14.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, Blue Valley West HS/Overland Park, Kansas). Kleinmann is the latest area product to be an invited walk-on, and could provide depth to the frontcourt because of his size.

Kleinmann was recruited by the likes of South Florida, Valparaiso, Yale, William & Mary and UNC Wilmington. Ultimately, he turned down a scholarship offer from the University of Pacific to play for his beloved Jayhawks.

That could be a smart decision for the future, as he has strong potential. He shot better than 60 percent from the field and averaged 14.0 points and 9.0 rebounds as a senior at Blue Valley West.

And if anyone knows about smart decisions, it's Kleinmann, who posted a 4.0 cumulative GPA in high school.

QUESTIONS

Freshmen phenoms? With four seniors gone, the Jayhawks will depend heavily on their highly regarded freshmen. How soon they are ready to contribute will play a big part in the team's success.

Toughness? The Jayhawks, in particular Wayne Simien, must stay healthy in order to reach preseason expectations.

Depth? The freshman class is good, but outside of the returning starters KU has only one player returning (Michael Lee) who averaged more than 10 minutes per game last season.

ANSWERS

Wayne Simien! When he's healthy, he's among the nation's top three or four players.

Senior leadership! Simien, Langford and Miles have played in two Final Fours and one Elite Eight in their careers.

Bill Self! After a slow start to his KU career, he did a terrific job down the stretch last season. With the adjustment period over, expect the Jayhawks to be even better.

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: A+
BENCH/DEPTH: B
FRONTCOURT: B+
INTANGIBLES: A

The sky is truly the limit for this team, which is one reason Simien turned down the immediate riches of the NBA to return to Lawrence for his senior season.

Self's team starts with one of the nation's best backcourts with Miles running the offense at the point and Langford and Giddens excelling on the wings. Add in Lee, as well as talented freshmen Galindo and Robinson, and the Jayhawks will be deeper on the perimeter than they were a year ago.

The Jayhawks' depth is a question mark in the frontcourt. Self has to find a compliment for Simien, and has some quality young players to choose from.

If a couple of those freshmen emerge and the Jayhawks stay healthy, Self's squad should make another run at a national championship.

For the most comprehensive previews on all 326 Division I teams, order the 384-page "Bible" of college basketball, Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbook.com.

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