Friday, November 16, 2007

A Laugher in Lawrence

Brandon Rush is back and all seemed right with the world last night in Lawrence for all fans of the Crimson and Blue. The reality of it was they played a D-II team, struggled for a while with injured PG Sherron Collins, and winning on sheer talent and size 92-60. Bill Self did not look too happy mid-first half when Washburn was hanging with the Jayhawks, he had to be happy seeing Rush back on the floor earlier than expected. Said coach Self: "We didn’t play very well at all, especially the first half, but Brandon was a big bright spot for us, and I thought he looked pretty good...He got knocked down, and that needed to happen, and he went to the goal hard one time, and that needed to happen, in traffic...I thought he did some good things, and I was really happy for him. Darrell Arthur led the Hawks with 14 points, Mario Chalmers, Sasha Kaun, and Darnell Jackson added 10 each.

The Whup: Brandon's Back. That's right, KU's star wing is back after missing just two regular season games. Coming off the torn ACL which pushed back his NBA dreams one more year, Rush moved pretty well all things considered in his 12 first half minutes, scoring seven points and knocking down a couple of smooth jumpers. He wasn't needed in the second half. Entering the game at the 16:17 mark, “I got chills all through my body,” Rush said. “I don’t have my full explosiveness back yet. My first step is slow, it’ll come back in time.” Coach Self was also excited to have his star back, but knows he isn't fully ready: "You can tell he’s not quite what he was, but he’ll get there. A lot of it is just timing and confidence, but I’d have to watch the tape. I thought he did some good things.”

More Brandon on Brandon: “I would have liked to play a lot more, but due to the trainers and doctors, I could only play 12-15 minutes. I used all of that in the first half. I didn’t have no concerns... I was a little nervous, because I hadn’t been out on the court in a while instead of at practice...I got chills through my body and stuff, so (the standing ovation) felt real good...I think the whole thing was my dedication to rehab, me going in everyday, two times a day. Things came out pretty good...I think (Washburn) thought I was gonna be a little more timid, but out of the gates, I’m gonna have to learn how to deal with it, get in the paint, make some plays...I’m not 100 percent. I’d say about 85, 80, I haven’t got my whole explosion back yet.”

The Man-Crush for Rodrick Stewart Continues. Getting his first start of the season, Rod used his trademark athleticism to make his presence felt. He was all over the Washburn guards on defense, and played sort of garbage-man around the basket, collecting nine points, four rebounds, and four assists. He has really turned himself into an invaluable member of this rotation. He knocked down a big three as the shot-clock hit zero in the second half, had a huge facial block, and a thunderous throw-down which brought the crowd to a fever pitch. On his block, Stewart said "I was saying either I was gonna get this block or I’m gonna come out of the game. I definitely had to get the block, because I turned it over trying to throw it to Darnell.”

Role Players Stepping Up. With the injury bug hitting Lawrence, guys like Stewart, Darnell Jackson, Tyrel Reed, and Sasha Kaun are going to need to be more of a presence. Darnell Jackson looks to be KU's best-post man thus far. He is leaner, more agile, and just as physical. His 15 foot jumper looks automatic. As Russell Robinson's new primary backup, Reed had some shaky moments when he had to handle the ball and will struggle on defense as most in-coming freshman do, but there's no doubt he can flat out shoot. He buried two more threes last night and scored eight points in 14 minutes. He has a mini-Hinrich look going on. I could see him be that kind of player during his KU career. Even if he turns into Ryan Robertson, that will be good by me.

Scrub Time. I think we may have seen the best KU Walk-on (sorry Christian Moody) in a long while in Conner Teahan. The KC native was offered scholorships by many D-1 schools, but always wanted to play at KU and has paid his own way to do so. Bill Self has been quoted as saying "if we had a scholorship for him he'd have one." During garbage time last night he buried two straight threes and has a sweet stroke. In a pinch, Teahan could be used.

The Weak Beav: Jeremy Case's shot may never come around. Not like he really was going to have a big impact on this team, but the guy who five years ago, Roy Williams said had "one of the best jumpshots i've ever seen" just cannot translate that into the flow of the game. He was just 1-5 last night, missing all three triple attempts in his 10 minutes. With Collins hurt, this would be his chance to try to work into some quality minutes. Not likely unless he starts hitting shots.

Free Throw Shooting will be a problem all year. Another game, another poor performance from the line. Last night was 19-33, good for 57%. The list of offenders included Kaun (2-6), Stewart (2-4), Robinson (3-5), and Cole Aldrich (1-3). Kaun is a flat-out liability and cannot be on the floor late in close games.

Shady should be dominating. These are the types of games that Darrell Arthur should be scoring 20 and grabbing 10 boards with a high shooting percentage. Yes, last night he scored 14, but it was on 4-8 shooting. When you are clearly the best athlete with the most size in the post, 50% from the field shouldn't be happening. In three games, his is shooting 40% from the field (4-12, 5-12, 4-8). He still looks passive and uncomfortable playing with his back to the basket. He clearly wants to be facing the basket with the ball in his hands.

Starting Slow. KU came out looking half asleep. In fact, they were up just six with 6:31 left in the first half before rattling off a 10-0 run. “Our starters didn’t come out ready to play,” Self said. “We were flat. We fouled at the end of the shot clock a couple of times and bailed them out. We didn’t have much energy.”

UP NEXT: Northern Arizona comes to Allen Fieldhouse for a 7PM CST tilt next Wednesday.

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