Jayhawk fans are more split on opinions of Brady Morningstar than any other player in recent memory. There are the detractors who bemoan his every move on the court, rightly pointing out his shooting slump, which has lasted over a year. On the other side are the apologists, who see the fifth year senior as an asset on both ends of the floor, regardless of scoring.
Head Coach Bill Self, who knows the team best, falls squarely in the apologists’ camp. Self has been consistent in his support of the Lawrence native this year. Despite his suspension last season for drinking and driving, Morningstar brings maturity and consistency to a young and wild team, Self insists. None would argue Brady is the Jayhawks best shutdown defender.
When Josh Selby became eligible for play earlier this year, consensus opinion was that he would all but replace Morningstar in the regular rotation. Tyshawn Taylor and Tyrell Reed had most solidified their place on the team through strong performances and improved defense early in the season, Elijah Johnson was poised for a breakout year, and Mario Little and Travis Releford brought much needed size and athleticism to the court for the somewhat undersized Jayhawks. Little’s off-court troubles made this speculation moot, when he was suspended from the team, giving Selby a slot to earn his spot in the rotation. Travis Releford then injured his ankle, and had to sit out more games than expected, making room for Little’s return.
Usually by this time of year, Bill Self has trimmed the regular rotation to eight players. That won’t happen this year. Kansas frontcourt is set with the Morris twins and Thomas Robinson, with the occasional Withey sighting, but the backcourt is much less certain- just as the Jayhawks are again able to fill out a full roster at the guard position, and Morningstar was in danger of being the odd man out, he has thrown a wrench into the works. Brady has finally emerged from his year and a half slump, and is shooting 65% (15 for 23) from the field in his last four games for 38 points. This includes a 4 for 5 performance against defensive behemoth Texas. In this stretch, Morningstar has committed only 4 turnovers, with 14 assists and 5 steals to go along with a blocked shot. Brady is second only to Tyshawn Taylor (106) in assists with 58, and has committed only 27 turnovers in 22 games this season.
This presents Self with a problem that many coaches would gladly face; too much talent in the backcourt. With Brady becoming an offensive threat in addition to his defensive prowess and ball protection, the Jayhawks now have four legitimate starters. Tyshawn Taylor is an undeniably talented player, leading the team with 4.8 assists per game, although he often plays wildly, and becomes prone to turnovers. Tyrell Reed is paragon of consistency, a solid ball handler as well as a dogged defender who is a constant threat from beyond the arc. Josh Selby is a showtime player who can hit the big shot and score from anywhere on the court, but like Taylor, is prone to turnovers and has not shown much on the defensive end of the court. As for the bench, Mario Little and Travis Releford bring size to the court when the Jayhawks are faced with bigger teams, and Elijah Johnson, who is averaging 2.2 assists in only 13 minutes on the court per game, would most certainly be a starter at just about any other school in the country.
With options such as these, Bill Self will be out of his comfort zone for the remainder of the season. Instead of his usual 8 man rotation, Self is faced with ten players who have undeniably earned their time on the court. Brady’s emergence from his shooting slump only makes situational substitutions that more complicated.
- Little makes room for Selby
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- Kansas Jayhawks: Fatal Flaw? KU Backcourt Exposed in Loss to Texas (bleacherreport.com)
- Kansas hoping to return to normal (sportingnews.com)