Is Jamari Traylor Primed For a Breakout Junior Year?


Back in 2012, after an impressive performance vs. Michigan State in the Champions Classic, Jamari Traylor looked like the next coming of Thomas Robinson. His hustle, aggression, and freakish athleticism make the comparison very realistic. Like T-Rob, Traylor in his first 2 seasons on the court has provided tiny sparks for KU that eventually turn into meaningful plays down the stretch of games. In last year’s NCAA Tournament first round game against Eastern Kentucky, Traylor provided the sluggish Jayhawks with 17 points and 14 rebounds. The stat that really sticks out in that game is his 7 offensive rebounds, two of which he turned into 3-point play opportunities off of missed free throws. Coaches love those kinds of plays, especially coach Self. Even though he was only a redshirt sophomore last year, it is nearly impossible to sit a player with that much heart and energy for an entire game.

More from Kansas Jayhawks Basketball

In 2013-14, Traylor averaged 16.1 minutes per game. What is crazy is that those numbers will only increase this year after the departures of Joel Embiid and Tarik Black to the NBA. In those 16 minutes, he averaged 4.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and almost 1 block per game(0.8). Another shocking and promising stat was his 67.4% field goal percentage. With his ability to sit on the outside and drive to the basket, as well as post up on a bigger defender and go underneath him to the hoop, he makes himself a matchup nightmare. He is also a threat in transition offense and defense. Many times last year, we saw him track down an opposing player on a fast-break and block him from behind. Of course in transition offense, we see him posterize defenders on put-back dunks very often, bringing the entire crowd to their feet.

Right now, Traylor sits at 6’8, 220 lbs. If he can add 10-15 more lbs. of muscle, the KU front-court would undoubtedly be the strongest part of the team even without a true center in the rotation. Not to mention, the point-guard situation is still unclear at Kansas. With a lack of consistent scoring in the back-court, for now, the formula will most likely be to feed the big guys on the post. Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander would predominantly benefit from that game-plan, but we would all expect that to happen.

Nov 28, 2013; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; Kansas Jayhawks forward Jamari Traylor (31) grabs a rebound over Wake Forest Demon Deacons forward Devin Thomas (2) during the first half at the 2013 Battle 4 Atlantis in the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

If Traylor can dominate the paint, it takes a lot of pressure off of Kelly Oubre and Wayne Selden on the wing to knock down contested shots. Traylor’s dominance down-low can draw the defenders from the perimeter, leaving Selden, Oubre, Brannen Greene or any other guard open for 3. It is extremely important that KU improves on their 3-point field goal percentage from last year which was a mere 34%. The last time the Jayhawks shot nearly that low from deep was in 2004(33.5%). KU lost games last year to Villanova, San Diego State, and Stanford because they couldn’t shoot consistently from downtown. Those numbers will improve drastically if Traylor can draw attention on the block in order to kick it back out for an open 3.

If there is anything Traylor needs to work on, it would be his mid-range game. 67.4% from the field is of course a remarkable stat, but most of his points came from in the paint. If he can develop a jumper from 12-16 feet, it will force power forwards to come out and guard him. This would put his dribble-drive ability in a position to flourish against slow defenders. Previous Jayhawks like the Morris twins and even T-Rob at times thrived from 15-feet away. They could shoot over the small forwards guarding them or take the big men to the basket. Traylor would thrive in his final two seasons on offense if he begins to develop a jump-shot.

Overall, coach Self has molded Jamari Traylor into something special in just 3 seasons. There is no other player that is as aggressive or works as hard as him in the Kansas front-court (yes that includes Cliff Alexander). With little depth in the front-court and an increased role, things will only improve for Traylor in his junior year, as he works towards becoming an athletic beast that Jayhawks fans will remember for a long time.