Kansas basketball: Predicting the Jayhawks roster changes for 2023

DES MOINES, IOWA - MARCH 18: Members of the Kansas Jayhawks bench look on late in the second half against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 18, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - MARCH 18: Members of the Kansas Jayhawks bench look on late in the second half against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 18, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

There were a lot of concerns about KU’s roster at about this same time last year, so we decided to dive deeper into who will transfer or stay over the off-season.

After losing their top three (and six of their top eight) scorers from the National Championship team, the roster seemed likely to fail in meeting the expectations set for the Kansas Jayhawks every year. Would Jalen Wilson be able to handle a big scoring load? Could Dajuan Harris and KJ Adams become more significant threats on the offensive end? The answer to nearly every question was a resounding “yes.”

Apart from a second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament, this year’s team exceeded preseason expectations. Just seven losses in their regular season led to another Big 12 title, while Jalen Wilson brought another First Team All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year award to Lawrence.

However, the same questions that were asked last offseason will surely be in full force once again, as the three leading scorers have likely played their final games in a Jayhawk uniform (barring a Gradey Dick return). With Cam Martin already entering his name in the transfer portal, I have decided to try and figure out who from the current team will be staying for another year and who will be moving elsewhere.

Definitely Staying: Dajuan Harris, KJ Adams, Ernest Udeh Jr,

Harris and Adams will (likely) be the only returning starters from this year’s team and will take over the role of the veteran leaders. While they aren’t the most dangerous threats on the offensive end, they are both near elite on defense and give 100% every time they are on the court. They are two guys that perfectly fit the mold of a “Coach Self Guy”.

Udeh carved out a decent role for himself off the bench. After playing double-digit minutes in just four games before the calendar turned over, he hit that mark in eight games in 2023. While his numbers don’t scream progress, the eye test showed precisely how much more comfortable he was as the season went along. His long arms and quick feet are why he is a defensive nightmare in the making.

Probably Leaving: Zach Clemence, Bobby Pettiford OR Joseph Yesufu

Clemence was the first big man off the bench for the early parts of the season. Unfortunately for him, he went down with a knee injury, which allowed Udeh to take hold of the backup center minutes. Instead of battling with Zuby Ejiofor for the third center spot, Instead of battling with Zuby Ejiofor for the third center spot, I assume Clemence will likely find a home away from Lawrence next year.

The battle for the backup point guard spot in 2023 will be an absolute slugfest. Bobby Pettiford and Joseph Yesufu will have the early advantage, having both been on the team for two years. However, there are freshmen aplenty looming behind them. The biggest threat to them will be Elmarko Jackson.

Jackson is a five-star recruit who is the third-ranked point guard and 21st-ranked player in the class. He will compete from the jump for playing time, and may even find himself as the two-guard next to Harris in the starting lineup. The other two incoming recruits that will compete for playing time are Chris Johnson and Jamari McDowell, the 34th and 99th-ranked players in the class, respectively.

While Self typically leans towards playing his veterans early in the season, Pettiford and Yesufu have issues with their game. While Bobby doesn’t do anything bad to hurt the team, he doesn’t do anything good to help the team either. He almost disappears when he is on the court, scoring more than five points just four times despite playing double-digit minutes in over half the team’s games.

Yesufu has almost the exact opposite problem. He never disappears in games. If he is out there, he is putting up shots. He took five or more shots in 15 games this season and turned them into four double-digit scoring performances. He shot 25 percent or worse from the field in more games than he shot 33 percent or better. He wants to be more like the player he was at Drake. That’s fine, but I don’t think that will work now that there are more options for Self to choose from to play the two guard positions. In the end, I think one of these guards will join Martin and Clemence in the transfer portal while Self leans to the freshmen for scoring and consistency.

I Won’t Be Surprised Either Way: MJ Rice, Zuby Ejiofor, Kyle Cuffe

The story for these three is all the same: former four-star recruits with a severe lack of playing time. Rice is the one I would most hate to see leave because the path for playing time in 2023 is about as clear as it could be. All three wings that played above him are leaving (again, assuming Gradey Dick enters the NBA Draft) and there is only one incoming freshman that is taller than 6’4″.

Granted, I assume Self and his staff are scouring the transfer portal for at least one other wing (likely two or three), but Rice could have the early advantage with the year of experience in the program. If he were to try his luck elsewhere, our roster would consist only of players shorter than 6’2″ and taller than 6’7″ (6’9″ if you don’t include Adams, who is not a wing). Self would have to bring in a huge haul of wings in the portal, and I just don’t particularly care for the idea of trying to piece together the second most important position on the court.

Zuby is second on my list of who I would least want to leave. While I do think Adams and Udeh should get about 85 percent of the center minutes next season, there were far too many instances where both of them got two fouls in the first 10 minutes of the first half. That led to Clemence and Ejiofor splitting time for the rest of the half.

Assuming Clemence moves on, that would leave all of that time to Ejiofor. Both of them leaving would leave that spot vacant, barring a transfer addition. While Ejiofor didn’t have the best showing during his rookie year, the Jayhawks have had success developing big men for as long as I can remember. I would feel really good about the center position if Adams, Udeh, and Ejiofor were all back for another season.

Cuffe is the wildcard of the group, as he saw just six minutes of action this season. I know what you’re thinking. “If you think Pettiford or Yesufu is leaving, why wouldn’t you think Cuffe is leaving too?” Well, the main reason is the unknown factor. I’ve seen enough of Pettiford and Yesufu to know that neither of them are game-changing players.

At best, Pettiford is someone that won’t sway the game one way or the other, and Yesufu will give you 8-10 points on inefficient shooting. Cuffe, though, still has the upside of a four-star recruit. We haven’t seen what he has to offer. If he thinks he still has what it takes to be a productive member of the team, he could easily stay and accept the challenge in front of him.

Verdict: KU Will Be Major Players in the Transfer Portal

Even if all three of my “Definitely Staying” players, one of my “Probably Leaving” players, and two of my “Won’t Be Surprised Either Way” players come back, that is still just 10 scholarship players AFTER accounting for the incoming freshmen.

If Rice is one of the players that doesn’t come back, they will have a massive hole to fill on the wings. Most of that hole would have to be filled with transfers. We’ve done it before and found success. Heck, we did it just this year with Kevin McCullar and just last year with Remy Martin. It’s not impossible, but there’s always the question of chemistry when bringing in multiple new faces at one time. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, it’s pretty much unavoidable this off-season.

Let’s hope Coach Self can find some gems.

Next. KJ Adams must extend his offensive skill set to the perimeter. dark