Kansas Jayhawks hoops coach Bill Self wants ‘eight starters’

Kansas Jayhawks hoops coach Bill Self wants ‘eight starters’


Bill Self has cited a lack of depth as one of the main reasons why his Kanss Jayhawks went 10-10 in their final 20 games of the 2023-2024 college basketball season after a stellar 13-1 start.

“Last year we played five guys,” Self, KU’s 21st-year head coach, said Monday on Andy Katz’s NCAA March Madness podcast. “We tried to work out a substitution situation where you play five starters and all five at the same time, and the reserves play minute by minute to make sure your five starters play 35 minutes together.

“We were so beat up we couldn’t even do that. That was the thought we had. How do we keep these five guys together, because these five guys have shown us that they’re pretty good? But that was not possible due to injuries. I don’t want to have to think like that again.”

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Maybe he doesn’t have to think like that anymore.

KU has signed three players from the transfer portal so far in guards AJ Storr (Wisconsin), Zeke Mayo (South Dakota State) and Rylan Griffen (Alabama).

The status of Florida guard Riley Kugel is still up in the air. He has committed to KU, but has not yet signed a financial aid agreement for unknown reasons.

Two freshmen – Flory Bidunga and Rakease Passmore – join a roster that also includes returners KJ Adams, Dajuan Harris, Hunter Dickinson, Zach Clemence, Jamari McDowell and Elmarko Jackson.

Johnny Furphy has entered his name in the 2024 NBA Draft, with Self saying Monday that Furphy wants to be a first-rounder and would likely remain in the draft.

“I want eight starters,” Self said Monday. “Granted, even though you can obviously only start with five, you have eight guys who are good enough to play at any time in the game. You look at the teams that have won it for the most part and (two-time defending champion) Connecticut.

“Connecticut had their key guys, there’s no doubt about that. You could take a guy off the bench and rest someone for a certain amount of time, whether it’s in the pivot or rotational guard or whatever, and there’s no drop-off.

“Those are areas that we had to take into account and I think for the most part we’ve done a pretty good job,” Self added of the recruitment, which may not be complete yet.

KU had an unofficial visitor on campus Monday at Rice, sophomore guard Noah Shelby. Other names of possible transfers (currently in the portal; the deadline to access the portal is closed) may emerge in the coming weeks.

But for now, Self explained Monday, “for us it was something that we needed to have a good offseason to get back on track because we felt like we were a little bit off track touched.”

He himself noted that some other problem areas in 2023-2024 were “perimeter shooting and obviously athleticism.”

The KU coach also commented on some of his returning players during Monday’s interview with Katz. No KU players who were eligible to return entered the transfer portal.

“With Juan, KJ and ‘Hunt,’ Hunt was the only one of the three who was probably seriously considering entering the draft, so we took a break there,” Self said of the 7-footer Dickinson opting to return for a super-senior season.

“Elmarko didn’t have the first year he probably hoped for, but he’s a great prospect. He will be better. Zach Clemence, who didn’t play this past year…Zach is a very good player at 6-10,” Self noted.

Of first-team All-America candidate Dickinson, who will likely be a first-team All-America candidate in 2024-25, Self said: “I think he’s still better athletically can perform, guard ball screens better, settle down and get out. ball screens better.

“We love ‘Hunt.’ One thing I don’t think he did as well as he could last year is he didn’t shoot the ball consistently. He was on a roll to start the season. The Cat shoots 70% from 3 for the first 13 games or whatever. Then he went through a pretty big drought (finished at 54.8%). I think he shoots the basketball, and that’s what he does…I think he can shoot it a lot better than playing a little more athletically.

Of junior guard Storr, who led Wisconsin in scoring with 16.8 points per game last season, Self said: “I think AJ needs to be more involved defensively. There’s no reason he can’t be a great defender and a great rebounder. He can score the ball. He has individual talent.

“I also think he can shoot the basketball more consistently. I think he’s one of those guys who can go get a basket late on the clock. We lacked that last year.”

Of his selection, Self admitted: “Losing Johnny and losing (Kevin) McCullar, that’s a big deal, but I can’t complain too much. Not many people return three quality starters and a pair that won a national championship.”

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Gary Bedore covers KU basketball for The Kansas City Star. He has been writing about the Jayhawks since 1978 – during the eras of Ted Owens, Larry Brown, Roy Williams and Bill Self. He has won the Kansas Sportswriter of the Year Award and the KPA Writing Awards.