Self’s new task: Integrating Selby

It all changes in Lawrence, Kan., on Dec. 18 against USC.

That’s when freshman point guard Josh Selby, rated the No. 1 player in the freshman class by one national recruiting service, becomes eligible for the Kansas Jayhawks.

It’s also the day that many have Kansas slated to officially become a legitimate Final Four team.

Even a national championship contender.

"I love this team,” Kansas coach Bill Self said after his team ran away from No. 13 Memphis on Tuesday night in an 81-68 win in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.

This year’s edition of the Rock Chalk Jayhawks might not blow you away, but then again, what team besides Duke does this season?

Self talks about the unselfishness of this group — and how they share the wealth. The Morris Twins — Marcus and Markieff — each took 11 shots, as did as the third interior player on the Jayhawks, underrated sophomore Thomas Robinson.

Senior guards Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed accept their roles, and junior Tyshawn Taylor is playing as well as he has since he arrived at KU.

Even guys like Travis Releford and Mario Little are showing that redshirting last season has paid off — as each has been productive while averaging more than 16 minutes per game thus far this season.

The pecking order has already been clearly established, and we’re not even midway through December.

Self said that Taylor, who has handled the bulk of the ballhandling duties thus far, will continue to have the ball in his hands the majority of the time even when Selby is on the floor.

Will Selby be able to accept being just another player and adapt?

"He’s going to have to accept that we play through the twins,” Self said.

No one can be sure if he’ll be able to do that just yet.

I’ve seen Selby play countless times over the past couple of years, and the stocky, athletic scoring point guard needs the ball in his hands to truly be effective — and likely also to be content.

The assumption that Kansas will, all of the sudden, rise to a new level is just that — anyone’s guess.

There’s also the reality that the Jayhawks’ chemistry, which by all accounts appears to be a primary strength, could take a significant jab when Selby is added to the mix.

"It’ll be interesting to see when they get Josh Selby back, does it affect anything chemistry-wise?” Memphis coach Josh Pastner asked. "But I think Coach Self will figure that out.”

Self is a master at handling personalities, but he has never quite dealt with a situation like this one — integrating a talent and on-court personality such as Selby’s to a team already in sync.

"Anytime you add someone, it’s going to take time to figure it out,” he said. "That’s going to be the case with Josh.”

There’s little question surrounding Selby’s abilities, and while he does appear to fit in perfectly with the breakneck style Self wants to employ this season, this is a kid whom many project as a first-round pick and potentially a one-and-done player.

He’s going to want to show people what he can do.

However, Taylor has been awfully effective this season running the team. He has scored when needed and run the team with efficiency, as well.

The Jayhawks are now 8-0 with wins against Memphis and Arizona on neutral courts.

"He’s been our most valuable player so far this season,” Self said of Taylor, who is averaging 10.8 points and has an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio of better than 2-1.

The plan is ultimately to have whoever gets the ball go with it — whether it be Selby or Taylor. But Selby, who was tagged with a nine-game suspension from the NCAA for taking improper benefits, won’t take well to an Eric Bledsoe-esque role by spending much of his time at shooting guard.

Remember, Bledsoe played alongside No. 1 overall pick John Wall at Kentucky a year ago. Taylor is no Wall.

Taylor’s 26 minutes per game probably won’t be cut all that much when Selby is eligible, but guys like Reed and Morningstar won’t be seeing 27 and 28 minutes — as they did against Memphis on Tuesday night.

And sophomore Elijah Johnson certainly won’t be getting 21 minutes.

"We’re not worried about the minutes,” Taylor said. "We’re just going to play.”

There’s still one more game — this weekend against Colorado State at home — before Selby’s suspension is served.

Then, Kansas will be viewed in a completely different light.

"He’ll change it,” Self said of when Selby joins the team.

For better — or maybe even for worse.