Morning scrimmage showcases Jayhawks’ talent

Even Kansas coach Bill Self admitted there wasn’t a whole lot one could glean from the open-to-the-public scrimmage his Jayhawks played Saturday morning.

But it was yet another observational session for Self as he continues to analyze just exactly what kind of team his Jayhawks will be this year amid so many new faces.

"Maybe the best thing is the kids got a chance to play in front of a crowd and that’s a learning experience," Self said.

True, about 10,000 fans showed up at Allen Fieldhouse to see three 10-minute scrimmage sessions. Self’s primary starters — junior Naadir Tharpe, freshman Andrew Wiggins, sophomore Perry Ellis, senior Tarik Black and freshman Wayne Selden — stole the early show, scoring 18 of the scrimmage’s first 20 points against Self’s overmatched reserves.

After that, Self began mixing up the teams to create more balance, not that anyone was really keeping score.

But fans were treated to a quick Wiggins show early on as he sank two free throws after being fouled on a drive, blocked a shot, jammed home an alley-oop feed and powered his way through traffic down low for another layup.

Fans also got to see a glimpse of Self’s other talented kids, especially Brannen Greene, a freshman from Juliette, Ga., who after a slow start Saturday wowed onlookers with his athletic ability.

During one session, the 6-foot-7 Green went chest to chest with the 6-8 Wiggins defensively and actually rejected a Wiggins jumper. Greene then hustled to recover the loose ball, drove the court and skied over two defenders to slam home a dunk.

That OMG moment brought many Jayhawk fans to their feet. Greene crashed hard to the floor and appeared to bruise his shin. He didn’t return to the scrimmage but watched the rest of it from the bench and appeared to be OK. 

"He’s labored as much as anyone to learn our system and what we want to do," Self said of Greene. "But you can see the talent is there."

While Self has already declared Tharpe his point guard, Saturday’s scrimmage provided a showcase for another young point guard — freshman Frank Mason out of Petersburg, Va.

During one three-possession stretch, Mason drove the lane and released a sweet wraparound feed to 7-footer Joel Embid for a score, then sank a three-pointer, then stormed the lane and converted a difficult twisting layup in heavy traffic. 

Self also praised the play of 6-6 guard Andrew White, one of the few Jayhawks returning from last year’s squad.

"He’s coming along. He can hit his shot when he’s open," Self said.

But exactly how White, and others, will fit into Self’s rotation is far from being set.

"We’re not close to coming up with that," Self said. "We have our main five or six, and after that, there will be a bunch of guys fighting for playing time." 

Saturday’s scrimmage also allowed this year’s version of the Jayhawks to show off perhaps their greatest asset — their quickness.

"This could be the quickest team we’ve had to get up and down the court," Self said. "But the problem is, we only run when we want to. It’s like Andrew, he obviously can run. But he will survey the court and decide not to run when actually it’s better that he run anyway and stretch the court. And then we can play behind that.

"Those are things we’ll have to learn."

There’s plenty of time: Kansas doesn’t open the season until Oct. 29, when it hosts Pittsburg State.