Withey, Releford receive Danny Manning Award at banquet
- Apr. 15, 2013
- 1 Comment
One year after taking a team with only one returning starter to the national title game, coach Bill Self made a bold statement about this year’s squad that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen during the team’s annual banquet Monday evening.
After his team finished 2-2 during its summer trip to Europe last August, Self couldn’t find much praise for his team.
“We sucked over there,” Self said. “This year I thought would be probably the biggest challenge from a rebuilding standpoint that we’ve had since we’ve been here.”
Of course, as every Bill Self team seems to do, Kansas won, and won often. The Jayhawks finished 31-6, earned their fifth No. 1 seed in the past seven years and retained what now must seem like a birthright, a ninth consecutive Big 12 title.
Despite a disappointing loss to Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen, the banquet focused on the season’s positives. A jovial Self joked about plenty of topics, ranging from former Jayhawk and current radio announcer Greg Gurley’s talent at the free throw line to Jayhawk radio announcer Bob Davis’ age. Self even jokingly called out senior guard Elijah Johnson for his dunk at the end of the Iowa State game in Ames, Iowa, in late February.
“They talk about Elijah’s 39 points, which I think is great, Elijah, but the last two almost got my ass whipped after the game,” Self said.
Self also took time to look to next season during Monday night’s ceremony. He told the audience that freshman forward Perry Ellis could average 15 points per game next season, and he also glowingly referred to Landen Lucas, a forward who redshirted this season, as “a bull.”
Perhaps his highest praise was for a player who won’t be on the Jayhawks’ roster next season – freshman guard Ben McLemore, who declared for the NBA Draft last week. Self said McLemore could eventually reach a plateau that none of his players during his 10 years at Kansas have reached once they got to the NBA.
“If you’re not an NBA All-Star I think everybody in here will be disappointed,” Self said.
TWO SENIORS SHARE TEAM AWARD
Kansas presents one award at its banquet, the Danny Manning Award, given to the player who best encompasses what being a Jayhawk represents. Just like last season, when Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson shared the award, two more departing players, seniors Jeff Withey and Travis Releford, split it this season.
“I think over the course of their career those guys have graduated and done everything that they’ve been asked to do and made sacrifices,” Self said. “I think you could probably make a case for a couple more.”
When Withey first arrived in Lawrence after transferring from Arizona, he remained firmly on the end of the bench behind Kansas’ other big men, including Cole Aldrich, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Thomas Robinson and Mario Little.
Withey, who figures to become the fifth one of those big men taken in the NBA Draft, said he was thrilled to join players like Robinson as recipients of the Danny Manning award.
“It’s awesome that I get to share it with Trav too,” Withey said. “He definitely deserves it.”
SENIORS PREPARE FOR DRAFT
Both Withey and Johnson have signed with an agent and plan on working out in Lawrence for a few weeks until taking their training elsewhere. Withey said he would move to Los Angeles to continue preparing for the draft, while Johnson plans on going to Houston.
Both Johnson and Releford recently participated in a pre-draft camp, the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, and they faced each other in the final game. Johnson contributed five points, four steals, four assists and six turnovers in 30 minutes for K&D Roundscaping, which beat Releford’s team, Roger Brown’s Restaurant, 87-78 in the final game. Releford notched two points, two turnovers and one steal in 28 minutes of play.
“I realized that we had a chance to play each other and we talked it up,” Johnson said. “We had a couple of smart comments for each other but not nothing too risky, risking our relationship for nothing like that.”
KANSAS COULD ADD MORE PLAYERS
Self has five recruits committed to joining his team next season, including two five-star players in guard Wayne Selden and center Joel Embiid. The Jayhawks have three open scholarships, which Self said he might use if he finds a player who fits into Kansas’ system. One of those players is top overall recruit Andrew Wiggins, a forward who is considering Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Florida State. Per NCAA rules, Self can’t comment on any unsigned players, but he said he is still on the recruiting trail.
“If we could get a couple more, if they’re the right couple, then I think we’d be interested in doing that,” Self said. “It will probably benefit us if we’re able to sign a couple more from a depth standpoint but I’m really happy with the guys we have coming in.”