2012--13 RECORD 31--6 BIG 12 14--4 (T-1ST) WHAT'S BACK MINUTES: 25.1% POINTS: 20.1% REBOUNDS: 17.2%
Perry Ellis may have been one of the most celebrated high school players in Kansas history, but that didn't do him much good when he stepped onto the court at the Georgia Dome last year for his second college game. The 6'8", 225-pound forward, who led Wichita Heights High to four Class 6A state titles and was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year four times, looked around the cavernous arena—and realized he wasn't in Kansas anymore. "That was such a different atmosphere from anything I had ever been in," Ellis says. "All I could think about was not messing up. It was a mental block that held me back."
Ellis made just two field goals that night, against Michigan State, and a week later he was removed from the starting lineup. But then he settled down, trusted his instincts and helped the Jayhawks win their ninth straight Big 12 championship. Ellis is now their leading returning scorer (5.8 points) and rebounder (3.9), and his improvement is a big reason Kansas should win a 10th straight league title despite losing all five starters. "Perry could certainly average 14 or 15 points this year," coach Bill Self says. "It was just a matter of him gaining back his confidence last year. The biggest thing I want from him now is to be more of a killer."
Self bid farewell to four seniors as well as to guard Ben McLemore, who left after one year for the NBA, and brought in three recruits—center Joel Embiid, guard Wayne Selden and swingman Andrew Wiggins—all of whom are likely to be lottery picks next summer. Then he added bulk and experience by signing Tarik Black, a 6'9", 260-pound senior graduate transfer from Memphis.
But Ellis is the key to making these Jayhawks go. "I've got a real good feel for the college game now," he says. He's finally comfortable on the big stage, and he's found that there's no place like home.
Projected Lineup (2012--13 STATS)
PG NAADIR THARPE
JR. 5'11" 5.5 PPG 3.0 APG
SG WAYNE SELDEN‚Ä†
FR. 6'5" 24.8 PPG 10.1 RPG
G ANDREW WIGGINS‚Ä†
FR. 6'8" 23.4 PPG 2.5 APG
PF PERRY ELLIS
SOPH. 6'8" 5.8 PPG 3.9 RPG
C TARIK BLACK‚Ä°
SR. 6'9" 8.1 PPG 4.8 APG
C JOEL EMBIID‚Ä†
FR. 7'0" 13.0 PPG 9.7 RPG
PG FRANK MASON‚Ä†
FR. 5'11" 22.0 PPG 6.0 APG
‚Ä†HIGH SCHOOL STATS
BILL SELF (11TH SEASON)
SI What do you think about people who are saying that Andrew Wiggins is overrated?
BS Those people haven't seen him in practice. He's very conscientious and wants to do things the right way, but I've been really pleased with his progress. It's amazing how much more comfortable he is than just a couple of weeks ago.
SI This team is a lot more inexperienced than last year's, but is it fair to say it is also much more talented?
BS No question we're more talented, but last year's team would wear this year's team out right now. But the ceiling for [these Jayhawks] is much higher.
SI Is it more fun to coach a young team or one dominated by seniors?
BS It's more fun to coach these guys, but it's also more frustrating and time-consuming. Coaches love when you've got young kids who are sponges. It would be nice to coach these guys with no expectations, but that's not the way it works.
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ROUND OF 32
GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (SELF)
DAVID E. KLUTHO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (ELLIS)
PORTER BINKS FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (MASCOT)