Posted: Wednesday November 15, 2006 1:56PM; Updated: Wednesday November 15, 2006 2:59PM
By Luke Winn, SI.com
THE REAL-WORLD ARCHITECTURAL EQUIVALENT TO KANSAS
We asked Scott Schiamberg, a senior associate at HOK Sport, which designed such venues as Camden Yards and the new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets, to match up the Jayhawks' profile with a prominent, real-world architectural project:
This building, considered one of the city's most innovative skyscrapers, was built atop a classic structure -- the original headquarters of the Hearst Corporation, which opened in 1928. Norman Foster is one of the industry's most prominent architects, and he came in -- like Bill Self, at a historically rich institution like Kansas -- and constructed new landmark on top of an old one. It's a tower, but it's lighter than the typical skyscraper due to its use of triangular structure on the exterior. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, have a modernized offense with three guards; a sleeker, more intriguing team that may not be like the Kansas of old, but is recognized as one of the nation's best.
The guards have managed to co-exist despite their overlapping roles; Robinson, Chalmers and Collins can all play the point, while Chalmers, Collins and Rush can all play the two. Self says this is by design: "When we recruit, I say, 'Give me three guards, as long as one is tall enough to defend the 3, and two of them can shoot it.' That's basically what we look for; we could play with three point guards, or two threes and a point, as long as two of them can stroke it."
BUILDING YEARS/LOCATIONS: The majority of KU's talent was reeled in during the past two years; of the regulars, only Robinson and junior center Sasha Kaun arrived earlier. And while the backcourt is KU's biggest asset, if the Jayhawks go on to win a title this year, the signing of two versatile big men in back-to-back years may be viewed as the key.
In the class of '05, Julian Wright, a 6-foot-8 forward from Floosmoor, Ill., committed to Self even before visiting Lawrence. Wright made a splash as a freshman, averaging 8.5 points and 4.6 rebounds, and was tabbed as the preseason co-Big 12 Player of the Year -- along with Rush. This spring, Darrell "Slim Shady" Arthur, a 6-9 forward from Dallas, chose the Jayhawks over Baylor after seeing himself playing for KU in a dream on the eve of his announcement. He scored 21 points in his exhibition debut with the Jayhawks this season.
Wright passes as well as any KU player, and Arthur could command major minutes now that C.J. Giles has been dismissed. Both of the young forwards have one important attribute: They're athletic enough to keep up with the guards.
DESIGN QUIRK: The Jayhawks' backcourt creates a stunning amount of steals, but its lack of overall size (Chalmers, Robinson and Collins are all around 6-feet) means it allows opponents to shoot threes at an average clip (34.7 percent). Where KU thrives is at forcing bad shots inside the arc; it ranked No. 1 in the nation in two-point field-goal defense, at 38.4 percent.
WHY IT COULD BE FINAL-FOUR FUNCTIONAL: Their two consecutive embarrassing exits from the NCAA tournament aside, the Jayhawks gelled better than any other young team down the stretch in '05-06, winning 15 of their final 16 games in the Big 12 (including the conference tourney). Self's lineup is the biggest recruiting haul outside of North Carolina, and he doesn't appear to have problems with clashing egos. The addition of Arthur and Collins, two superstar-quality reserves, gives Kansas depth -- and the ability to play even faster with their unparalleled backcourt.