Selden returns to KU, but shooting remains inconsistent

KU's Wayne Seldin, Jr.

JANUARY 2015 – Two days after Kansas’ heartbreaking loss to Stanford in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, freshman guard Wayne Selden Jr. made a Twitter announcement that comforted Jayhawk fans.

“Want to let Jayhawk Nation know, I will be returning for my sophomore season! Can’t wait to get to work and back in the fieldhouse.”

After starting all 35 games and averaging 9.7 points last season while showing glimpses of greatness, Selden likely would have been a late first round or early second-round NBA Draft pick. But he knew he could improve with another year under KU coach Bill Self.

Selden, though, had a bigger reason to come back.

“We didn’t win last year (in the NCAA Tournament), that was the biggest thing,” Selden said. “We did the bare minimum of what we needed to do. We still have a lot to accomplish. We had the pieces last year, we just didn’t come through and we get a second chance.”

Selden gets a second chance after playing last season with an injured left knee. After undergoing minor surgery after the season, he’s fully healed and primed for a breakout sophomore season.

“I feel a lot better actually, not too much bigger because I didn’t need to get any bigger, but I feel a little faster, a little stronger,” the 6-foot-5 Selden said.

Self sees a difference, too, in the rising star.College-SponsorI think he’s in better shape. I think he’s healthy, he’s got more bounce,” Self said. “He’s definitely much more aggressive. Even though Perry (Ellis) is the biggest veteran we have and even though Jamari (Traylor) is a year older, Wayne feels like this is his team more than anybody else’s, which is a good thing. I think his leadership role is much more advanced since last year. Where last year he was just kind of fitting in, this year I think he’s taken more of a leadership role.”

With last season’s one-and-done stars Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, plus veterans Naadir Tharpe and Tarik Black, Selden played a complementary role on and off the court. But with Tharpe leaving the team and Wiggins, Embiid and Black in the NBA, Selden has started taking ownership of the team.

“It’s my second year now, and guys are looking at me for decisions, guys are looking at me for leadership, and I feel like I’m doing a good job of filling that role,” he said.

Self said last year Selden could be one of the best leaders he’s ever had at Kansas. The KU coach elaborated early this season what makes the sophomore so special.

“I think, first of all, if you’re going to be a leader you got to have a presence. And he’s got a presence,” Self said. “But even more importantly than just having a presence, he’s got a physical presence. So, I think that kind of gives him a leg up on some guys that maybe don’t have that physical presence.

“I think that he’s tough, he’s smart. He cares a ridiculous amount. I mean he’s got a lot of qualities to make himself a good leader. He’s kind of an ‘alpha dog’ type male and definitely an alpha male.”

Selden, a Roxbury, Massachusetts, native, has had some shooting woes with a 34.7 field goal percentage and a 9.1 average and went 0-for-10 against Michigan State. He exploded for 21 points (9-of-15 FG) against No. 24 Florida in KU’s 71-65 victory on Dec. 5. Selden’s 14 second half points helped the Jayhawks rally from an 18-point deficit, one of the biggest comebacks in school history.

“It was one of the best games he’s played since he’s been here,” Self said. “He’s been laboring, needed something good to happen. He got a layup to begin the game and that took the lid off. It should give him confidence. He needed to see the ball go in. … He made real points in the second half. Those are real college baskets, when you don’t run good offense and you just jump up and make a shot. They weren’t easy points, so that should give him a lot of confidence.”

Selden has the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team at +1.85.

“You’ve got to stick with it and need to keep playing through it, even when you’re missing shots,” he said.

Selden hopes to become a more consistent shooter entering January.

“His shot has been so good in practice,” Self said after the Lafayette game on Dec. 20, where Selden shot 4-of-8 from the field and scored 12 points and dished out six assists.

“He’d be the first to tell you it feels really good right now… but he’s doing a good job of trying to be a complete guard.”

Selden developed a complete game in high school and the AAU circuit. He averaged 24.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists at Tilton School in New Hampshire as a senior while named a McDonald’s All-American. Selden, a five-star player, was ranked No. 14 on the ESPN 100 and No. 12 by Rivals.com.

He committed to KU after attending Late Night in the Phog in October before his senior year.

“Everything about this place I loved,” Selden said. “The whole aspect, the coaching staff, the tradition and the fans are incredible. It wasn’t just Late Night itself, but it was the family-like environment that I stepped into when I came here on my visit.”

And he’s continued to enjoy every step of his journey at Kansas.

“I’m loving it,” Selden said. “It’s a great fan base. Everybody loves the Jayhawks.”

Kansas (9-2) won eight straight games before getting crushed at Temple 77-52 on Dec. 22. In which Selden was held to six points on 2-for-8 shooting. Despite the defeat, Selden believes KU has unlimited upside.

“I feel we can be great,” Selden said. “I feel we have the potential to be really good. If we just keep working hard, that’s the biggest thing, really pushing each other and holding each other accountable.”

Sophomore guard Brannen Greene knows Selden pushes himself the hardest.

“Wayne’s a monster,” Greene said. “He’s just a strong beast. He’s one of the toughest people I know, just mentally (and) physically. He just wants it so bad. I have a great amount of respect for Wayne’s game.”

Self believes Selden can be a great player at Kansas and eventually play in the NBA.

“He’s got all the physical attributes,” Self said. “He’s big, strong, explosive. He works hard. He hasn’t shot the ball consistently well, but he’s a good shooter. That will come. He’s got vision. He’s tough. He’s got some things that could allow him to be not only a good college player but play well beyond here.”

Selden isn’t thinking about the NBA just yet. After all, he returned to KU for his sophomore year on a mission after some unfinished business last season.

“We all have the opportunity to do something special here,” Selden said, “and that’s what I came back for.”

 

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