No Jayhawk was more upset when Roy Williams left for North
Carolina last April than junior forward Wayne (the Warden)
Simien, who grew up in Leavenworth, Kans., "dreaming in the
driveway that I was playing for Coach Williams." So why is Simien
smiling these days? For one thing, new coach Bill Self's high-low
offensive sets figure to give Simien plenty of touches in his
first season as the team's top inside option. More important,
Simien's balky right shoulder--operated on twice in the past two
years--is strong again.
"I feel as good as new," says Simien, who averaged 14.8 points
and 8.2 rebounds in 16 games last season. "When I got back on the
court in August, I was going through some things mentally"--a
reluctance to dunk righthanded or extend his right arm far from
his body--"but the more I've played, the more comfortable I've
Self believes Simien can become one of the nation's top players.
"Wayne's letting go and playing with reckless abandon again,"
Self says. "He has great touch, can score facing the basket and
is a very good rebounder. But I will say this: We can all get
Therein lies Self's challenge: to convince a team coming off two
straight Final Fours that it has to change its M.O.--or, as
Simien puts it, "learn and unlearn things at the same time."
"My emphases are probably a little different from what Roy's
were," says Self. "I'm not saying Kansas didn't guard well last
year, but they had so many good offensive players. I don't want
our team to think they can just outscore people. I want our team
to think if the other team doesn't score, we can't lose."
In other words, don't expect the Jayhawks to average 83 points a
game again this season. Not that Kansas is lacking firepower.
Junior swingman Keith Langford is among the country's premier
slashers from the wing, and senior forward Jeff Graves is a
reliable post threat. If Simien and his teammates can learn and
unlearn enough to suit their new coach, a third straight Final
Four may be in store. --G.W.
2002-03 RECORD: 30-8 (14-2, 1st in Big 12)
TOURNAMENT: Lost to Syracuse in championship
POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT
SF Keith Langford 6'4" Jr. 15.9 ppg
PF Wayne Simien 6'9" Jr. 14.8 ppg
PF Jeff Graves 6'9" Sr. 6.8 rpg
SG Michael Lee 6'3" Jr. 4.9 ppg
PG Aaron Miles 6'1" Jr. 6.4 apg
an opposing coach's view
"WAYNE SIMIEN is a beast who knows how to beat up on people, but
in a clean way.... KEITH LANGFORD is a good player, although he
doesn't put it on the floor that well and only scores from the
left side.... AARON MILES came in with a lot of accolades, but I
think it's important for your point guard to be a capable scorer,
and he doesn't generate a lot of offense.... JEFF GRAVES is going
to have a good year because juco kids are always better their
second year.... MICHAEL LEE is kind of a quiet assassin: He isn't
an explosive scorer, but he makes big shots.... BILL SELF will do
a good job. He's from the Big Ten, so he's used to the rugged
style of this league."
Scoring margin last season for the Jayhawks, who averaged 82.7
points and allowed 66.9, the best differential in the nation.