In college basketball, there are certain schools with elite programs that are classified as "Blue Bloods". The University of Kansas Jayhawks are one of Blue Blood programs with a rich history of success. Most recently they won the national championship in 2022, but last season they lost in the second round to the Arkansas Razorbacks. After an off-season of losing players to the draft and gaining key pieces through the transfer portal, the Jayhawks look to return to the top of college basketball.
Kansas lost a couple key pieces to their team in the NBA draft this year. One was a three-year starter in Jalen Wilson and the other was one of the top local freshman, Gradey Dick. They didn't suffer too many impactful losses in the transfer portal after losing only three reserve players. Joseph Yesefu (4.1 ppg) transferred to Washington State, Bobby Pettiford (2.2 ppg) transferred to East Carolina, Cam Martin ( 1.8 ppg) transferred to Boise State, and M.J. Rice (2.2 ppg) transferred to N.C. State. They all left to get more playing time, but luckily Kansas got some very impactful players returning from last year and through the transfer portal.
From the transfer portal the Jayhawks landed Nicolas Timberlake from Towson, Hunter Dickinson from Michigan, and Parker Braun (BROWN), former Jayhawk Christian Braun's brother. Dickinson was the biggest name in the transfer portal and when he chose Kansas, it catapulted them up the ladder into serious contention. At 7' 2" and 260 lbs, he instantly becomes the focal point of the Jayhawks offense, and he gets to learn from one of the greatest coaches ever in Bill Self. In his time with Michigan he was a two-time All Big 10 selection averaging 17.2 points, and 8.4 rebounds per game. Timberlake becomes another off the bench guy from the transfer portal that adds depth with his wing scoring. He averaged 12.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.5 steals per game at Towson.
Kansas' Freshman class is also really talented. Johnny Furphy (Fur-FEE) is a 6' 9" guard from Melbourne, Australia, that can provide more scoring off the bench with his length, athleticism, and ability to shoot from downtown. Another guard who will provide scoring and depth from off the bench is Jamari Mcdowell. The 6' 4" guard from Houston, Texas can guard all three outside guard positions and can contribute with his shooting. Elmarko Jackson is a 6' 3" combo-guard from Marlton, New Jersey. He can make an immediate impact whether it's coming off the bench or being in the starting lineup. He was highly rated out of high school and was also awarded as a Mcdonald's All-American. While the transfer portal and freshman class are among the best in the nation, it's the returning players that take Kansas to the next level.
Back at starting point guard is Redshirt Senior, Dajuan Harris Jr., who is one of the top in the nation at the position. He is considered a "pass-first" point guard, but he has developed a shot that will take him to the next level. Usually opponents would dare him to shoot from the outside, but that will end soon. Last year he shot 40.5% from the arc in 2.1 attempts per game, and this year he is shooting 43.8% in 2.0 attempts per game. In their win against Kentucky, Harris made them pay when being left open by scoring 23 points and shooting 5/6 from beyond the arc. A player like Harris can really benefit from a post player like Dickinson, and his shooting ability can be the X-factor for a run in March.
K.J. Adams Jr. is returning for his junior year after winning the Big-12 Most Improved Player last season. He only started one game his freshman year (2022 National Championship) and the he then got a permanent starting role. He will start next to Dickinson to solidify the front court and develop his game on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Adams is playing with a chip on his shoulder this year. In late November, he learned his mother passed away. Coach Self got emotional after their win against UCONN saying "This game belonged to one person" pointing at Adams. In that win he recently scored his 500th career point as a part of his 18-point performance and will continue to score more this year.
A recent transfer making his return with unfinished business is graduate senior, Kevin McCullar Jr. He arrived in Lawrence last season after three seasons at Texas Tech. Last year he thrived in his role as a two-way wing on a great team. McCullar Jr. averaged 10.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game last season. His return was a surprise after he entered his name into the 2023 NBA draft before later withdrawing it. In an expanded role McCullar Jr. is averaging 18.5 points, 1.1 steals, and shooting 35.5% from three this season. As one of the top scoring options in the country, he is looking to develop his game for the next level as well as win a championship as a Jayhawk.