Releford shows out
It came as little surprise Monday when the Big 12 Conference announced Travis Releford as their player of the week. The junior small forward posted consecutive career highs in points, first against Kansas State (16) and then versus Oklahoma (28), and played exceptional basketball in every phase of the game.
Head Coach Bill Self has seen signs of this breakout coming, through his aggressiveness in practice - a mentality that at last translated over to games.
"To me, the problem I have with Travis, when I do have one, is that he loses some aggressiveness sometimes," Self said. "He's been more aggressive. I think he's worry about things you can't control every night. You can control your energy and loose balls and defense, you can control that. And when you worry about the right things it seems like you naturally score more."
Tech's Tolbert a dynamic threat
Next up for the Jayhawks is a Wednesday match-up on the road in Lubbock, Texas with the Red Raiders of Texas Tech.
One of the more pleasant surprises for first-year head coach Billy Gillispie has been the play of freshman power forward Jordan Tolbert. The 6-foot-7, 210-pound Fort Worth native is averaging 23.6 minutes, 14.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 62.4-percent from the floor.
"He puts pressure on the defense," Self said. "He's one of those prototypical, little bit undersized four-men that always drive it and draw fouls. Billy runs a lot of the hi-low stuff and he's really good in the high-post area because he can put it down and drive it. He's a hard guard one-on-one."
Self has a long history with Gillispie, who was a member of his staff at both Tulsa and Illinois. He believes the Red Raiders will see significant improvement with his friend at the helm, particularly now that he's back to his roots - both geographically and philosophically.
"It's all about development and those sorts of things," Self said. "And I think Billy will be great in taking the guys we had at Illinois and the guys we had at Tulsa and the guys he hat at UTEP and A&M - that were good players - and getting them to compete at a high level and have a chance to do great things."
Withey continuing upward trend
Kansas junior center Jeff Withey has had an up-and-down season in his first as a primary rotation player, but lately has been coming on strong - particularly in the second half of the games versus Oklahoma and Kansas State.
The Big 12 leader in blocked shots, Withey swatted nine total in those two games last week, and Self likes what he's seeing.
"I think the biggest reason is he's seemed to play with more fire and more energy," he said. "When he's emotional and fired up he gets pretty athletic, too. And he's so long. He's only averaging like 22 minutes a game and he's leading the league in blocked shots. So he's doing some good things, without question, but we need him to start it from the tip rather than after a halftime talk."