Self Uses UNO Game to Pare Down Rotation

KU's Russell Robinson

You asked for it. You got it. But maybe not the way you wanted it. KU coach Bill Self said last week that he wanted to pare his roster down to a nine-man rotation. Last night, he used a 73-56 win over the University of New Orleans as an open tryout for the remaining spots.

While starters saw their minutes reduced, reserve Jeremy Case played 17 minutes.  Julian Wright played 29.  Darnell Jackson played 17.

At the same time, highly-touted sharpshooter Micah Downs was “DNP – coach’s decision.”  Same for newcomer Roderick Stewart.

When asked if either Downs or Stewart were sick or injured, Self’s answer was initially a somewhat curt, “No.”

He went on, “We made a decision that we’re going to try to play less guys.  You can’t switch and say, ‘Well, these guys have played the best (in practice) but we’re going to play him instead.’  Practice has to mean something.”

So, does the coach feel like he’s any closer to establishing a consistent rotation as we head into the home stretch of the nonconference schedule and into Big 12 play?

“Yeah,” he answered with certainty.  But if fans think “nine-man rotation” means seeing the same nine players in the box score after every game, well, you may want to talk to the coach about that.

“We’re not going to get it down to just nine guys each and every night,” Self explained.  “Like Christian (Moody, who played just five minutes) would be part of our rotation.  He got off to a bad start and then he dislocated his finger.”

Self said that it’s going to be a matter of establishing who’s playing well on a given night and giving them the bulk of the minutes.

“The thing about having five big guys, if we can find three that are playing well, it’s a three-man rotation that night.  Or if it’s four, it’s a four-man rotation.  No one has distanced themselves with our big guys.  So we’re not going to be able to say hey, it’s just these guys.  It not fair to the guys, and it’s not best for our team.”

However, it sounds like the personnel among the guards is shaking itself out with a little more certainty. 

“On the perimeter, I can see us getting it down to five, with maybe a sixth guy getting in from a situational standpoint.”

Those five are, most likely, Jeff Hawkins, Russell Robinson, Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers and Vinson.  That leaves Case, Downs and Stewart as the “situational” players.

“You guys (the media) may disagree, but our freshmen have had opportunities to play minutes.  They’ve played minutes.  But we’ve got to win games, and we’re going to do what we think is best.  The rotation can change over time, but Jeremy (Case) has shown he deserves to be out there some, and I think Stephen (Vinson) has shown our team’s better when he’s out there,” Self said.

The coach seemed to indicate, though, that he’s not excited about the prospect of Downs and Stewart as strictly situational players.  But the amount of playing time they get would seem to be under their control.

“We need Micah to come through.  And Roderick.  Hopefully they’ll practice better.”

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