The Kansas Jayhawks have a young squad this season that is filled with potential future lottery picks in the NBA. Bill Self brought in one of the best recruiting classes in the country to Lawrence and has been riding his talented freshman to a 12-4 start to the season (3-0 in Big 12 play). While Andrew Wiggins arrived on campus with a splash and everyone knew how could he could be, it has been the development of another freshman, Joel Embiid, that has driven the Jayhawks’ success this season.
The 7-footer from Camaroon is still a work in progress but his growth as a player during his freshman season has been astounding. When this season started, Embiid was coming off the bench with limited minutes and was primarily an offensive player if he could catch the ball in close to the hoop. But over time, he’s developed on both sides of the court, becoming an excellent passer out of double teams with a lightning quick drop-step to the hoop and has developed into an impact player on defense, blocking and altering shots around the rim.
That development was on full display for Kansas as they went on the road and beat the No. 8 Iowa State Cyclones on Monday night. Embiid took the game over in the second half, providing a much-needed spark in the post that helped break a 36-36 halftime tie and push the Jayhawks lead as high as 11 points down the stretch. He finished the game shooting 7-of-8 from the floor with 16 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and two assists. Iowa State shot just 31.4 percent from the floor and Georges Niang, Embiid’s primary responsibility on defense, finished the game shooting just 4-of-20 from the field.
As Embiid continues to develop as a player, the Kansas Jayhawks will continue to improve as a team heading into the NCAA Tournament. The sky is the limit for the growth of Embiid as a basketball player and he will carry the Jayhawks with him as the rises. Will he continue his rapid growth as a basketball player right through the Big 12 Tournament and onto the Final Four?