There was a time where Wayne Selden, Jr. was the most prized freshman in the Kansas Jayhawks‘ 2013 recruiting class. With the attention that two other certain Kansas freshman have received this year, some may find that hard to believe.
Prior to Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid, the Jayhawks’ 2013 class was already considered a success following Selden’s commitment in October 2012. Those in the Kansas inner circle were blown away by the kid’s athleticism and newly-developed jumper; he was being hailed as the Jayhawks’ soon-to-be star before the ink on his letter of intent was dry.
But just seven months later, Wiggins chose Kansas over Kentucky and Florida State, bringing an unprecedented amount of media attention to Lawrence with him. A fanbase that had once anticipated for Selden to carry their team were now referring to him as merely “a nice complement to Wiggins.” Toss in Embiid’s early-season emergence and Selden became even more of an afterthought.
So much of one in fact that it’s easy to forget that he’s still projected as a mid-first round pick in this year’s NBA draft; CBSsports.com’s draft analysts Zach Harper and Gary Parrish have Selden slotted 11th and 15th, respectively.
He currently sits fourth on the Jayhawks with 10.4 PPG — he’s shot 47 percent from the field in the process — but has proven fairly inconsistent, not seeming able to truly find his niche within coach Bill Self‘s offense. Still, Selden simply possesses an NBA-ready body and athleticism; the idea of him leaving following the current season isn’t farfetched.
In 2013, only three of of the top-15 projected picks at this time of year wound up staying in school — Baylor‘s Isaiah Austin, Kentucky’s Alex Poythress and Oklahoma State‘s Marcus Smart — all three of whom have seen their draft stock drop this season. So why should Selden stay?
For one, former Jayhawk Josh Selby serves as a cautionary tale of undeveloped talent leaving for the NBA prematurely. Selby was the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2010 according to Rivals.com but seriously disappointed during his single year in Lawrence. After sitting out the first nine games of the season due to receiving improper benefits, he averaged only 7.9 points and 2.2 assists per game before splitting for the NBA.
Fast forward three years and Selby is in Croatia playing for a team named Cedevita Zagreb. If I’m Self, I’m laying it out for Selden in the form of those DIRECTV commercials, “Wayne, If you leave for the NBA early, you’ll have failed to develop your skills. If you fail to develop your skills, you won’t succeed in the the NBA. If you don’t succeed in the NBA, you’ll end up like Josh Selby, in Croatia and playing for a team named Cedevita Zagreb. Don’t end up in Croatia playing for a team named Cedevita Zagreb.” Sold.
Additionally, with talks of a possible Embiid return and incoming blue-chip prospect Cliff Alexander, the idea of a Selden-Embiid-Alexander core for 2014-15 already has Jayhawks fans drooling. Several other key pieces will be returning as well, and Kansas should have the most impact players returning since the 2009-10 season. If Selden is interested in the possibility of winning championships, staying for his sophomore season would surely be enticing.
Though he hasn’t expressed his intentions either way, a Selden return is wishful thinking at best. He appears to be somebody who enjoys and thrives in the spotlight, something he hasn’t experienced this season and likely won’t in the next.
Expect Bill to have a pitch prepared for the heralded freshman, but ultimately Selden will bolt for the league to avoid the possibility of a draft stock freefall. A team like the Minnesota Timberwolves or Memphis Grizzlies will certainly take a flyer on the talented shooting guard in the mid-first round. Here’s to hoping he doesn’t pan out like Selby.