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May 25, 2007

Self limited at forward

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In part two of a three-part series, Jayhawk Slant takes a look at the 2007-08 Kansas forwards. The loss of Brandon Rush puts a gaping whole at the small forward position for Bill Self. In all likelihood, Self will have to run a three-guard line up, forcing Kansas to go small. While KU looks to fill the void of Rush, the Jayhawks are solid at the power forward spot with sophomore star Darrell Arthur, and senior Darnell Jackson. Arthur looks primed to explode next season, giving Kansas a scoring and defensive threat in the post.
If there is one question mark for the 2007-08 Kansas Jayhawks, it's at the forward position, specifically the small forward.

With Rush headed for the NBA, and Julian Wright headed for the NBA lottery, there isn't a single Jayhawk who possesses similar size and athleticism as each of those two players. Had Wright opted to stay, he would have been a no-brainer at the small forward.

KU must now either run a three-guard lineup with Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson, and Sherron Collins, or bring in a Rodrick Stewart or Brady Morningstar to fill the void at the small forward.

With a talented group of guards, the wiser choice would seem to be playing the afore-mentioned Chalmers, Robinson, and Collins together at the same time. At 6-foot-2 with above average length, Chalmers would be a good replacement for Rush, but could find himself in mismatches with a taller forward.

The other option is to move rising star Arthur to the three at times. The 6-foot-9 athlete will likely see most of his time at the power forward position, but his outside shooting ability, and athleticism could prove to be suitable at the small forward.

While Self develops a plan to replace Rush, the situation at power forward is as solid as it gets.

With Arthur and Jackson splitting time at the four, Kansas is in good hands, both defensively and offensively. Both players have very different styles, which make scouting the KU forwards tough for opposing teams.

If Self can find the right combination between the guard and small forward position, the Jayhawks could be one of the more complete teams around the nation, and you can bet sophomore star Arthur will help lead the way.

Strengths:

Athleticism - With Arthur and Jackson holding down the power forward position, and Chalmers or one of Rodrick Stewart or Brady Morningstar splitting time at the small forward, the Jayhawks will have plenty of athleticism to go around. They may not see the highlight plays that had become commonplace with Rush and Wright, but having another solid outside shooter to go along with an excellent low-post scorer (Arthur) and rebounder (Jackson), Kansas will have a successful inside-out game needed to get to the Final Four.

Even without Rush and Wright, Kansas' returning talent makes them a top 10 team.

Low-Post Scoring - It all starts with Arthur. When the talented Dallas-native signed the dotted line for Kansas, Self knew he lucked out in getting one of the more talented players in the country. Arthur is a good offensive rebounder who can clean up down low, but also creates his own shot, either off the dribble, or by hitting a mid-range jumper.

While his shooting still needs a little work, Arthur could easily average 20 points per game as a sophomore, and with the two NBA defections, Kansas will need every point they can get out of him.

Jackson may not be an overly gifted offensive presence, but his tenacity on the boards allows him to get easy put backs. As a defender, you certainly don't want to get in the way of Jackson, who at 6-foot-8, 250-pounds, is a beast down low.

If either one of the two goes up for a dunk, defenders would be wise to just get out of the way.

Rebounding - At the power forward position, the Jayhawks are set when it comes to hitting the glass. Both Arthur and Jackson are talented on the boards, and have keen sense of position under the basket. Both are extremely physical as well, which is a plus when it comes to fighting for a spot down low.

Weaknesses:

Rebounding - To be specific, rebounding at the small forward. Brandon Rush was one of the better rebounding small forwards around the nation for the past two seasons.

Without him, Kansas has Stewart at 6-foot-5, and Arthur, who likely won't play a ton at the small forward unless needed. Without a rebounding three-man, pressure will be placed on guys like Arthur and Jackson, as well as Sasha Kaun, and frosh Cole Aldrich to dominate the glass.

Perimeter Shooting - Obviously KU's guards will work to make up for the loss of Rush's shooting, but his departure still leaves a hole when it comes to the teams three-point effectiveness. It's a bonus if you have a small forward with an outside touch, specifically one who can shoot over any defender with his size. Without him, Kansas is without a dimension that has brought success for the past two seasons.

Depth - While the power forward isn't as much of an issue in this department, the three-spot definitely is. At this point, you can't say with full confidence exactly who is going to fill that role. Self likely doesn't know how much production he is going to get out of his reserves playing significant minutes, and although he does know what he is going to get out of Collins, Chalmers, and Robinson, he knows the limitations of that lineup at all three perimeter positions.

Forwards:

Darrell Arthur (9.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.5 BLK) - If fans around the nation don't yet know about Darrell Arthur, they soon will. Arthur is the type of power forward NBA teams dream about. The athletic, versatile, yet physical four-man that can shoot, work inside, and rebound.

Arthur possesses a great court sense, and as a big man, can run the floor with any guard. With coach Self looking for an offensive leader, he won't need to look very far, as Arthur is ready to explode in his sophomore campaign.

Self, and Kansas fans will need to enjoy it now, as Arthur likely will be playing his last season in Allen Fieldhouse.

Darnell Jackson (5.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, .6 BLK) - Jackson is maybe the hardest worker on the Kansas roster. When the 6-foot-8 forward is in the game, it's full throttle. That kind of hustle cannot be taught. A player simply has an energy and fire about him, and Jackson certainly possesses both.

His size is imposing to any opponent and his knowledge of how to use his size makes him a threat offensively, and a force defensively.

The one area of improvement for Jackson is his control. At times, Jackson sees himself scoring a basket, but forgets, or simply chooses to run his defender over, typically resulting in a charge. If Jackson can control his initial move to the basket and develop a go-to scoring move, he could be a dominant power forward.


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