3 Kansas men’s basketball players set for bigger roles in 2022-23

LAWRENCE — The 2022 NBA draft hasn’t even happened yet, but a recent ESPN mock draft for 2023 shines a light on Gradey Dick’s potential at Kansas.

Dick, one of four Jayhawks high school signers for the Class of 2022, will begin his college career as a rookie this upcoming season. Kansas basketball coach Bill Self expressed anticipation that Dick, a five-star 247Sports Composite prospect and a McDonald’s All-American, would play a big role in the freshman year. According to ESPN’s fictional draft, Dick is projected as a first-round pick and 18th overall pick next year.

But while Dick and his fellow signers — all of the top 45 prospects nationally — will certainly challenge those returning to the Jayhawks for playing time, the national championship team’s departures open up opportunities for a number of players. . That’s right, whether Christian Braun or Jalen Wilson turn pro. So, given that Kansas has no transfers leaving the program at this point, here’s a look at three comebacks who are set for bigger roles next season.

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Zach Clemence

Kansas forward Zach Clemence shoots against Oklahoma in the second half of the game in February inside Allen Fieldhouse.

The void that would be created by the departures of David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot, with no other additions to the field besides the high school signees, offers Clemence a chance to step up to second year. Clemence, as a freshman forward last season who missed time through injury, played 24 games off the bench and averaged 4.9 minutes, 2.1 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. The way the roster is shaping up there are definitely minutes, and even potentially a starting spot, to be had.

Clemence will need to become a much more consistent shooter, considering he finished with marks of 37.5% from the field, 27.3% from behind the arc and 48.3% from the free throw line. But with more consistent minutes and opportunities, one would expect those ratings to improve, which only adds to the potential weapon he could be for the Jayhawks offensively. And with the experience that a year in college brings and the possible progress that can be made in physical development, one would expect him to be better defensively as well.

“Zach is a good player,” Self said at the team banquet in April. “Zach is an NBA prospect, and he got injured in January, I believe, and he sat out, I think, about four to five weeks and did nothing. And then, coach, after not doing anything in practice a day in five or six weeks, decided, “Hey, Zach, why don’t we tape the second half and win the game against OU.” And he checked in and he won the game (February 12) against OU, so he has a chance to be a great player.

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Bobby Pettiford

Kansas guard Bobby Pettiford attempts a shot during the second half of a February game against Baylor inside Allen Fieldhouse.

Pettiford, a first-year guard last season, saw his freshman year at Kansas end early due to injury. He finished with 14 appearances off the bench, in which he averaged eight minutes, 1.4 points and 0.9 assists per game. He certainly contributed to the Jayhawks’ run, which included regular-season and Big 12 Conference titles, but not to the extent he would have had he been healthy throughout.

Next season, however, that could change significantly. Pettiford could become the first option off the bench to spell returning veteran guard Dajuan Harris Jr., in addition to someone playing alongside Harris if Self decides to play two smaller guards together. Looking back, a redshirt in 2021-22 might have been a better path for Pettiford, but there’s still plenty of promise for what next season and beyond could bring him.

“This kid’s got talent,” Self said of Pettiford at the team’s banquet in April. “He has a low center of gravity. He is fast. He can change direction. He has excellent balance and will be the next big guard here.

KJ Adams Jr.

Kansas forward KJ Adams Jr. dribbles the ball against Texas Tech in a double overtime win for the Jayhawks in January at Allen Fieldhouse.

Adams played more than any other freshman at Kansas last season, as the forward ended up with 37 appearances including one start. The potential he had defensively was evident, and that ability certainly played a part in why he ended up on the Big 12 freshman team. But his role was still limited, and he did. averaged 4.8 minutes, one point and 0.8 rebounds per game.

Adams should surely remain someone Self can turn to when defensive flexibility is paramount. Ahead of the 2022-23 campaign, Adams will have time to develop offensively and potentially improve his ability to space the floor. Self clearly already trusts Adams to some degree, and the months leading up to the opening will determine how far that can progress.

“KJ probably didn’t play as much as he would have liked to play, but my god when he played he was good,” Self said at the team banquet in April. “And we watch that Texas Tech game (January 24), when (Ochai Agbaji) left, and we don’t win that game without KJ Adams. So, KJ, I just want you to know how happy and proud we are to have you here. And never forget that you were on the field at the end of the national championship game.

Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas athletics at the Topeka Capital-Journal. Reach him at jmguskey@gannett.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.

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