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A breakdown of the state of the KU roster & where things go from here

Jayhawks figure to be active in the transfer portal, but a solid foundation could return, as well

6 min read
Four of the five players pictured above could be back in a Kansas uniform during the 2024-25 season, with only Nicolas Timberlake (25) out of eligibility. [Kansas Athletics photo]

There’s so much that can and will happen between now and the start of the summer that it’s kind of difficult to make a full read on the state of the Kansas basketball roster.

But even amid all of that uncertainty and the unknowns that exist, there figures to be quite a bit of stability, as well.

Here’s a look at where I see things as Bill Self and company enter the offseason.

KJ Adams and Jamari McDowell get airborne during starting lineup introductions at Allen Fieldhouse earlier this season. [Chance Parker photo]

First of all, it’s worth noting that KU has a real chance to return four of its five starters from this season for the 2024-25 season.

Before you roll your eyes and scoff at how the 2023-24 season and team finished, let’s not forget how good that group looked when healthy and for most of the season.

Well into February, the Jayhawks were a top-10 team with Big 12 and national title potential. The wheels fell off late, but at least you can point to real reasons why things went south.

In the simplest terms: this team just didn’t have enough.

Enough talent. Enough depth. Enough experience on the bench. Enough healthy bodies. Enough time.

And it seems that those issues will be the driving force behind whatever Self does in the offseason to retool this roster and get the Jayhawks back into the position they’re used to being.

Dajuan Harris Jr. and KJ Adams returning is a lock. This is not in question, and you shouldn't spend any time worrying about either player.

And I think there’s a strong chance that big man Hunter Dickinson will be back, as well. He certainly could look to move on. And he may very well test his NBA draft stock. But if the mock drafts and his career to this point have taught us anything, it’s that his best basketball path forward involves another year at KU.

That leaves freshman wing Johnny Furphy as the wildcard in that four-man group of potential returning starters.

While we’re here, don’t forget that freshman Elmarko Jackson also started half of KU’s games this season, making 17 starts in 34 games for the 23-11 Jayhawks. Most of those came during the first half of the schedule, but (a) KU was 12-1 after non-conference play and (b) Jackson actually does have valuable starting experience at KU now. So, even if Furphy is not back, the Jayhawks would be in position to still return four starters from this year’s team.

KU freshman Elmarko Jackson slaps hands with teammate KJ Adams during a KU win over Wichita State in Kansas City, Missouri, last December. [Chance Parker photo]

If you can’t tell from that, I think Jackson’s back next season, and I think it’s about as close to a lock as the other two I mentioned above.

OK. Back to Furphy.

His situation is a bit different than any of the others who could return. If he chooses to leave KU after one season, Furphy absolutely will be drafted. Furthermore, he’s almost certainly a first-round pick.

So, why return?

Two reasons. Not everybody can help their stock by returning to their respective schools for another season, but Furphy absolutely can.

A nice prospect landing in the mid- to late-20s on draft boards today could come back to KU for another year, get stronger, gain experience, become more assertive and get better on the defensive end — as an individual defender and a team defender. All of a sudden, that would push him into the lottery.

Doing so not only would make him a lot more money, but it also would put him in a much better position to be ready for the jump and to trend positively toward that second NBA contract and sticking around the league for a long time.

The other thing to remember with Furphy is he’s young. He reclassified to come to KU in the first place and should not have so much as an ounce of concern about getting older and what it would mean for his stock in future drafts.

If he’s still here in 3 or 4 years, that might be a different story. But the Australian standout’s clock is still in his favor right now. He won’t even turn 20 until December and would still be 20 by the time the 2025 NBA draft rolls around.

KU freshman Johnny Furphy waits to check into a home game earlier this season at Allen Fieldhouse. [Chance Parker photo]

According to an story from last December, the youngest team in the NBA — San Antonio — has an average age of 23.52 years per player, with the Milwaukee Bucks and their 28.21 years per player number being the oldest team in the league.

So, the concern about being a year older if he returns and then leaves after his sophomore season should have nothing to do with Furphy’s decision.

It should, and likely will, be all about feel and what’s best for him and his family.

Let’s say for a second that they all come back. That’s the way I’m currently leaning, by the way. If that happens, you’re looking at a pretty fantastic core and foundation that simply needs to add what this year’s team just didn’t have.

Quality depth.

The three incoming freshmen will help in that area.

Five-star big man Flory Bidunga (6-9, 220) is the jewel of the 2024 recruiting class, with his athleticism, power and motor all adding something to the roster. He’ll play immediately and would be a great back-up to Dickinson.

But point guard Labaron Philon (6-3, 175) and wing Rakease Passmore (6-5, 180) should increase KU’s athleticism and depth, as well. Philon could emerge as Harris’ back-up right away and Passmore, who is an athletic slasher type, would compete for minutes in the 8th-9th man range.

Adding former Indiana commitment Liam McNeeley — a likely auto-starter from Day 1 wherever he winds up — to the 2024 class would certainly add even more oomph to the haul there.

The rest of the additions will from the transfer portal, of course. And Kansas, with that core, should be able to add just about anything it wants/needs and be viewed as an attractive place for transfers beyond it’s obvious blueblood status.

We’ve still got time to dive into what may or may not happen in the portal, but the one thing I think Self and company would do well to remember is that patience in the portal can be your friend.

There are tons of players in there already. But there are going to be more, too. Remember, Remy Martin did not officially enter the portal until the second week of May.

If there’s a shooter or two or a combo guard that the Jayhawks love today, they should go after them the same way they went after Dickinson. But if they merely like what’s out there but aren’t in love with anything, waiting and maintaining flexibility as more players start to announce their plans could pay off in a major way.

That was probably a lot to digest, so I’ll leave you with an ideal-world, perfect-storm scenario for the Jayhawks’ 2024-25 roster.

Dajuan Harris Jr.
Elmarko Jackson
Johnny Furphy
Jamari McDowell
KJ Adams
Hunter Dickinson

Freshmen signees:
Flory Bidunga
Labaron Philon
Rakease Passmore
Liam McNeeley

Transfer portal pick-ups:
Elite shooting/combo guard
Good-shooting wing

That would be 12 scholarship players and would allow Kansas to (a) save the 13th scholarship for a late portal addition or an additional guard or wing – OR – (b) choose not to use it to fulfill the final portion of the self-imposed scholarship reduction penalty relating to the NCAA investigation, which said the Jayhawks would reduce the number of total scholarships by three to be spread out over the next three seasons.

Self elected to forfeit two of those three this season, leaving KU in the position of needing to play with just 12 scholarship players either in 2024-25 or 2025-26.

Time will tell how all of this plays out. But you can bet they’re already hard at work on all of their options.

Buckle up and take a deep breath or 20.

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