The first significant lineup change of the 2023-24 Kansas basketball season is coming to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.
KU coach Bill Self said Friday that freshman guard Johnny Furphy will start in place of freshman Elmarko Jackson when the 3rd-ranked Jayhawks (13-2 overall, 1-1 Big 12) take on No. 9 Oklahoma (13-2, 1-1) at 1 p.m. on ESPN+.
Self cautioned against reading too much into the move, saying instead that he was putting Furphy into the starting lineup for the reason of, “just looking at something different.”
“And maybe it’ll be good for Elmarko coming off the bench, kind of watching what’s going on first,” Self noted.
Furphy, who has one start under his belt this season, — in place of KJ Adams in Round 1 of the Maui Invitational back in November — has been on an uptick of late, playing with more energy, intensity and confidence while scoring 9, 4 and 7 points off the bench in his last three outings, after missing the Yale win to return home to Australia for a family commitment.
“In the first half the other night, he made the play in transition (vs. UCF) that was about as athletic as anybody we’ve ever had, taking off one foot in transition like that,” Self said of Furphy’s transition dunk that gave KU its first lead in that game. “… And that takes confidence to make that play.”
Furphy talked recently about wanting to emphasize not hesitating while he’s on the floor to help grow his game, and that dunk along with how assertive he has been shooting the ball in recent games have been proof of that.
“He’s shown flashes of shooting the ball with more confidence and looking to shoot the ball,” Self said. “I haven’t seen him be a lot different, confidence-wise, in attacking the basket off the bounce and some things like that. But he’ll get there.”
As for what this move could do for Jackson’s role and what Self would like to see from the freshman guard who has started the first 15 games of his career, Self said that hadn’t changed.
“Energy, aggressiveness, athleticism,” he said. “But that’s what I want if he’s not coming off the bench, too.”
“There’s nothing major about this,” Self added. “It’s not as (if it’s) something, ‘Well, this is something that we’re really trying to change the outlook of our team.’ We’re not. At all. Johnny has been playing probably more consistently well here of late and certainly looked to be more aggressive.”
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