May 25, 2024

Coach Bill Self, who lamented the lack of depth on an injury-plagued Kansas men’s basketball team this season, stated earlier this week that he hopes to field a team with “eight starters” in 2024-25. Self was explaining his ideal roster construction in the transfer portal era on Andy Katz’s NCAA March Madness podcast, while fellow Hall of Fame coach John Calipari of Arkansas was singing a different tune on Craig Robinson’s Ways to Win podcast.

“You may think I’m crazy, but I told my staff I only want eight or nine guys (on scholarship),” Calipari stated on the show. “They’re leaving anyway, so why would I raise a child for someone else? “Why should I do that?” In a story written by’s Myron Medcalf, Calipari stated that he intends to sign far fewer scholarship players than the NCAA mandated limit of 13 each season. So far, the former Kentucky coach’s inaugural Razorbacks roster includes seven scholarship players.

KU coach Self had ten scholarship players on his 2023-24 Jayhawks roster, with one, Zach Clemence, not on the redshirt list. Following the dismissal of scholarship guard Arterio Morris, Self faced the long collegiate basketball season with only nine scholarship players available. Kevin McCullar and Hunter Dickinson were sidelined with injuries late in the season, reducing the team to seven scholarship players.

With eight or nine scholarship athletes, Calipari would have fewer players who required NIL money. He indicated he might use walk-ons and graduate assistants to scrimmage the scholarship players during practice. “I want those (graduate assistants) to have played in Europe or just got done playing and can still play,” Calipari stated. “We can apply them in practice. The women’s programs have five males they call’managers,’ but that is who they play against.

“Perhaps I do it that way. We have walk-ons and graduate assistants. We have eight or nine guys, that’s all. And if there is a tenth guy, he knows who he is. The only drawback of having, say, eight scholarship players? That is the injury bug that KU battled late last season. “But my employees argue, ‘What if there’s an injury? Now we have seven or six. “I coached six when I was at UMass,” Calipari responded.


Bill Self and Kansas likely falling out of top 10 after ...


In KU’s 72-69 victory over North Carolina in the 2022 NCAA title game, coach Self used a seven-man rotation. In KU’s 75-68 overtime triumph over Calipari’s Memphis Tigers in the 2008 NCAA championship game, seven Jayhawks played 21 or more minutes (Cole Aldrich played four). Calipari relied on only six Tigers to play 24 or more minutes in the overtime defeat to KU, with Willie Kemp playing four minutes. With the addition of portal transfers Rylan Griffen (Alabama), AJ Storr (Wisconsin), and Zeke Mayo (South Dakota State), as well as incoming freshmen Flory Bidunga and Rakease Passmore, KU now has 12 scholarship players on its 2024-25 roster.

According to NCAA rules, teams can have up to 13 scholarship players. To comply with self-imposed NCAA sanctions, KU must have one under the scholarship limit either this year or in 2025-26. The following players are listed as returnees: KJ Adams, Clemence, Dickinson, Dajuan Harris, Johnny Furphy, Jamari McDowell, and Elmarko Jackson. Self explained his “eight starters” statement this week, saying, “Even though you can only start five, obviously, you have eight guys who are good enough to play at any moment. When you look at the teams that have won it the most, one of them is Connecticut, the two-time defending national champion.

“There’s little doubt that Connecticut had its main guys. You could bring a player off the bench and rest somebody for a set period of time, whether it’s in the pivot or as a rotating guard, and there’s no dropoff. Those are the areas we needed to address (during offseason recruitment), and I believe we did a good job overall. Connecticut coach Dan Hurley, by the way, utilized six players for 13 or more minutes in the Huskies’ 75-60 NCAA championship win over Purdue. Two other Huskies played 5 and 4 minutes, respectively. Purdue coach Matt Painter gave eight players 12 or more minutes in the title game.





















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