The Wayne Selden who tantalized Kansas with his assertiveness and efficiency this past summer resurfaced Wednesday night in Maui.
The mercurial 6-foot-5 junior torched Vanderbilt for 25 points on only 11 shots, more than enough to lead the Jayhawks to a 70-63 victory over the Commodores in the Maui Invitational title game.
Selden's performance capped a brilliant three days in Maui in which he showcased a lethal 3-point stroke and the ability to attack the rim. He averaged 19.3 points per game, sank 12 of 17 attempts from behind the arc and got to the foul line 12 times, exactly the sort of numbers Kansas coach Bill Self has been waiting for him to put up with regularity for the past two years.
A former top 20 prospect heralded for his size, athleticism and scoring prowess, Selden played in Andrew Wiggins' shadow as a freshman and failed to produce the breakout sophomore season many projected from him last year. He averaged slightly fewer points than he had as a freshman, shooting a pedestrian 36 percent from behind the arc while consistently struggling to finish in traffic in the paint.
Occasionally, he'd shred a quality opponent just to remind everyone of his limitless potential. Just as often, he'd drift aimlessly through a big game without ever putting his stamp on it, making it easy to forget he was even on the court.
Last July's World University Games in South Korea provided a forum for Selden to bounce back from a scoreless performance against Wichita State in the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament. Selden helped lead a U.S. team comprised mostly of Kansas players to a gold medal, averaging 19.3 points per game and taking the honor of the event's best player.
If the Selden that Kansas gets for the rest of the season is the South Korea version, that would be even more important for the Jayhawks than Wednesday's news that prized freshman Cheick Diallo has been cleared to play. Selden is the ultimate X-factor for Kansas, a high-scoring wing capable of taking pressure off everyone else on offense if he becomes the star he was once predicted to be.
There were signs of star power against a much-improved Vanderbilt team on Wednesday night, but none bigger than this smooth step-back jumper.
There's not another player on the Kansas roster who can do that. Heck, there aren't many other players in the Big 12 who can do that.
With the nucleus of Selden, Frank Mason and Perry Ellis leading the way this week in Maui, Kansas dispatched of Chaminade and UCLA with ease before slowly pulling away from Vanderbilt. In the process, the Jayhawks served notice they're yet again the team to beat in the Big 12 and a threat to make the Final Four.
What would help, of course, is Selden sustaining this level of play. There's no guarantee that will happen, but the past three days in Maui were certainly a promising start.
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