Kansas Basketball Player Review
Player: Wayne Selden, 2013-2016
Career Stats: 1202 points, 324 rebounds, 282 assists, 47% shooter, 37% from three, 63% free throw shooter.
Wayne Selden was a three-year starter for the Kansas Jayhawks under Bill Self. He is largely remembered for being a consistently underwhelming player. Most fans at the time felt he was a wildly talented guard who could never find a groove, and he always had a knack for disappearing for long stretches during conference play. But I want to break down Selden’s career as a whole. I want to see if those sentiments hold up with the benefit of hindsight.
2013-14, Freshman Year
Selden was a top-15 recruit in the class of 2013, coming in at No. 12 in ESPN’s final rankings. However, he was overshadowed by the return of Perry Ellis, and by fellow recruits Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. Selden’s first game as a Jayhawk was an eight point, four assist effort against Louisiana-Monroe. The next game was against a very different opponent: the Duke Blue Devils. Selden did very well against Duke, scoring 15 points and grabbing six boards. The rest of non-conference play was very streaky. He scored in double digits a few times, but never consistently like Jayhawk fans had hoped. It didn’t help that KU lost four games before Big 12 play began. The defense looked terrible and the offense was maddeningly inconsistent. Of course, none of that is directly Selden’s fault, but when a guy is that talented and only scores two points in a four-point loss to Villanova, it’s hard not to give him some of the blame.
However, that blame was quickly erased, as Selden had back-to-back 20 points outings in wins against Oklahoma and K-State to kick off conference play. He showed off a fantastic scoring ability that made Jayhawk fans salivate. He was the best offensive player on the floor in games that included future top-three picks in Wiggins and Embiid. That being said, he wouldn’t score 20 again until February 1st (six games later) in a blowout loss to Texas. This was another example of Selden’s inconsistency. I get that this team had a lot of talent and Selden was probably the fourth option for as long as Embiid was healthy, but that’s exactly all the 2013-14 Jayhawks needed from him. Wayne Selden only had at least 15 points three times after February 1st, and he was virtually nonexistent in the national tournament, scoring just four total points.
Selden had a mixed first year. He did some things well, but there were too many games under seven or eight points for him to be labeled a star. He finished the year averaging 9.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. He flashed a lot of potential, but it would have been nice to see him step up come tournament time. Leaving after one year was an option for Selden, but to the cheer of Jayhawk fans, he opted to return to Kansas for his sophomore season.
2014-15, Sophomore Year
The hype level was pretty high going into year two. Another year under Bill Self and another year in the system looked like it might level out some inconsistencies. He had offseason knee surgery and was seen as fully healthy for the first time in his college career. Selden was also going into his sophomore year as the second scoring option behind Perry Ellis, and he was the best guard on the team. Kansas as a whole started off on a shaky note, beating UC Santa Barbara by just 10, and then getting thrashed by Kentucky 72-40 in the worst loss of the Bill Self era. Selden scored 19 total points in those games combined. He wouldn’t score at all in the next game against Rider, but instaed contributed with nine assists. This was a huge improvement for Wayne Selden’s game. He began to help the team win in other ways aside from scoring. All of the great players do this, and it was really nice to see him contribute this way.
Next up might be my personal favorite memory of Wayne Selden: the Florida game. Kansas got whooped in the first half, trailing by 15 at the break. After scoring just seven points before halftime, Selden took over and led Kansas to one the most fun comeback victories of the pre-West Virginia-wetting-themselves era. Selden finished with 21 points as KU flipped an 18-point deficit, the second-greatest comeback effort in Allen Fieldhouse history, and once again flashed the talent that fans knew he had.
But here’s the thing: fans expect their team’s best players and scorers to play that way more often than not, yet Wayne Selden continued to be really streaky. He needed four conference games to eclipse the 10-point mark before flipping another switch, scoring 14+ points in five contests in a row towards the middle of league play. Kansas won four of those games. Across his career when Selden raised his level of play, the Jayhawks raised theirs.
Here’s why Selden was a frustrating player, though. He would just disappear. He wouldn’t score more than 10 points for the final six games of conference play and the first game of the Big 12 tournament. His stats just do not make sense when you look at the box scores. Then, out of nowhere, Selden followed that up by leading the team in scoring in the Big 12 semifinals and championship game with 20 and 25 points, respectively. Had KU beaten Iowa State in the finals, he would have been named Most Outstanding Player of the Big 12 tournament.
The rollercoaster ride of a season that Wayne Selden had was entertaining, at the very least. There was certainly more consistency and improvement, but not as much as you would have liked to see for a guy with that much hype. He had more 20+ point games as a sophomore, but he still opted to stay for his junior year in a move that surprised few.
2015-16, Junior Year
Wayne Selden entered his third season at Kansas with the hype at an all-time high. It was not misplaced. Selden scored in double-digits 10 times in 12 non-conference contests, leading the team in scoring with 15 points per game. In those 12 games, he shot a terrific 55% from three-point range. It looked like he was becoming the player KU fans expected all along, as he raised his scoring average by four points, his rebounding rate increased, and his assists numbers went up. Selden scored 45 points in the first two Big 12 games that season, knocking down a combined eight threes.
Then came the Kentucky game. He was absolutely dominant, scoring 33 points and hitting what amounted to the game-winning three late in overtime. In an instant classic, Selden immortalized himself in KU history with a legendary performance. He cooled off in February, averaging just eight points and shooting 25% on threes, but once the Jayhawks hit tournament play, Selden found his A-game again. Remember that time against Baylor when he destroyed a man? Or against UConn and Maryland, when he scored 22 and 19 respectively? He had a fabulous tournament all the way through, even though Kansas’ run ended in the Elite Eight. Selden scored 16 points against Villanova in KU’s season-ending loss, though he missed all six of his three-point attempts.
Wayne Selden was as streaky of a player as you’ll ever see. In his junior year, though, he finally found consistency with his jump shot and scoring ability. This was also, by far, the best team that Selden played on in his KU career. I’m sure that helped, but I think the fact that Selden played his best basketball helped the team stay more consistent. He had his best March (he scored just 10 points in his first two NCAA tournaments together), and Kansas was able to win the Big 12 tournament and advance to their first Elite Eight in four years.
Personally, I loved, and still love Wayne Selden Jr. He was a great athlete who could shoot the ball as well as anybody. Overall, I think he had a great career. Maybe he didn’t play up to expectations, but maybe the expectations were too high. His junior year put the concerns to bed. He showed up in the big moments when the chips were down. That’s all you can ask of your great players: to show up in the big moments. Selden did that, all things considered. We all would have liked for him to play at a higher level during conference play at times in his career, but as a whole, I would label Selden’s career as a success. He was always viewed as one of the best players and quite often played like one. And once he was put on an experienced team, he was largely fantastic.
Now with the Memphis Grizzlies, Selden will attempt to become the consistent player that he was flashed potential of at KU. Here’s to Wayne Selden and his career at Kansas. May it be remembered fondly.