KU coach Bill Self: Joel Embiid is ‘closest’ offensive comparison to Hunter Dickinson

Tribune Content Agency

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas coach Bill Self didn’t expect to lose eight players from the Jayhawks’ 2022-23 roster to the transfer portal.

Still, he thinks it’s for the best — for all parties.

“We probably anticipated losing five or six, just to be real candid,” Self said on the Field of 68 Podcast hosted by college basketball analysts Jeff Goodman and Rob Dauster. “We probably anticipated doing that — we didn’t lose any the year before, not because of negative reasons but just because of better opportunities for these kids.

“I actually have been very happy and pleased with where they’ve landed because I think they’ve gone to good spots for themselves, respectively.”

Seven players have already picked new schools. Those seven are: Bobby Pettiford (East Carolina), Cam Martin (Boise State), Zach Clemence (Santa Barbara), Joseph Yesufu (Washington State), MJ Rice (North Carolina State), Kyle Cuffe Jr. (Syracuse) and Zuby Ejiofor (St. John’s). KU center Ernest Udeh has yet to announce a destination.

Perhaps the two most surprising departures? Udeh and Ejiofor — both players entered the portal shortly after KU landed star Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson.

“It was a unique situation. We didn’t anticipate losing Ernest or Zuby there at the end, but when we got Hunter, it kind of threw things off a little bit,” Self said. “Those are good problems to have. It will probably create really good situations for those two. But on the flip side, it’s given us an opportunity as well.”

Dickinson is a large part of that opportunity.

Self has coached countless star big men in his 20 seasons at KU, but he struggled to make an apt player comparison for Dickinson. Last season, Dickinson averaged 18.5 points on 56% shooting, plus 9.0 rebounds per game.

“Joel (Embiid), offensively, is probably the closest we had, but Joel, for us, what did he average, 11 points a game?” Self said. “He was a freshman. He was young. He was green and he didn’t know yet. Hunter is much more established offensively from a skill set standpoint. Now athletically, he’s not where Joel is by any means, but I don’t think I’ve had anybody like him.

“Could you say a skill set like a Markieff Morris, maybe? You know, something like that. … Darrell Arthur wasn’t really a true big but was probably as close to Hunter (from) a skill-set standpoint, being able to make a 17-footer and stepping out.”

Dickinson shot 42.1% on three-point shots last season. The big man plans to take more three-pointers next season.

“He can shoot, he shot 42% from three this year,” Self said. “He may be one of our most effective three-point shooters next year as well, which I don’t know if that’s a great thing. But certainly I look for him to be a threat.”

Missing its top two scorers from last year, KU will have to replace 34.2 points per game of production from Gradey Dick and Jalen Wilson, who are both off to the NBA Draft. Dickinson can help replace most of that scoring production, along with transfers Nick Timberlake and Arterio Morris.

KU’s roster currently stands at 11 scholarship players with three returnees: Dajuan Harris, Kevin McCullar, and KJ Adams. Kansas also has four incoming freshmen: Elmarko Jackson, Marcus Adams, Chris Johnson and Jamari McDowell.

Finally, the last four spots are occupied by the four transfers: Dickinson, Morris, Timberlake and Parker Braun.

On paper, KU’s roster is among the best in the Self era — he believes it’ll be unlike any roster Dickinson has played on before.

“The guy has averaged over 18 points a game for three years in the Big Ten and the Big Ten has had as good of bigs as any league in the country,” Self said. “The defenses are designed to stop him, so hopefully we put some good parts around (him).

“He’ll be able to maneuver in a way that maybe he hasn’t had as much freedom because of so much attention in his first three years of school.”