The Kansas Jayhawks were preseason #1 this season, and with that high of expectations comes a standard. While Jayhawk fans are wary of the preseason #1 ranking and how previous preseason #1 Jayhawk teams have done in the past, this team felt different. This team would be the team that would break the preseason #1 curse the Jayhawks have long suffered. That is until Marquette ran them out of the building at the Maui Invitational...and the road loss to UCF to open road conference games. Things were on the ropes in terms of meeting these lofty expectations. The bench once again lacked production, Elmarko Jackson looked like he needed some major development, and overall this team looked soft.
Enter Johnny Furphy, who was the sixth man off the bench for this first portion of the season. The freshman from Melbourne, Australia came to Kansas via the Centre of Excellence, essentially Australia's NBA pipeline. Furphy wanted the American college basketball experience and wanted to be developed under Coach Bill Self. Furphy is listed as a guard but is 6'9" and can play down low as needed. He's extremely athletic, long, and can shoot well, making him a prime target for the NBA either this upcoming draft season or a draft season down the line should he stay. Furphy so far has been an asset even just coming off the bench for the Jayhawks, scoring 6.3 points/game, nabbing 2.9 rebounds, and having a field goal percentage of 50%. By far the best bench player, outdoing even some starters for that first half of the season.
It was really only a matter of time before Furphy saw some starting minutes. It took fellow freshman and McDonald's All-American Elmarko Jackson showing he needed to develop further for Furphy to get his chance, starting his first game against Oklahoma on January 13th. Furphy would score 7 points, grab 3 boards, and go 3-8 for field goals in 19 minutes played, all but equaling what Dajuan Harris did in the win over the Sooners. He then proceeded to have a coming out party against the Oklahoma State Sooners, having a career-high 15 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, going 3-4 from 3-point range, and 5-6 in field goals over 33 minutes played.
Furphy's ascendence could not have come at a better time as the Jayhawks will hit their toughest stretch in February, and if Johnny can keep these performances up, expect him to turn a bunch of NBA scouters' heads. Furphy may be the key for the Jayhawks to win yet another conference championship and even better, make it to another Final Four and potential National Title. The sky's the limit for this Aussie, and he could be next in a long line of great Aussie NBA players. Can you say, G'Day?
Burn Notice: 10/10 Outback in the summertime.