The player most upset when Roy Williams left Kansas might be the happiest with the coach who took his place.
'I like him a lot,' junior point guard Aaron Miles says of Bill Self. 'He's fun to be around, fun to play for. His players enjoy playing for him. He's more mellow.'
In the days surrounding Williams' decision to leave Kansas for North Carolina, no player expressed more disappointment than Miles.
And on April 14, the day he heard that Williams was leaving, Miles answered one question from reporters.
'What are your plans for next year?' someone asked him.
'To win a national championship at Kansas,' he said defiantly.
Seven days later, after Self was hired, Miles told the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World: 'Who knows? This might be a blessing in disguise. We've got a good coach, good players who stuck together through this. What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.'
Self left Illinois to join Kansas, which went 30-8 last year and lost in the NCAA championship game. Miles, Keith Langford and Wayne Simien (limited to 16 games last year because of a dislocated shoulder) return as starters, as does big man Jeff Graves, who will have to fight off 6-11 freshman David Padgett to start.
Miles, from Jefferson High, averaged 6.6 assists and 8.9 points last year and led the Big 12 Conference in steals. He will look to improve his outside shooting after making only 24 of 96 from 3-point range last season and shooting 41 percent overall.
'I get a lot of shots up in practice,' he says, 'if you call that working on it.'
Miles says KU, which has made the Final Four in each of his two seasons, will be more defense-oriented, while still running the fast break.
The Jayhawks, ranked sixth in the first Associated Press poll, open their regular-season Nov. 21 against UT-Chattanooga.
Michael Lee, Miles' former teammate at Jefferson, served as Kansas' sixth man last year.
'I think I exceeded expectations, but I don't think I proved anything,' Lee tells the Journal-World. 'My ballhandling and decision making are probably the two biggest things I need to improve. I have confidence in my shot, but I'm never satisfied with it.'
Miles says Lee could start, although the Jayhawks also like Jeff Hawkins and freshman J.R. Giddens at the '2' guard.
New role for Stoudamire
Salim Stoudamire, the Northeast Portland kid, a leader? Arizona coach Lute Olson wants leaders to step up, and he points to Channing Frye, Isaiah Fox and Stoudamire, the moody junior guard, as the candidates. The Wildcats have no seniors who play.
'When I have a sour look on my face, teammates look at that and it affects them,' Stoudamire says. 'If I'm smiling and upbeat, teammates will be the same way. I've been open-minded to criticism, people telling me I must change; they can see it.
'And I need to be more vocal, directing guys where they need to go. Also, no conscience Ñ I think too much. I pretty much get down on myself when I make mistakes.'
With the arrival of hotshot freshman Mustafa Shakur, Stoudamire will play mostly the '2' guard, although his NBA aspirations mean he eventually must play some point guard.
'How many 6-2 '2' guards are there in the league?' he says.
Stoudamire averaged 13 points per game last year, shooting 44 percent from 3-point territory for the 'Cats, who lost to Miles and Kansas in the NCAA West Regional final.
With Stoudamire, Shakur, Hassan Adams and Andre Iguodala, 'We're going to be high-flying, alley-ooping, transition, shooting 3s. É It's good basketball, fun to watch and play.'
The fourth-ranked Wildcats' first game is Nov. 24 against Northern Arizona.
A role for Rodgers?
Arizona's Chris Rodgers, the former Wilson star, says the Wildcats' media guide had him underlisted last year, at 6-3 rather than 6-5.
'I'm taller than Hassan, and he was listed taller than me,' Rodgers says. 'They don't give me the inches I need Ñ they gave them to Jason Gardner and Salim.'
Rodgers played in 28 Arizona games last year, averaging eight minutes. It's the nature of college basketball, but many of his potential minutes will be taken away now that Shakur, from Wynnewood, Pa., is on the team.
'It'll be interesting to see what kind of year he has,' Rodgers says. 'He's still young.'
Rodgers plays defense too well to sit on the bench all the time. His height and wingspan can come in handy.
'I can change a game with my defense,' he says. 'If you can play defense, it takes your game to another level.'
Former Jefferson guard Brandon Brooks, who suffered an ankle injury last season that effectively ended his college career, has been given a medical redshirt to conclude his academics on scholarship at USC. É Another former Jeff guard, freshman Thomas Gardner, will be part of Missouri's first wave of substitutions. É At Oregon, freshman Aaron Brooks has come on strong, but Jeff grad Brandon Lincoln probably will share minutes at point guard so Brooks doesn't burn out. Meanwhile, it looks as if freshman forward Mitch Platt will play a lot this year for the Ducks.