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Josh Selby Proves He's The Real Deal In Debut

Shotgun Spratling |
December 19, 2010 | 11:50 p.m. PST

Associate Sports Editor

LAWRENCE, KS -- Braving the frigid, 19-degree weather, Sean Kellerman entered the line that had formed at 7:30 a.m. The sophomore wanted to have one of the best seats in the house for Josh Selby’s long-awaited debut.

Six hours later, he was among the euphoric fans chanting “Selby! Selby! Selby!” after No. 3 Kansas' 70-68 victory over USC at Allen Fieldhouse.

Selby knocked down a game-winning 3-pointer with 26 seconds remaining to cap an impressive 21-point performance in his first collegiate game. The freshman missed the first nine games of the season after being suspended by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits.

“I think everybody was waiting to see him play and so were we,” Jayhawks junior guard Tyshawn Taylor said. “I’m excited for him. He stepped up and did what we knew he could do.”

Selby didn’t take long to make up for time missed.

The freshman lived up to the hype...and the crowd’s expectations.

The fans roared when he came out of the tunnel in pre-game warmups. They thundered when Selby drained his first shot of shootaround. Fans wore shirts that read “Free Selby” and “Release Date: 12/18/10.” Nearly every sign in the crowd referenced Selby’s debut.

When the 6-foot-2 combo guard headed to the scorer’s table to check in at the 15:53 mark in the first half, there was an eruption of applause. And after deferring on his first few possessions, last year’s No. 1 high school player in the nation exploded. 

He drained his first 3-pointer from the left side.

On Kansas’ next possession, he used his lightning quick first step to blow by USC’s Donte Smith. Smith was forced to foul him, sending Selby to the free throw line.

Later, USC lost him in transition and he knocked down an open 3-pointer in the right corner.

After a heat check rimmed out for Selby, USC was so focused on stopping him from shooting, they fouled him, trying to close out too aggressively on another 3-point attempt from the left corner.

Selby made all three free throws.

Kansas led 18-11. Selby, by himself, trailed USC 11-10.

“It was wonderful, just to be out there playing along with my teammates, playing for the fans and the coaches,” Selby said. “It was a great environment. I think we got the best fans in college basketball. They were getting us motivated. They were giving us energy.”

At halftime, all the concession line conversation and bathroom banter focused on Selby.

“He’s as good as advertised,” said high school senior Kevin Friedberg, holding the “SELBY SHOW’N UP THIS CONTEST” posterboard sign he made. “He’s a beast!”

In the second half, Selby continued to build on his storybook debut, knocking down three more 3-pointers, including a pair in the final four minutes.

He scored six of the Jayhawks’ final eight points.

“I wasn’t nervous, because the night before the game I was with my teammates,” Selby said. “They weren’t putting any pressure on me. They just told me to do what I do.”

When Marcus Morris skipped a pass to him on the right wing with less than 30 seconds remaining, Kansas coach Bill Self wasn’t surprised to see Selby fire up the game-winner.

“We really labored in a lot of ways this game and I’m not sure anyone else wanted to take the last shot. I couldn’t have scripted a better ending,” Self said. “He bailed us out. He saved us.”

Self continued to compare Selby to former Kansas All-American Sherron Collins. And like Collins, Selby could be the playmaker the Jayhawks need down the stretch of games to create for himself and others, the type of playmaker that every championship team must have.

Selby’s talent was evident, even to those sitting in Allen Fieldhouse’s upper deck. Forty-year-old Craig Laderoute and his son Jack bore witness and were impressed.

“In his first game playing, he’s already a big contributor,” Craig said. “I definitely think he’s going to be a big help [toward a national championship run].”

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Reach Shotgun here.

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