LAWRENCE – Joseph Yesufu is moments away from the start of Kansas basketball’s parade on April 10, and he’s already looking ahead to the future.
Yesufu is relishing the opportunity he has to celebrate the national championship he helped the Jayhawks earn, of course. The guard, who transferred in from Drake ahead of the 2021-22 season, has never been in a parade like this before. But he’s being asked about what’s next, and it’s clear the topic has been on his mind.
Yesufu volunteers that after the day of the parade, his focus will turn back to getting in the gym. He’s explaining just how motivated he is, after a season in which he played in 34 games off the bench and averaged 9.2 minutes per appearance, and people saying “are going to see a different me.”
With expected departures like super-senior guard Remy Martin and others, and currently no finalized newcomers outside of four high school signees, Yesufu could enjoy a more significant role next season.
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“Remy brought a different type of game to this team, and of course I’m looking to fill that role,” said Yesufu, a sophomore this past season, when asked specifically about Martin. “But I’m trying to bring something else, too.”
At the top of the list, Yesufu said, is to work on leadership. Yesufu, who spent two seasons at Drake before joining Kansas, said he feels he’s spending the necessary time in the gym. He’s confident that will translate into games.
What that work in the gym this summer will look like, according to a local trainer Yesufu works with named Peter Danyliv, will be simplified significantly compared to what Yesufu and Danyliv did last summer. Speaking Thursday, Danyliv pointed to Yesufu being able to catch and shoot quickly and accurately. Danyliv pointed to Yesufu, who he described as one of the quickest guards in the Big 12 Conference, dribbling against full-court defense and attacking opposing defenses with slot or middle drives.
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It’s a simplified outlook, Danyliv explained, because in doing all of that well, Yesufu can earn the longer leash during the season that’ll then allow them to add more. Proving Yesufu can make floaters in the lane, for example, could lead to him showing he has the capability to make them from the free-throw line consistently. Danyliv could care less if Yesufu gets bored, because it’s developing the necessary efficiency that’ll put him in the best position to succeed.
Yesufu shot 43.7% from the field, 35.3% from behind the arc and 82.4% from the free-throw line while at Drake, where he played in 44 games with seven starts and averaged 19.4 minutes per appearance. With less opportunities, Yesufu shot 33.8% from the field, 26.2% from behind the arc and 70% from the free-throw line for Kansas.
“Very simple, for all of them,” said Danyliv, explaining his thought-process for Yesufu and the other Jayhawks he works with. “For Cam (Martin), for Zach (Clemence), for (Yesufu), for everyone. Everyone’s going to be with us. For Gradey (Dick), I mean, it’s the same thing. I mean, everybody’s going to play a simple game. So, we’ve got to make sure that we really lock in on those simple things and we just ramp it out to perfection with live defense on them every workout. We’re just going to make them so comfortable in those spots, where they’re going to be at every game, that they’re not even going to hesitate or think about it twice. “
Yesufu’s 2022-23 role hasn’t been set yet. It’s not even clear at this point what Kansas’ roster will look like when next season’s opener tips off, considering the possible transfer portal additions and if current Jayhawks decide to leave – either to turn pro or otherwise. So much could change for Yesufu – and others – at Kansas in the weeks ahead.
Until that picture becomes clearer, all Yesufu can do is put in the work to be ready. And that’s what he’s been doing. He was in the gym the day after the parade, with Danyliv, practicing.
“Unbelievable balance, unbelievable body,” Jayhawks head coach Bill Self said Thursday about Yesufu during the team’s banquet. “He helped us win some games, no question. Iowa State, up there, he stepped in when I believe (Ochai Agbaji) was out and absolutely killed it. And he’s going to be a good player, needs to just keep his head high. But love this kid. Great attitude, great teammate. “
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter at ordJordanGuskey.