JOSHUA C. SELBY
Shooting Guard/Point Guard
University of Kansas Jayhawks
Lake Clifton High School
DeMatha High School
The John Carroll School
Regarded as the elite incoming player in college basketball prior to the 2010-11 season, to say that things did not go according to plan for Selby would be a drastic understatement.
When he recently announced that he would forgo his last three years of college eligibility and enter the NBA draft, it was not a popular decision by the 20-year-old.
His freshman season was so disappointing that it seemed a foregone conclusion he would return to school, if for no other reason than to regain the respect he had a year ago, when he committed to KU as Rivals.com's top-rated recruit for 2010.
Selby missed the Jayhawks' first nine games this past season because of an NCAA suspension for accepting impermissible benefits from his mentor, Robert "Bay" Frazier,
who is the business manager for New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. Selby had acknowledged a friendship with Anthony in past interviews and spoke of his contact with Frazier in an April story in The New York Times. All three are Baltimore natives.
Maeshon Witherspoon, Selby's mother, told The Times that she had known Bay since elementary school and had asked him to serve the role of an adviser during his college recruitment. The Times report said Witherspoon asked Frazier to host Selby's in-home visits with college coaches at his own home and that Frazier attended a KU-Missouri game at Allen Fieldhouse in January 2009.
On November 21st, 2010, the NCAA made their final ruling on the matter, suspending Selby for nine games, and ordering him to pay $4,607.58, the total of the "improper benefits" received, to the charity of his choice. Once he was cleared to return to the court, he started his career on fire, scoring 21 points and hitting the game-winning three-pointer vs. Southern California.
But Selby injured his foot in January, and that hindered his explosiveness the rest of the season. After all of the build-up, he averaged just 7.9 points per game. In the thirteen games prior to getting hurt, he had averaged 12.0 points, 3.2 assists and shot 43.5% from three-point range.
KU fans and observers were quick to rip his decision to leave Lawrence so soon. One fan said Selby "is not ready for the NBA." Another told him, "Good luck in the D-League and Europe next year." Former KU forward Scot Pollard tweeted, "I think you made a mistake young man, but I wish you luck, and I hope you prove me wrong!"
CBS basketball analyst Seth Davis was less kind, tweeting, "I never wish ill on a youngster but the GM who drafts Josh Selby should have his head examined. Kid wasn't even a decent college player."
Selby's response from Las Vegas, where he has been training with Impact Basketball in preparation for the May NBA Combine, was just as brazen as his decision: "All this negative energy is creating a monster," he tweeted. "Y'all light the fuel up inside me."
Selby has never lacked fire. He has always overflowed with energy, and it's been hard for him to stay in one place too long. This year in Kansas was always supposed to be just that - one year. So what if he started the season projected as a lottery pick and finished it as a likely late first-rounder? What about his dream? And, most importantly, what about his mom?
"To be honest, I worry about her more than she worries about me," Selby said in a recent interview with The Star. "She can sleep at night. I can't sleep at night because I want her to have everything in the world. I just stay up all night, till about 3 or 4 in the morning, just worrying about, 'What do I gotta do to make sure my mom has everything she wants?' Because she deserves it."
Selby found Kansas to be a great place to play basketball but never really immersed himself in the college experience. His mother, Maeshon Witherspoon, had moved to Lawrence from Baltimore, and he spent most nights at her apartment instead of his dorm room at Jayhawker Towers. Selby didn't go out on the town very often, even though he would have been the main attraction if he did. He would rather go bowling or watch movies with his mom.
No, this year has not gone according to plan. But Selby has been on this track for so long that he couldn't turn back. His long basketball road saw him conclude his prep career at Lake Clifton High School in Baltimore, where he averaged 32 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and two steals per game during his senior season and was named The Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Player of the Year.
Prior to Lake Clifton, Selby played two seasons of basketball at DaMatha High School. Before he arrived at DaMatha, he attended The John Carroll School in Bel Air.
Basketball was actually Selby's lifeline. Before attending high school, when Selby was age twelve, his mother, just 29, was jobless and they were borderline homeless, moving from spot to spot. His father had never been involved in his life. He would get in fights all the time, he says. Walking home from school one day, he saw a close friend pistol-whipped.
"One more time, he would have died," Selby said. "I was about 12. After that, I got crazy. To see that at that age, I was losing it. I'm not gonna lie. I was really losing it, being disrespectful to my mother, just doing anything I wanted, like a little thug."
They were living in West Baltimore then, and Selby was often picked on because he was from the east side. But the pettiness faded during pickup basketball games on the concrete court at Beechfield Elementary. Regulars there started calling him "Little Future" because he'd play against the adults and take their best shot.
"By my actions on the court, the way I played, I really didn't get messed with," Selby said. "It was like all the old people, the older thugs and old hustlers, they were kind of (looking after) me 'Nobody mess with him. He got a bright future. Leave him alone.' Basketball took me a long way."
But it would only take him so far in his current living situation. He and his mom were staying with an acquaintance, thankful for every meal they got. "I felt embarrassed," Witherspoon recalled. "I felt humiliated, less of a parent. This is really not how I want my kid to live."
Her breaking point came when Selby failed seventh grade. Witherspoon began to notice a change in her son. She decided to move in with her mother and take Josh away from the drug- and crime-infested neighborhood of Irvington they'd called home for about a year and a half. "It's either pride, or you're going to lose your son," Witherspoon said. "So I swallowed my pride and went home."
Witherspoon enrolled Selby at Golden Ring Middle School, where he repeated seventh grade. It turned out to be a fateful move, because the principal at the school, Scottie Bowden, ran an AAU program called Baltimore Select. Bowden took an interest in Selby and spent hours after school helping him with his homework and working with him in the gym.
Selby says the turning point came during his eighth-grade year, when he found a good influence in friend Dwayne Wheeler, who was two years older. Selby watched the way Wheeler fought only when he had no other option and sought to emulate him. He didn't want to get swept up in the violence like so many others he knew.
"In one year, I had about six people close to me get killed, all gunshots," Selby said. "Seeing stuff like that wakes you up. You want to be dead or you want to be something? I want to be something. I want to see my mother happy. I'm tired of seeing my mom crying at night worrying about if her son is gonna live, go to jail. I had to change my life around."
Selby's life changed quickly once he went national on the AAU basketball scene. By the end of the summer after eighth grade, he was regarded as one of the top prospects in the country. He had a real future to protect now, and that meant every decision had to be handled the right way. First up was where to attend high school. Witherspoon and Bowden knew one thing: It was not going to be in the city of Baltimore.
Selby still had four years in front of him, with temptations at every turn, and Witherspoon was going to put him as far away from trouble as she could. She enrolled him at John Carroll High, a Catholic school 30 miles northeast of Baltimore, working nights so she could bus him to and from school. Because of the commute, Selby barely had time to get distracted back in Baltimore each night.
Instead, he became consumed by basketball. Even after he graduated from Golden Ring, he continued to work with Bowden almost every night at the middle-school gym. Eventually, Bowden, who had kids of his own, just gave Witherspoon the keys.
"You know the story: Every kid says, 'I'm gonna be a pro basketball player,' but 99 percent of them don't understand the willpower it takes," Bowden said. "This kid worked at his craft. I'm telling you, you've never met anyone more determined."
After his freshman year at John Carroll, Selby transferred to prestigious DeMatha Catholic High in Hyattsville, a suburb of Washington. Selby was surrounded by a world of privilege, and he did his best to fit in by continuing to progress toward his goals on the court.
DeMatha coach Mike Jones has coached countless college stars and professionals. But he said Selby was unique. "He is rare because it is seldom that you can find a kid so talented and so motivated to just do everything as well as he can," Jones said. "You have determined kids and you have talented kids, singularly, but having both qualities is very rare."
After a year and a half at DeMatha, the long commute began to take its toll. He was leaving for school before 6 a.m. and sometimes didn't return until 10 p.m. Selby wanted to return to Baltimore to finish high school, a request his mother eventually granted.
Selby enrolled at Lake Clifton High, two miles from the corner of East Lanvale and Barclay. Lake Clifton coach Herman Harried, an East Baltimore native who played at Syracuse, gave him no special treatment, making Selby run cross country in the fall. "He's a guy that doesn't want to lose," Harried said. "If you don't want to lose, you do anything not to lose. You'll almost kill yourself not to lose."
Selby stayed committed on the court but walked a fine line off of it. Witherspoon kicked him out of the house in September 2009 because he was coming in past curfew too often. He was going out to clubs and living the life of a McDonald's All-American.
"That was the best time of my life," he said. "I was playing for my city; where I grew up at, where I was raised, where I got tough at was right down the street. They didn't see me since I was young. I've been on the move because of basketball."
Following his senior season at Lake Clifton, Selby scored 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the McDonald's All-American game. He won the 2010 McDonald's All-American slam dunk contest and also participated in the Jordan Brand Classic.
Selby originally committed to play for the University of Tennessee but de-committed in July 2009. On April 17th, 2010 Selby committed to the Kansas Jayhawks at the 2010 Jordan Brand Classic at Madison Square Garden. He picked the Jayhawks over a final list of teams including Kentucky, Connecticut, Arizona and Tennessee.
Selby was the highest rated player ever signed by Kansas coach Bill Self, as he was the top-ranked recruit on the recruiting website Rivals.com. KU fans rejoiced, too, thinking Final Fours and national championships were in their immediate future.
From the moment he signed with KU, Selby was expected to fill the void left by the graduated Sherron Collins. But before the season started, news broke that his relationship with Frazier was being investigated by the NCAA. In November, the NCAA handed down a nine-game suspension.
By the time of Selby's debut, KU was already rolling along at 9-0, and it was clear that twins Marcus and Markieff Morris were the stars of the show. Selby had never played with big men so good. He made it clear he was going to defer to them.
Selby's foot injury derailed the rest of his season anyway. He didn't score in double figures in his last 13 games, struggled with ball-handling and often got lost defensively. He was not what he was made out to be, which irritated an entire fan base.
The shooting guard closed out his college career averaging 7.92 points per game behind 72-of-193 shooting (37.3%) from the field, chipping in 56 assists and 21 steals. As a result of his suspension and later injuries Selby played in only 26 of the teams 38 games and averaged only 14 minutes per game after returning from injury.
Positives: Despite giving up considerable size to play the two-guard position in the NBA, he is a very aggressive defender with a strong frame to compensate for height issues He keeps his hands active to disrupt in the passing lane and is hard to drive on once he establishes position as a defender He stays low in his stance, arms extended and concentrates on the shooter's motions, as he is too smart to bite on hesitations or fakes Even though he stands just 6:01, he times his leaps and gets good elevation with arms up high to alter the perimeter shots or emphatically swat then down working in the lane Has the speed to recover when his man beats him with an explosive initial step While he did not look comfortable at point guard, he is a capable passer While he lacks two-guard size, he more than compensates with his speed, lateral agility and above average body control Gets very good elevation and hang time when driving to the basket and going for the dunk Has very good athletic skills, showing quick feet, active hands and very good creativity with the ball in his hands Despite his short stature for the two-guard slot, he gets good leg drive and elevation driving through even those big forwards and centers to finish at the rim Shows exceptional ability to pull up, set his feet and fire His lateral agility lets his stay in front of the perimeter shooters on pressure defense situations Fluid and smooth when elevating and gliding in the air, drawing contact to get to the free throw line, where he has a quick, high release to gain good success at the charity stripe Has very good balance in attempts to beat the press and is very good on the one-bounce pass to an open teammate Gets most of his separation during drives with his good concept for using screens Fills the lane quickly on the fast break and is the type that never tires going up and down the court (called an energizer bunny) Because of his wingspan, he is capable of defending vs. some forwards and his ability to read the passing lanes and reach around his opponent gives him good success in attempts to steal the ball off the dribble When slashing to the basket, he shows quick lateral moves, especially to his right side Has developed a nice reverse lay-up that he utilizes mostly on his drives and can fool the defender with his ability to switch hands on the ball in flight Pumps the ball in quickly, thanks to his smooth release Has the soft, natural hands when dishing the ball out to the open man.
Negatives: Regarded as one of the elite incoming freshman, Selby's short stay at Kansas might be a godsend for the player, as he was totally miscast in a system that showed off none of his natural ability He looked totally out of control trying to create space for the rare opportunities he was given to make his shot and because of those minimal opportunities, he made bad decisions (was constantly looking over at the bench to see if the staff would give him the hook and put him on the bench) Missing the first nine games of the season due to the NCAA's suspension prevented him from developing chemistry with what was a tight rotation at KU For a player who showed in high school that he is better served creating off the dribble and being the offense's focus, to ask that player to relegate his duties to pushing the ball up the court and feeding it off to other scoring options resulted in a terrific waste of his talent base Because of the problems he's had in the past, teams are becoming very leery that he is going to be a disruptive force in the locker room, where other Kansas players seemed to have cast him aside Scouts were also concerned about his inconsistency executing his jump shot, but he was playing with a stress fracture in his right foot, feeling sharp pain every time he landed after getting off the floor Others notice his "shoot first" mentality and selfishness with the ball as a bad trait for a point guard, but while he lacks the size to be a "two," with his previous pedigree as a shooter, asking him to suddenly become a ball facilitator is not going to be an over-night process No matter what position he will play in the NBA, his poor game management is not ideal for the "one" guard slot Still, even being miscast in the KU system, his poor decisions on the court resulted in shooting just 37.3% from the field, one of the lowest percentages of any starting guard prospect in quite a few years Even when he is at his best as the scoring option, he even has struggled throughout his prep career with the high amount of offensive foul calls vs. him (loses control of the ball and tries to push off his man, doing it noticeably, in order to execute his spin move) By now, he has to have regrets about pulling out of his prior commitment to attend Tennessee, where the Vols featured a quick moving attack that would have allowed him better opportunities to play the style of game that originally made him the top incoming freshman in the 2010 recruiting class
Compares To: ALLEN IVERSON, ex-Philadelphia -- Selby is bigger than Iverson and both have had "off-field distractions" that put some roadblocks up during their careers, but whether his time at Kansas will hurt his draft stock or not, this kid can flat-out score. He was probably as miscast with the Jayhawks as Kevin Costner was playing in "Water-world." Yes, he is not the ideal size teams look for in a shooting guard, but he is fearless attacking the rim and is one of the best pure shooters in this draft. If given freedom with the ball, short on stature or not, he can do just like Iverson did in his prime - pretty much, single-handedly carry his team to victory.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun