Have you met Jalen Wilson? If you haven’t, then it’s time to meet the Kansas redshirt freshman. Because he’s already one of the Big 12’s best players.
As Kansas (5-1) prepares to take on Omaha on Dec. 11, Wilson enters that game averaging 16.3 points and 9 rebounds. Entering this season there was plenty of unknown on this Kansas roster beyond three returning vets — Marcus Garrett, Ochai Agbaji and David McCormack. Jayhawks head coach Bill Self knew he would spent the better part of the Jayhawks’ truncated non-conference slate trying to work out what other players on his roster could play a key role.
Wilson stepped up immediately.
He debuted this season against Gonzaga in Fort Myers and scored 11 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in 22 minutes. Even though the Jayhawks lost that game, Wilson didn’t lose a bit of momentum.
A day later against Saint Joseph’s Wilson scored 14 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Then he went off against Kentucky on Dec. 1, scoring 21 of his 23 points in the second half, and adding 10 rebounds in 31 minutes, as the Jayhawks beat the Wildcats at the State Farm Champions Classic. It was his first career double-double.
After producing 13 points and 6 rebounds in just 20 minutes in a blowout win over Washburn on Dec. 3, Wilson got double-double No. 2 against North Dakota State, scoring 14 points and grabbing 15 rebounds, the latter of which is a career high.
Against No. 8 Creighton on Tuesday, Wilson drained the 3-pointer in the final minute that helped lift Kansas to a one-point win, 73-72. He had another double-double — 23 points and 10 rebounds.
In fact, while he has great season numbers, his averages in his three games against ranked opponents — Gonzaga, Kentucky and Creighton — are on par, as he’s averaging 19 points and 8 rebounds.
The career highs won’t last forever, of course. But the Jayhawks don’t need Wilson to have a career night every night to be successful. But the consistency with which he’s produced so far is encouraging, and it’s clear that by season’s end this could be HIS team.
Wilson entered the program with the Class of 2019, coming off an impressive senior year at Guyer (Denton, Texas) High School, where he averaged 18.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists. He came to Kansas as a four-star recruit (No. 53 overall) who at one point committed to Michigan before de-committing and then committing to Kansas.
He was supposed to play as a true freshman last year, but after playing just two games he broke his ankle and the Jayhawks decided to redshirt him.
With the redshirt gone, the Jayhawks have unleashed Wilson as a weapon that could challenge for more than just All-Big 12 Freshman honors.