Kansas basketball coach Bill Self hugged former Jayhawk combo guard Latrell Jossell as the two crossed paths in the handshake line after KU’s narrow 80-72 victory over Jossell’s Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks on Saturday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
“He was great,” Self said of the 5-foot-11 sophomore, who scored nine points on 3-of-6 three-point shooting with two rebounds, two turnovers, no assists and four fouls while playing 28 minutes in his first college start.
“He’s the best kid ever. He’s back in our locker room now (visiting former KU teammates after game). He wanted to come say Merry Christmas to all. You know what, I’m happy we won the game. But I’m happy he did well,” Self added. “It was good to see that. He’s a class kid. And you guys (media) can see now if he was healthy last year he could have helped us because he has great range.”
Jossell — he is a Chicago native who played high school basketball in Keller, Texas — had a painful heel injury that hindered his progress during the 2020-21 season at KU, his only season at KU.
He had surgery on his foot last spring shortly after announcing plans to attend Stephen F. Austin, where former KU video coordinator Kyle Keller is head basketball coach.
“It was awesome. I got to see him out there and talk to him,” KU junior guard Christian Braun said of his former KU teammate. Braun scored 21 points with six rebounds and three assists with a steal in 36 minutes versus the Lumberjacks.
“He was always great for us. It’s good to see him healthy. I’m proud of him. He played well,” Braun added.
Jossell actually looked into the direction of KU’s bench after hitting his threes.
“All throughout,” Braun said, asked if he and Jossell talked some trash on the court. “If you know anything about Latrell he never stops talking,” Braun added smiling.
KU senior forward Mitch Lightfoot, who scored six points with six rebounds, two blocks and three turnovers in 26 minutes, also was happy Jossell played well.
“He made some big shots,” Lightfoot said. “You guys (media) didn’t see it as much as we did last year. He did that all the time in practice. He hit shots. That’s what they need him to do. It was good to see him again.”
The Lumberjacks (8-4), who dropped their second straight game (KU has won five in a row and is 9-1), gave the Jayhawks quite a game on Saturday.
Gavin Kensmil, a 6-7 senior forward from Paramaribo, Suriname, scored 16 points with 12 rebounds, seven assists and seven turnovers in 36 minutes. Point guard David Kachelries, a 6-1 senior from Emmaus, Pennsylvania, had 18 points, five assists, two steals, two turnovers and three rebounds in 35 minutes.
Also, Sadaidriene Hall, a 6-5 freshman forward from Sulphur Springs, Texas, had 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting with seven boards in 29 minutes.
“They gave us everything we wanted. It didn’t have to be that way if we played better and a little smarter,” Self said. “I think we could have had it not come down to the last minute.
“Give them credit. Kyle had them jacked today. They had this one circled (on calendar) and should have. They had their best players play well. I’m happy we won. At the end of the year we will look back and say we had an eight-point win at home. We were very fortunate to win.”
KU led by as many as 12 points the first half and seven points at halftime. The Lumberjacks led by one point with 12 1/2 minutes left and trailed by just one point at 3:22.
“At no point did I think that game was in the books until it was :00 (on clock),” Lightfoot said.
The Jayhawks will next meet Colorado at 8 p.m., Central time, Tuesday in Boulder, Colorado, then head to their respective homes for the Christmas holiday.
“Coach told us we’ve got to get better,” Braun said. “And you know, there’s a lot to improve on. And we talked about this last night too. Coach just told us that over this break period, a lot of times this is when his team separates a little bit from the others. We’ve got to get better defensively (Lumberjacks hit 53.4% of their shots to KU’s 48.1%). Like I said, there’s so much to improve on. There’s a lot of stuff we got to tighten up. We’ll go to Colorado, go home, then come back and regroup,” Braun added.