At a recent Kansas basketball 125th anniversary banquet, KU junior Jalen Wilson was on his way out the door when an elderly gentleman caught him for a quick chat.
The man was Ron Kellogg, widely regarded as one of the best straight shooters in Kansas basketball history, and he had some words of wisdom for Wilson.
“Young fella,” Kellogg began. “I love your game and I love watching you play. But you have to put your right elbow in when you kick the ball.”
Kellogg continued, “And I want you to look at where you’re shooting it. Look at the target every time.”
Wilson smiled again, this time shaking his head because his dad had said the exact same things to him just the day before.
The encounter with Kellogg came before the game at Iowa State and Wilson scored 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting, including 1-of-6 from 3-point range in the two-point KU win. It wasn’t exactly the kind of performance that would allow me to tie the dots between Wilson and Kellogg for gaming history of the day, so I didn’t think about it any further.
Since then, however, the Big 12’s top scorer has been on an absolute rift, riding one of the biggest stokers of any Kansas basketball player in recent memory. Could it be that Kellogg’s advice only needed a few more days to take effect?
Wilson scored 38 points in an overtime loss at Kansas State. He followed with 30 points in a home loss to TCU. And he added 23 points during Monday’s road loss at Baylor.
His 91 combined points during that stretch are the second-highest by a Kansas player in a three-game span in Bill Self’s 20-year era. Only Andrew Wiggins can top that. Wiggins had 93 points in three straight games during the 2013–14 season, including a Self-era best of 41 in a loss in West Virginia.
Wiggins continued his 41-, 30-, and 23-point performances next time out with 19 points, giving him 112 over a 4-game span.
That means if Wilson matches his season average (21.4) this weekend in Kentucky, he would tie Wiggins for the most points by a Self-era Jayhawk over a four-game span. Anything above his season average — which would be no small feat given the opposition — would put Wilson at the top all by himself.
He needs 11 points to top Devonte’ Graham’s best four-game total of 101 and just six and seven points to surpass the four-game bests of Lagerald Vick and Ochai Agbaji. According to KU’s game notes prior to the matchup with Baylor, this group had the highest two-game totals of the Self era, with Wilson finishing third with 68 points.
Maybe it’s just coincidence that Wilson comes up with these kinds of numbers after having that conversation with Kellogg almost two weeks ago.
But anyone who’s seen Kellogg play probably won’t be surprised.
Although the 3-point line didn’t enter college basketball until after he played in Kansas, Kellogg still managed to surpass 1,500 points for his career. When he finished in 1986, his 1,508 points ranked easily within the top 10 on KU’s all-time scorer list. He’s still 22nd overall, ahead of Wilson’s 1,179, and counting in his three seasons with the Jayhawks.
As he surpassed the 1,000 point mark earlier this season, KU coach Bill Self noted that Wilson could likely hit 2,000 points if he wanted to stay two more seasons as his fitness allowed.
That will not happen. But maybe that recent conversation with Kellogg sparked something in him that will bring him closer to Kellogg’s total by the end of this season.
To get there, Wilson would need to average 21.9 points per game over the next 15 games. KU guarantees 13 more games – 11 remaining in the regular season and one each in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.
If Kansas can win a game or two in each of its postseason tournaments, the average required to match Kellogg’s 1,508 would go down.
They won’t be handing out a plaque when Wilson gets there. And a slightly more significant accomplishment would come if he could reach a career 1.549, which would put him past Calvin Thompson and into the top 20 of KU’s all-time scorer list.
But given their recent encounter, which I thought was the first time the two had ever met, it would be a pretty cool achievement for Wilson to match Kellogg’s total.
It would probably mean pretty good things for the Jayhawks, too.