For Kansas fans, these first nine games have been something like living in basketball purgatory, a limbo life as they waited for Christmas to arrive one week early.
To Josh Selby, the gift the Jayhawk faithful have been waiting to see unwrapped, the waiting was hard but the lesson was clear:
This could have been a lot worse.
“I think I’m lucky,’’ Selby said. “I saw the Enes Kanter situation [referring to the Kentucky big man who was deemed permanently ineligible by the NCAA], where he couldn’t play in college and I wondered, ‘Would they do the same thing with me?’ ’’
Instead the NCAA suspended Selby nine games for his association with Bay Frazier, an associate of Carmelo Anthony. The NCAA ruled that Selby had taken benefits from Frazier totaling just over $4,600.
The wait ends on Saturday when Kansas hosts USC in an otherwise ho-hum nonconference game that because of Selby’s involvement has reached fever pitch on the Jayhawks expectation meter.
The curiosity seekers just want to see how Selby plays. The basketball watchers want to see how he fits in with a Kansas team that has climbed to No. 3 in the rankings without him.
Selby will likely play off the ball and live in an offense that runs through the Morris twins, not him.
Those are both new experiences for a player accustomed to having the ball in his hands and the game plan built around him.
But after a month of itching to play, Selby isn’t about to complain.
“I just don’t want to mess up the chemistry of my team,’’ Selby said. “I’m not focusing on myself at all. I want to make the fans feel happy and the coaching staff happy.’’
Selby admits the time away was hard, particularly when the Jayhawks went on the road and NCAA rules prohibited him from joining them. But he never thought about leaving, never thought about jumping on a plane and playing overseas.
The Kansas staff, he said, had done too much for him and fought too hard on his behalf, to leave them stranded.
Selby understands the rule that was broken -- that the relationship with Frazier was deemed one based on his basketball abilities -- but still isn’t sure how he would have fixed it.
“To be honest, I don’t know if I really made any mistakes, in my opinion,’’ Selby said. “It’s just that he NCAA has certain rules. For people in my situation, I’d tell them to just think twice.’’