Thu May 12 07:28pm EDT
LAS VEGAS — There's the Josh Selby who suited up and played 26 games in his freshman season at Kansas. The guy who battled injuries, had to clear eligibility hurdles and, only in flashes, looked like the guy who was the top recruit in the 2010 senior class.
Then there's the Josh Selby you can currently find at the Impact Basketball Academy for eight hours a day, five days a week in the shadow of the Las Vegas Strip. He looks lean, healthy, bouncy and, above all, confident.
He looks now like the guy who many expected to see at Allen Fieldhouse last season.
"It was difficult to deal with, especially when you had that much hype and you didn't live up to it," Selby said during one of his recent marathon workout days at Impact. "It was difficult, but things like that just make you more humble and hungry. It makes you focus more, it motivates you. I didn't prove people wrong in college, so hopefully I'll prove people wrong if I get to the [NBA]."
Those who watched him play regularly at Kansas might be a bit shocked by what they see now.
Selby and Maryland sophomore Jordan Williams were two of the first draft prospects to arrive in Las Vegas to train. They were both placed there by their agent — Andy Miller — and have bonded and thrived. Both have transformed their bodies tremendously while at Impact, and spent nearly all of their time together away from the gym.
"We push each other," said Williams, who has dropped his body fat percentage from 14 to 8.9 while in Vegas. "That's what brothers do. I want him to [get drafted] higher than me, and he wants me to go higher than him."
Selby arrived in town at 208 pounds, and in the month that has passed, has trimmed himself down to 195. The daily routine at Impact includes three workouts, ranging anywhere from weights to individual skill drills to 3-on-3 games.
The lighter frame has helped with his quickness, explosiveness and lift on his jumper, among several other improvements. His shot now looks smoother and more consistent than it ever did during a trying freshman season, while he's exploding to the rim much like he did during last April's McDonald's All-American game, when the hype surrounding him kicked into full gear.
Nutrition also gets a hefty amount of focus. Selby said he's cut sugars, saturated fat and processed foods from his diet for the most part, instead opting for water, green tea, salads, chicken, turkey and fruit.
"They don't play about food," he said with a laugh. "I'm beginning to see how the NBA life really is and I'm getting used to it."
He's turned himself into the most impressive prospect among the 30 currently training at Impact under the watchful eye of Joe Abunassar, who works out draft hopefuls each spring and also trains several NBA veterans each summer, including Chauncey Billups, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
A couple of those veterans — Corey Maggette and Al Harrington — are already back to start their offseason workouts and have spent some time helping their potential NBA opposition.
"[Selby] has been the most pleasant surprise," said Abunassar, a former NCAA Division-I assistant coach. "I don't think anyone knows really how good he is."
Selby sat out the first nine games of his lone season at Kansas after he was found to have accepted improper benefits, but his torrid start following the hiatus began with a memorable 21-point performance in a Dec. 18 victory over USC in his debut. He filled a variety of roles and played generally solid ball before a foot injury forced him to miss three games in early February.
When Selby returned, his playing time, confidence and overall presence took a major dip. In the last 13 games of his collegiate career, he averaged a pedestrian 3.5 points on just 28.1 percent shooting, was 7 of 32 from deep and committed as many turnovers as assists. In his final game, he was just 1 of 5 from the floor and 0 for 3 from 3-point range in 15 minutes in a shocking 71-61 loss to VCU in the Elite Eight.
Had the one-and-done rule not been in place, Selby would have likely been a lottery pick fresh out of high school. His stock suffered as a result of his troubled year in Lawrence, and there was major risk involved whether he went back for a sophomore campaign or came out early.
So far, it looks like he made the right choice, and could be playing himself into a spot somewhere in the first round. He wouldn't be the first highly touted recruit to become a solid pro after a not-so-hot one year in school. He's looking more and more like the next, instead.
Not only does is his new body a major help, but he's also preparing each day to play the point at the next level — a position he was only able to run at part-time at Kansas with several experienced vets ahead of him on the backcourt food chain.
"I've discovered thinking again instead of just going," he said. "I'm just being a student of the game, making smarter decisions, changing speed, reading the defender and pulling up for jumpers. I'm learning that you don't always have to go to the hole and force it."
Added Abunassar: "We're just getting him back to the player he was before he went to Kansas. He had the injury, and they had a good team. They used him in a different role than maybe what he was best for, which is not the fault of the team or his, but just the situation he was in. He's getting his confidence back."
Selby said he finished his spring semester academic responsibilities before leaving Lawrence, closing a chapter that some would say could go as a strong case against forcing top high school prospects to go to college for at least one year.
Though when asked about that, Selby said he didn't want to speak out against the rule. Despite his one year at Kansas not going how many expected it to, he said he took away plenty that is helping him now.
"One thing I learned is that things don't always go your way," Selby said. "God made things happen for a reason. It wasn't meant for me to have a great year, so maybe it was for me to rejuvenate myself. That's the past, now I'm just worried about the present and the future."