KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The waiting is finally over for Josh Selby and all those Kansas fans who've been chanting "Free Selby" while the super recruit impatiently sat out the season's first nine games.
Selby's NCAA-ordered nine-game suspension is done. The playmaking point guard and No. 1 recruit in the nation will make his long-awaited collegiate debut on Saturday morning when No. 3 Kansas hosts USC.
"I'll get to go out there and play along with my teammates, which I've been waiting for," Selby said Monday. "We're all looking forward to this game. It means a lot to us and the Kansas fans and the coaching staff."
The game promises to be one of the most electric atmospheres in the 55-year history of Kansas' beloved arena. The 6-foot-2 Baltimore native, ranked by some as the top recruit in last year's class, is just about the most heralded freshman to join the Jayhawks since Danny Manning 25 years ago.
The challenge for coach Bill Self will be finding a place and a role for his prize recruit on a team that, quite frankly, is doing just fine without him at 9-0.
Self and Selby will have to proceed with caution, lest they damage team chemistry.
"How do guys who have been getting attention handle not getting attention?" Self said. "Because in the next couple of weeks it's going to be about Josh, and Josh doesn't bring that on himself. That's just the way it is. Now you've got a little bit different element in that he's going to add a lot of energy and juice, but also that other people have to welcome that energy and juice. If we handle it right, I think it will be a great asset to us."
The NCAA imposed the suspension and said Selby would have to pay a fine of $5,757.58 for allegations tied to accepting impermissible benefits. Kansas said the actual amount was $4,607.58.
The main issues surrounding Selby apparently centered on his family's association with Robert Frazier, the business manager for Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony. Selby's mother had maintained that Frazier was someone she had known since grade school and that he merely helped the family through the difficult recruiting process as a friendly adviser.
Selby maintains he did nothing wrong except be unaware of the rules. But he also says he feels no bitterness, only relief that he's finally going to get in the game.
"I do think I'm lucky," Selby said. "But God does things for a reason and I'm just thankful God gave me the opportunity to play the game in college."
In his new role, he may be playing off the ball for extended periods for the first time in his life, but still with great expectations heaped upon him.
"I'm not really worried about that because I'm just going to go out there and try to win with my team," he said. "That's my biggest concern right now. I'm not really focused in on myself. I'm focused in on my teammates and just making the fans feel happy and the coaching staff happy, and coming through with a 'W.'"
Throughout what he admits has been a trying ordeal, Selby said he never thought about bolting Kansas.
"I never thought about leaving Kansas because they put so much work into this situation and they never gave up on me so I was never thinking about giving up on them."
He said he's ready to "take a back seat" to teammates while his role with the team takes shape.
"The only thing I would like to do is don't mess up the chemistry my team already has because they have a great chemistry out there when you watch the games," he said. "That's the only thing I want to do as far as not winning. Whatever my team and coaches want me to do, I will do to help them win. So if it's scoring, or natural point guard, that's what I have to do."
A big help through it all has been the support of fans who frequently chanted his name while he sat on the bench in street clothes while Kansas started 9-0 for the second year in a row.
"The fans — that means a lot to me and my family because to hear people chant your name, that makes you feel wanted," he said. "And there's nothing better than feeling wanted by that many people. I'm just happy they want me here and they want to see me on the court."