Tom Keegan: Freshman Marcus Garrett knows what it takes to earn playing time

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett

Monday, November 27, 2017

Playing on the big-time AAU basketball circuit maximizes a prospect’s exposure and gives him the best shot at drawing prestigious scholarship offers.

Kansas freshman and Dallas native Marcus Garrett was recruited to play on the circuit, but opted to stay with the local Swaghouse program coached by his uncle, Matthew Watts.

Garrett doesn’t come across as someone who places a premium on prestige. My guess is he didn’t come to Kansas because of all the glitz that comes with playing for a blue blood. He came to Kansas because he wanted to become a better basketball player.

His explanation as to why he chose to play for the local AAU team instead of one with national sizzle reflects well on him.

“I just felt like I wanted to play with all my friends I grew up with playing basketball,” Garrett said. “The big AAU programs didn’t want them, so I just felt like I should play with them. I had fun with them. And my uncle always told me if you’re good, colleges are going to find you.”

His reason for having no regrets for resisting the overtures of bigger AAU programs reflects even better on him.

“I was able to go that route, was able to play with some of my friends, get them looked at, and they were able to go to college,” Garrett said.

Nice. He’s proud to have had a hand in drawing attention to friends and leading them to better opportunities. McDonald’s All-Americans enjoy playing with facilitators.

The way Garrett plays basketball is consistent with that sort of thinking. His style screams team player at both ends of the court. Considering the coaching he received at Dallas Skyline High that does not come as a surprise.

Garrett’s high school coach, Paul Graham, coached a year with KU coach Bill Self as assistants working for Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State. Garrett has a head start on most freshmen.

He said he considers himself fortunate for having played “for a high school coach who makes sure you play D, makes sure you’re active and get rebounds, makes sure you do the little things to stay on the court.”

Is Garrett fundamentally better than the typical freshman?

“Defensively for sure,” Self said. “I don’t know that I would say offensively. I still think there are a lot of things he could do better. Most kids probably will struggle playing if they’re a reserve because defensively they don’t get it. He’s one of the few who gets it defensively, which will give him a great chance to play a lot.”

Garrett averages 25.2 minutes, 8.0 points and 7.2 rebounds and has more steals (nine) than turnovers (four). The 6-foot-5, 180-pound Garrett and Lagerald Vick, 6-5, 174, share the team rebounding lead.

Garrett doesn't shy away from battling bigger players.

"In high school I was able to play center at one end and moved to point guard on the offensive end," Garrett said.

In college, he plays the other three positions. He plays where needed and knows how to make himself needed by the coach.

The short bench lengthens his stays on the court and in turn accelerates his growth.

“I feel like you improve more being actually out there than just sitting there and watching it from the bench,” Garrett said. “So I feel like I’m learning a lot faster than the average freshman who’s not playing a lot of minutes.”