Kansas coach Bill Self made sure to give a message to one player in particular.
Freshman Quentin Grimes played a season-low 14 minutes during KU’s 74-71 win over Villanova Saturday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse. It marked the third time in the last four contests that Grimes has logged less than 19 minutes.
As a result, Self made sure to let Grimes know that better days are ahead for the projected lottery pick.
“He just told guys, just stay with it. Like Quen, ‘Don’t worry about the game. Don’t even get discouraged. It’s a big win for the team,’” redshirt junior Dedric Lawson said. “And Quen’s going to play better as time goes on."
It has been anything but a strong start to a highly-anticipated rookie campaign for Grimes, who was ranked as the No. 8 recruit in the 2018 class via Rivals.
Through nine games, all of which have been starts, Grimes is fifth on the team in scoring with an average of 7.4 points per game. Four players are averaging more minutes than him, as Grimes is playing in 24.3 minutes per contest.
But Self has opted on multiple occasions to bench Grimes down the stretch in important games, like he did during Saturday’s rematch of the 2018 Final Four.
“Confidence is a strange thing,” Self said. “When something good happens early, it can totally change in a span of minutes. When something bad happens early, now those negative thoughts creep back into your mind. He’s better than what he has played.”
That was evident in the win over the Wildcats this past weekend. Grimes picked up a pair of fouls in the first six minutes of the contest, which forced him to go to the bench. Self inserted Grimes back in the game at the 9:27 mark, though his return was brief.
With 8:51 left in the first half, Grimes was given his third foul on a charge when he drove through the lane and ran over a defender during an attempt to pass the ball out to the corner.
Grimes returned at the start of the second half, in which he turned it over twice and missed a layup before being pulled at the 13:15 mark. Grimes remained on the bench until the final minute of the contest.
Still, Grimes’ teammates remain in his corner during these early struggles.
“I just try to talk to him all the time, tell him to stay in it and don’t give up. It is too early in the season to panic,” sophomore Marcus Garrett said.
Garrett saw firsthand how much a player can turn a season around just last year.
Malik Newman struggled during the early part of the season in his lone year with Kansas before averaging 22.5 points per game in the postseason. In fact, Newman scored 32 points to push KU past Duke in the Elite Eight last year.
Given that KU fans just witnessed a drastic turnaround a year ago, it is certainly conceivable that a player like Grimes can get back on track with the Jayhawks approaching Big 12 play.
“I just feel like he’s thinking too much,” Garrett said. “I feel like he will get it together.”