Sunday, December 30, 2018

KU guard Marcus Garrett offers Jayhawks flexibility as a starter or reserve

Kansas' Lagerald Vick, left, and Marcus Garrett (0) celebrate a teammate's basket during during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Eastern Michigan Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won 87-63.

Kansas' Lagerald Vick, left, and Marcus Garrett (0) celebrate a teammate's basket during during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Eastern Michigan Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won 87-63.


Saturday’s return of KU junior Udoka Azubuike had ripple effects felt throughout the Jayhawks’ lineup.

One day after Kansas basketball coach Bill Self talked about easing up on the high volume of minutes he had been giving KU guard Marcus Garrett in Azubuike’s absence, the sophomore from Dallas returned to the bench for the opening tip and played just 18 minutes in the Jayhawks’ 87-63 win over Eastern Michigan at Allen Fieldhouse.

A steady option off the bench if ever there were one, the 6-foot-5 Garrett, who had played mostly at the 4 with Azubuike injured, was back in a primarily perimeter role in KU’s win over the Eagles. And he figures to stay there for the foreseeable future.

“Oh yeah. He’s always a guard,” Self said. “You know, I viewed Svi (Mykhailiuk) as a perimeter player last year when he defended the 4. So (Garrett’s) a guard. He didn’t play as well today, but I do think he’s a really good player.”

In his first sub-20-minute game since the season opener, Garrett attempted just two shots — 0-for-2 from 3-point range — and hit one of two free throws while grabbing four rebounds and dishing three assists to go along with three turnovers.

After one assist, a perfect entry pass to from the left wing to Azubuike in the paint on the far side of the lane in the second half, it was Self from the bench, and not Azubuike, who pointed at Garrett as if to say, “Nice pass,” while clapping with approval.

Selfless plays such as those, and Garrett’s knack for caring first and foremost about the success of the team, make him the perfect flexibility option for Self to use as he sees fit.

“Whether or not he starts or doesn’t start, I do think he’s better in the role that we have him now rather than being a starter and playing 35 (minutes) a game,” Self said. “I don’t think that’s best for our team. Even though it’s great for him, I’m not sure that’ll play out to be good for us.”

One big reason behind that premise is Self’s desire to see exactly what his team looks like when Azubuike and leading scorer Dedric Lawson, who still is averaging 19.6 points per game despite an eight-point outing on Saturday, are on the floor together.

Although the Jayhawks had six games to show that look before Azubuike’s ankle injury, they just barely scratched the surface of what that can mean for KU’s offense.

“We need to see Dedric and Dok play together because that’s going to be the guys that are out there the vast majority of minutes,” Self explained Saturday.

That does not mean Self will totally abandon any four-guard looks. It just means that when all other circumstances allow for it, Azubuike and Lawson will be out there together and fifth-ranked Kansas (11-1) will adapt from there as necessary.

“I think it’s our best offensive team, to play two bigs,” Self said. “And I think it’s arguably not our best defensive team so we’ll probably just have to wait, depending on (the) situation. Like against OU, that’ll be a lot harder guard because they play (Brady) Manek at the 4. So now ball screens become a factor and things like that. So we’ll see how that plays out.”

Barring any setbacks between now and Wednesday, that’s how the Jayhawks will start defense of their 14 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles when No. 25 Oklahoma comes to Allen Fieldhouse for the 2018-19 conference opener for both teams. Tip time is slated for 8 p.m. on ESPN2.


Bryce Landon 2 years, 3 months ago

Marcus Garrett's New Year's Resolution for 2019 should be to get better at scoring. He may be a solid defender, but his shooting and scoring leave a lot to be desired.

Jeff Foster 2 years, 3 months ago

Totally agree. His complete offensive liability overshadows to me what is good defense, but not great. I know I'm overly critical of him, but I feel like early on last year he had some really good defensive games and the media and Self/staff built him up as this amazing defender. I think he's good, but not really great, and his C-/D offense offsets his A- defense, in my opinion. Trouble is, we really don't have anyone else currently to compare him to as there's nobody else that's consistently a great defender. I expect so much from this team (all KU teams really) and don't want to get lost in those expectations, rather, I really want to enjoy the season. I look at the January schedule and there's really no 'gimme' games on it. January will be very telling of this team's abilities.

Dane Pratt 2 years, 3 months ago

That would be nice but I think his shooting skills are something we hope to see develop from season to season. For the remainder of 2019 I hope he uses better judgment when he does shoot. 4 for 20 (also Dedric's numbers) from behind the arc for a guy who shoots about 30 percent. Needs to make better shot selections.

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