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Friday, November 16, 2018

Benton Smith: David McCormack makes case for more playing time

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) puts back a shot against Louisiana forward Justin Miller (55) during the first half, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) puts back a shot against Louisiana forward Justin Miller (55) during the first half, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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After watching the entirety of the previous game from the bench, Kansas big man David McCormack didn’t know for certain if Friday night’s matchup with Louisiana at Allen Fieldhouse would play out any differently for him.

When Bill Self called upon McCormack midway through the first half with KU trailing by seven, though, what followed just might make it impossible for the 6-foot-10 freshman to ever experience another DNP this season.

The Ragin’ Cajuns led by as many as 12 in the final 10 minutes of the first half, but McCormack’s relentless energy powered a Kansas rally and proved to be a pivotal stretch in an 89-76 victory.

“I’ll be honest, David won the game for us the first half,” Self said afterward, adding that junior center Udoka Azubuike took on that burden in the second, while senior guard Lagerald Vick played at another level completely throughout.

McCormack got his opportunity when Azubuike and Dedric Lawson each picked up two first-half fouls and a couple of quick mistakes inspired Self to yank Mitch Lightfoot off the floor.

Once the freshman subbed in, No. 2 Kansas outscored Louisiana 24-14 to close the first half.

To Lawson, it was clear that swing wouldn’t have happened without “Big Dave.”

“He came out with a lot of energy, got a lot of offensive boards,” Lawson said of McCormack’s work on the glass, adding the stretch leading up to halftime served as a nice reminder of how “really deep” the Jayhawks can be. “That’s something that we need to see.”

After matchups with Vermont’s frontcourt on Monday played a significant factor in Self deciding not to play McCormack, the coach almost sounded apologetic at times in explaining the situation this week.

None of that bothered McCormack, a McDonald’s All-American from Oak Hill Academy (Va.).

“Regardless if it was two minutes against Vermont or a minute here or however many minutes I play, I’m going to play the same way,” he said.

His stat line read: 2 points, 1-for-4 shooting, six rebounds (four offensive) and one block in 10 minutes. However, McCormack drew rave reviews from his teammates because his unselfish approach made the win possible.

“I always come out with everything I have,” McCormack said, when told Azubuike called him the most energetic player on the roster. “My motto’s not to get outworked. In order to do that I have to have a lot of energy.”

Although Self joked McCormack recorded some “Dennis Rodman rebounds” by missing some bunnies inside and gathering his own misfires, the coach also called him KU’s best big in the first half.

“You know he’s nervous as all get out just because he didn’t play last game and all that stuff. But I thought he did well,” Self said. “The problem is, when we play a team like that, how do you play he and Dok together and play man-to-man? If Dok’s not in foul trouble and he’s playing well, there’s really not a huge reason to sub him out.”

After McCormack turbocharged the Jayhawks out of their first-half lull, Self won’t have many reasons to keep McCormack on the bench in the future.

Comments

Steve Zimmerman 10 months ago

This kid's attitude will take him farther and farther. He will get better as the season goes. We haven't seen what he really can do yet. Enjoy the show!

Andy Godwin 10 months ago

Concur with all said and written. He was extremely active and provided some timely rebounds and overall defensive energy. Listened to him on the radio following the game during his interview with David Lawrence. Clearly a very bright kid with his head on straight. What a great attitude. Reminded me of Landon Lucus with more athleticism.

Brian Leslie 10 months ago

I think the unspoken message is that Lightfoot just slipped on the depth chart. We've had plenty of freshman bigs -- Aldrich & TRob come to mind -- get their share of DNP's, but if you're the 3rd big (instead of Lightfoot or maybe KJ), yeah, you'll play.

I also think that McCormack will ultimately be a better basketball player than Dok. Nearly the same size, much more developed passing and offensive repertoire, and good shotblocking instincts.

Marius Rowlanski 10 months ago

I'm not worried about Lightfoot. He will still get his minutes but McCormack is a beast and will only get better.

Steve Zimmerman 10 months ago

Coaches should be worried. This guy is a junior. He still seems to be confused on the court. He can defend alright, but unless he becomes our 3pt shooter, he's the least guy our opponent should be worried about.

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