After his 21-point, 6-of-10 from 3-point-range shooting performance against Michigan State in Kansas’ season-opening victory at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis, a lot of the talk surrounding freshman Quentin Grimes’ delightful debut centered on the fact that the shooting guard played with a free mind and just let it fly.
In the three weeks since that night, the Grimes glider has been grounded due to lack of confidence.
After breaking out in a big way against the Spartans, Grimes struggled mightily in his next four games as a Jayhawk, knocking in just seven of his last 22 field-goal attempts (32 percent) and going 3-of-9 from 3-point range.
Most, if not all, of those six 3-pointers in the opener were of the catch-and-shoot variety. One went in and that created even more confidence in the next shot. And so on and so on until, just like that, you looked up and saw Grimes had hit six of his first seven 3-point attempts.
There have been a couple of catch-and-shoot attempts since then, but most of his shots have come after a moment of hesitation, with Grimes looking, thinking and second-guessing himself before springing into action. By that time, of course, it has been too late and the defense has either adjusted or Grimes has made a mistake or gotten rid of the ball.
After turning it over just once against Michigan State, Grimes has turned it over eight times in the past four games, including twice in each game in New York last week.
Grimes' moments of doubt have led to poor decisions or being late with a pass or shot, and that has led to a spot on the bench. He played just five minutes during the second half and overtime against Tennessee and has left his head coach in search of an explanation for why things changed so quickly.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” said KU coach Bill Self in New York when asked why he wasn’t getting more out of Grimes right now. “He was good in the first game and he’s labored since then. I think a lot of it is confidence and feel, but he’s a talented kid and we certainly are going to be a lot better when he starts playing like we know he can play.”
By definition, that means being a playmaker. Self saw that very thing from Grimes throughout his recruitment, into the prep all-star circuit and last summer when he coached him with Team USA at the FIBA Americas in Canada.
Self has seen it, in spurts, since Grimes arrived on campus, too. What he wants to see is more of it and more consistency, even if that does not mean shooting 6-of-10 from 3-point range. Grimes’ contributions could be as simple as making a play that creates an opportunity for others.
He did that to the tune of 10 assists in KU's home victory over Vermont. And his size, athleticism and body control make him a good candidate to attack the defense in a number of different ways.
His assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly 2-1 is a sign that Grimes hasn’t fallen into a total slump. But that number also serves as motivation for Self and the KU coaching staff wanting to see more from their starting shooting guard.
“There’s nobody in the country that opens the floor and sets more ball screens for the guards,” Self said. “He’s got to come off a ball screen and try to get downhill and force help."
“This has been an issue with us for the last two weeks,” Self added. “And we’ve got to get him to snap out of that for sure. He’s too good a player not to impact the game offensively more than he does.”
Grimes and the Jayhawks will run through a full week of practice this week before returning to the floor at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at home against Stanford.
vs. No. 10 Michigan State
30 MIN, 7-14 FG, 6-10 3FG, 21 PTS, 4 AST, 1 REB, 1 TO, 1 STL
31 MIN, 4-8 FG, 2-4 3FG, 10 PTS, 10 AST, 3 REB, 3 TO, 0 STL
31 MIN, 2-7 FG, 1-2 3FG, 6 PTS, 3 AST, 1 REB, 2 TO, 1 STL
26 MIN, 0-3 FG, 0-1 3FG, 3 PTS, 0 AST, 4 REB, 2 TO, 0 STL
vs. No. 5 Tennessee
21 MIN, 1-4 FG, 0-2 3FG, 5 PTS, 0 AST, 4 REB, 2 TO, 1 STL