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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Notebook: Grimes, Dotson earn starting nod in exhibition opener

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) pushes the ball up the court against Emporia State guard Jack Dale (22) during the first half of an exhibition, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) pushes the ball up the court against Emporia State guard Jack Dale (22) during the first half of an exhibition, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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On Wednesday, at Big 12 media day, Kansas coach Bill Self said Udoka Azubuike, Dedric Lawson and Lagerald Vick would be in the starting lineup for his team’s exhibition opener on Thursday night.

But there remained some mystery surrounding who would fill the final two spots.

It turned out to be a pair of freshmen, as former McDonald’s All-Americans Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes started in KU’s two lead guard spots during the Jayhawks’ 93-55 victory over Emporia State at Allen Fieldhouse.

Although Self said he would caution against reading too much into who started on Thursday night, Dotson and Grimes both put up the kind of numbers that might warrant an encore.

In 23 minutes, Dotson finished with eight points, four rebounds and three assists (along with no turnovers) on 2-of-4 shooting and a 4-of-4 clip from the free-throw line.

In 20 minutes, Grimes flashed an aggressive nature throughout — in good and bad ways — and topped out at 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting, with two assists, two rebounds, two turnovers, a block and a steal.

“It matters but it doesn’t matter,” Grimes said of being in the starting lineup. “Because I think anybody on the team can start, really.”

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Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) drives against Emporia State forward Justin Tucker (1) during the second half of an exhibition, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Dotson and Grimes found out they would start during shootaround, and Self said the starting nod was the reward for consistency.

“I would say they’ve probably been as good as anybody playing back there,” Self said. “I think you could make a case for Marcus (Garrett) out there, too. Those two and Marcus have kind of separated themselves.”

ESU coach Craig Doty, who mostly marveled at KU junior Dedric Lawson’s 31-point, 15-rebound night, wholeheartedly agreed and had high praise for KU’s guards.

“I’m not worried about their backcourt,” he joked. “I don’t think anyone else should be either. Pretty darn gifted.”

JRE down to 2

According to a Thursday text message sent from Jeremiah Robinson-Earl's mother, Katie Robinson, to KUsports.com recruiting insider Matt Scott, the No. 10-ranked player in the 2019 recruiting class is down to two programs — Kansas and Villanova.

Robinson-Earl has long been at the top of KU's wish list in the 2019 class, and he remains there as his recruitment nears an end.

Earlier this month, Katie Robinson told Scott that her son would make a decision in the next few weeks, and many have speculated that it could come on or before his birthday, Nov. 3.

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Kansas basketball recruits, from left to right, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Cassius Stanley and James Wiseman, take in the scene at Late Night in the Phog on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018.

The IMG Academy forward who played his first three years of high school ball at nearby Bishop Miege High eliminated Arizona, North Carolina and Notre Dame from his list of finalists.

In doing so, the race to the finish is down to two programs that have crossed paths a lot during recent years. KU and Villanova met deep in the NCAA Tournament in both 2016 and 2018, and the two will square off on Dec. 15 at Allen Fieldhouse this season in the first installment of a home-and-home clash that will end up being part of the recently announced Big 12-Big East series slated to begin next season.

Beyond that, Jay Wright and Self have led their programs to the most success of just about any program in the country during the past five years, constantly factoring into the national championship picture and winning a lot of games along the way.

While KU has always been a big player in Robinson-Earl's recruitment, Villanova has made its move late.

Kansas assistant Norm Roberts was at IMG earlier this week to check in on Robinson-Earl, who, at 6-foot-9, 235 pounds, is the definition of a five-star prospect who can do just about whatever he wants on the basketball floor.

Rivals.com recruiting analyst Eric Bossi recently wrote, “Kansas has been considered the team to beat for some time, but Villanova has made a strong case to get this deep into the recruitment. It’s a closer call than many figured it would be.”

Unofficial visitor

One of the top players in the Class of 2021 was in town to see KU open its season with an exhibition victory over Emporia State on Thursday night.

Point guard Khristian Lander — 5-11, 150 pounds, ranked No. 30 overall in the 2021 class by Rivals.com — was in Lawrence for an unofficial visit to KU on Thursday.

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Kansas recruit from the class of 2021 Kristian Lander watches from behind the KU bench during the second half of an exhibition, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Evansville, Ind., native is considered to be one of the top point guards in the 2021 class, and he already holds scholarship offers from Big Ten programs Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Purdue.

KU on top in USA Today poll

Three days after learning it would enter the 2018-19 season with the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, Kansas completed the sweep.

Self’s Jayhawks also earned the top spot in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll for the fourth time in school history, joining the 1996-97, 2004-05 and 2009-10 teams.

It marks the fourth consecutive year the Jayhawks have opened the season in the top 5 of the coaches poll and the 27th time in the 30-year history of the poll that KU was ranked in the preseason.

Kentucky, Duke, Gonzaga and Virginia round out the top 5 in both polls.

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