Mere hours after turning in what Kansas coach Bill Self said “may have been his best game,” freshman point guard Devon Dotson was named the national freshman of the week by CBS Sports and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
Dotson, who played all 45 minutes and dropped a career-high 25 points and 10 rebounds in KU’s overtime win at TCU on Monday night, averaged 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.3 steals in three games from Feb. 5-11 to earn the honor.
“He shot it, he competed, he got downhill, he did a great job defensively the entire game,” Self said of Dotson’s monster effort at TCU. “I thought he was terrific.”
This week’s honor marked the second time this season that Dotson had received a weekly award — he was named Big 12 newcomer of the week on Dec. 31 — and was the continuation of an uptick in his play since the start of Big 12 Conference competition.
After averaging 11.2 points per game in the 12 nonconference games leading up to Big 12 play, Dotson is averaging 13.2 points per game against Big 12 foes — second on the team — and also ranks third on the team in rebounding (4.4 per game) and first in assists since the start of conference play.
All of those numbers together give him season-averages of 12 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
But beyond his numbers, which are solid by freshman standards at any program, Dotson has emerged as the engine that makes the Kansas offense go — so much so that Self has said multiple times that he “can’t take him off the court.”
That theory was put to the test during Monday’s victory, when Dotson played every minute of KU’s tough road win, but nearly had to come out in overtime after his right calf cramped up following a foul on a drive to the rim.
With Dotson writhing in pain and three of the eight scholarship players available already on the bench after fouling out, Self said his young point guard had just one option.
“He wasn’t going to come off the floor,” Self jokingly rehashed Tuesday night during his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show. “It wasn’t like he showed a lot of courage. He wasn’t going to come off the floor, period.”
But what if he had to?
“Then one of (the walk-ons) would’ve played,” Self conceded. “(Sophomore walk-on Chris) Teahan would’ve gone in the game. Chris is a good player. He just hasn’t had any opportunities to play this year because we haven’t had very many blowout games. And (fellow walk-on) Garrett Luinstra’s a good player. He’s got to do some things from a strength standpoint, but he’s got some stuff to his game, without question.”
Dotson stayed in, gutting out six clutch free throws to ice the game down the stretch, which inspired former KU point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who knew a thing or two about toughness and big numbers, to proclaim on Twitter that Dotson was, “A DAWG!!!!!!”
Recalled Dotson of the brief conversation between Self and him after the cramping occurred: “He said, ‘You got it. Knock them down.’ He asked me, ‘You can do it?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I got it.’ I was thinking I had it. I just wanted to get the win, lock in and just take it one at a time and knock it down.”
For the week, Dotson shot 18-of-35 (51.4 percent) from the floor and 5-of-12 (41.7) from 3-point range. For the season, he’s up to 49.2 percent from the floor and 42.1 percent from 3-point range on 57 attempts, which ties him for fourth on the team.
“You know, I think 7 (vs. TCU) is the most (3-point) attempts he’s had this year and 4 is the most makes he’s had,” Self said Tuesday night. “If he can make 40 percent of his wide-open, deep looks, that’s darn good. People go to the bank with that. The thing I like most about it is, he’s looking for his shot more than he’s done in the past, which is something that he needs to do.”
Given Dotson’s lightning-fast quickness and attack-the-paint-at-all-costs approach, Self said Dotson’s improved shooting from the outside could do wonders for KU’s half-court offense in the weeks ahead, particularly if defenders feel the need to come out on him to contest his jump shot.
“The more he’s pressured, the more opportunity he has to force help,” Self said. “I think it helps. But I also think that no matter who we’re playing, every coach in the league is going to say, 'Keep him out of the paint. Even if he’s on a roll, they’re still going to say, ‘Keep him out of the paint.’”
If he were looking for a specific button to push with his freshman point guard, which, throughout his Hall of Fame coaching career Self has been known to do, the Kansas coach said there were elements of Dotson’s game that still needed work and were just starting to round into shape.
He compared Dotson’s development to that of a quarterback in football who throws a lot of touchdowns and gets by on ability, but can become an even more dangerous passer by understanding how to read and/or manipulate defenses.
“There’s some things you can certainly nitpick and say he needs to do this better or he needs do that better,” Self said. “... But the way that he competed and the way that he’s learned to compete, we can’t take him off the court. He’s too valuable.”