For the next 15 inches or so, I’m going to need you to disregard all of the statistics and numbers you’ve seen as we walk down the path that leads to Kansas junior Marcus Garrett being named KU’s team MVP.
Given the fact that two of his teammates have put up numbers that rank them among the best players in college basketball, that could be a tough ask.
But Garrett deserves your effort to jump into this numberless world, where impact and intangibles mean as much as points and rebounds.
Garrett is not an All-American. Because Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson are in KU’s starting lineup, he’s not a first-team all-Big 12 selection this season either.
But he is the best defender in the country and the most valuable player on this Kansas roster. Not the best. Not the most productive. But the most valuable.
It can be difficult to avoid using scores and stats to establish a player’s worth. But Kansas coach Bill Self will be the first to tell you that there is much more to a player’s importance than the numbers he puts up.
Self has said before that what makes a shot good isn't whether the ball goes in, but how and when the shot was taken. It’s kind of the same thing here. And Garrett brings things to this Kansas basketball team that no one else can bring.
For starters, he has played a large portion of the current season on two bad ankles. His ability to power through nagging injuries and defend and deliver as if nothing were bothering him is at the top of the list of reasons he is so important to this team.
Anyone can have an off night or be taken out of a game. But because of Garrett’s elite versatility, he rarely is. A bunch of turnovers at West Virginia? No problem. He responded by swiping nearly as many steals, many coming during the decisive stretch that won the Jayhawks the game.
An off shooting night against Oklahoma State at home? Instead of needing to score himself, he set up his teammates to do it, over and over and over again.
Those are just two of dozens of examples of how Garrett impacts the game in ways beyond the stat sheet. Beyond that, he often is the player the Jayhawks turn to when the offense gets stagnant and KU needs a bucket.
Part of the beauty of Garrett’s game is its simplicity. There’s nothing flashy there. His goal every night, and on every possession, is simply to get the job done.
Because he can defend all five positions, and because he presents Self with the luxury of a second point guard who would start at that position at most schools, Garrett has consistently been the Jayhawks’ most important piece.
So much of Azubuike’s success has been tied to Garrett’s ability to get him the ball in good positions. And by guarding the opponent’s best offensive player and serving as a reliable secondary ball handler, Garrett has made Dotson’s life easier, too.
Called a coach on the floor by Self, Garrett is a difficult matchup for foes. And he can find success, both individually and for his teammates, even in the most dire circumstances.
His poise and confidence often serve as a steadying force for KU’s lineup. And when you’re Kansas, with every team you face gunning for you like it’s the national championship game, keeping your cool can go a long way.
Garrett does it so well that he can bring his teammates along for the ride, thereby elevating everyone’s play.
It doesn’t get more valuable than that.
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