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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Benton Smith: Devon Dotson delivers again in his likely fieldhouse finale

Kansas head coach Bill Self hugs Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) after the Jayhawks defeated TCU to claim at least a share of the Big 12 conference title on Wednesday, March 5, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self hugs Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) after the Jayhawks defeated TCU to claim at least a share of the Big 12 conference title on Wednesday, March 5, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Wednesday was a night for the Kansas basketball program to salute the only two seniors on the active roster, Udoka Azubuike and Isaiah Moss, as they played their final game inside Allen Fieldhouse.

While that was the main event in a 75-66 Jayhawks victory, the co-headliner might as well have been Devon Dotson. You could call this his sophomore night, too, because he’s not likely to play any games for KU as a junior or senior.

The 6-foot-2 point guard from Charlotte, N.C., of course, won’t officially announce what level of basketball he’ll be playing at during the 2020-21 season until after the conclusion of this one. But you’ll recall he used as much time as possible following his freshman season to test the NBA draft waters. When he ultimately decided to come back to Lawrence and improve his stock, you know he did so eyeing the 2020 draft, as well as the types of rings the very best Jayhawks who played here before him earned.

He assured himself of at least one on Wednesday once time expired versus the Horned Frogs and KU wrapped up at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title.

Dotson’s KU teammates and his head coach, Bill Self, couldn’t be happier with the results of his laser-focused approach.

Who would have thought before the season began that Dotson would become one of college basketball’s elite point guards? Well, he would, for starters.

Dotson’s confidence in himself and dedication to his craft during the offseason turned him into the Jayhawks’ best scorer, a year after he established himself as a guaranteed blur in the open floor. Now he’s much more than that. His speed is coupled with an even stronger frame, as well as the type of savvy that so often makes it impossible for defenders to stay in front of him — in transition or in the half court — as he displayed en route to 18 points versus TCU.

“We have the best point guard in America,” Self declared after the win, while addressing the crowd and surrounded by the program’s recent trophies.

A leading candidate for the Big 12 Player of the Year, a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award and a possible All-American, Dotson followed up one of his all-time best performances — 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting at Kansas State — from his likely short college career by emerging out of the significant shadow cast by his KU co-star, Azubuike, against TCU.

Biding his time, Dotson entered the scoring column with 5:20 left in the first half after happily taking a backseat on offense to the fourth-year center from Nigeria.

Once Dotson drove in to finish a layup at that juncture, he was back to sharing the spotlight and giving TCU fits. He had 9 of his points by halftime, draining a much-needed 3-pointer in a sluggish first half for the nation’s No. 1-ranked team and later drawing a hard foul on a fast break.

Early in the second half, Dotson looked like a safety baiting a quarterback into a throw, dropping back from an obvious outlet pass just so he could explode through the passing lane and pick it off. His fourth steal of the night also provided him an easy runway for a fast-break layup.

The timeliness of Dotson’s plays on both ends of the court have been crucial to KU’s emergence as the best team in the country, whether he’s racking up steals, driving downhill or getting to the foul line (he entered the week shooting 82% on free throws and averaging 5.8 attempts per game).

He even knocked down 3-pointers (2-for-3) versus the Horned Frogs. And his make near the 11-minute mark of the second half felt like a watershed moment for a tired-looking group of Jayhawks, because it turned what had been a tight game into a 7-point lead for KU. Dotson built upon that not 20 seconds later, by snagging a defensive rebound and turning it into an opportunity for a one-man track meet the other direction. Fast and under control when driving at defenders, Dotson showed off one of his many strengths, befuddling a defender into contact so he could score easy points at the foul line.

The only plot twist that kept Dotson’s night and likely home finale from concluding in storybook fashion was an injury to his lower left leg. The pain, though, only knocked him out of the lineup for a couple of minutes.

It was a fitting fieldhouse finale for both Azubuike and Dotson, because they both carried the Jayhawks yet again. KU will go as far as the duo can take this team in the weeks ahead. And their star power, paired with the team defense they play with their teammates, could be enough to cut down quite a few nets between now and when “One Shining Moment” plays after the national title game.

Comments

Bryce Landon 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Devon is not ready for the NBA. He needs to come back for his junior year.

Barry Weiss 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I sure hope Devon comes back, there is no one quite like him.

Kyle Neuer 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Until his shot gets consistent, he's not NBA ready.

Benjamin Shear 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The NBA is so different than the NCAA. Ochai Agbaji, for example, is predicted to go in the draft around #26. Ochai....Agbaji. He will likely be really successful in the NBA even though he's been pretty flat for KU. Some flowers bloom like that I guess. Dotson is predicted at #29 and Dok at #30. But some mock drafts don't have any of those three going in the first round. I personally think all three are gone.

Robert Robinson 2 months, 3 weeks ago

It's said Dotson and Dok are the best duo in college basketball. While I agree they are both individually awesome, I feel like Garrett throwing lobs to Dok has been insanely effective. Those two play really well off of each other

Adam James 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I agree on the Dotson take. He is one of the top guards in the country, but he's kind of trapped based on other players like him that have been drafted and have not been able to make it in the NBA. Namely, Frank Mason. Frank was a better overall player his senior year than Dotson is as a soph and that doesn't bode well for Devon. Devon needs to take the Devonte track and continue to develop his shot and become a better passer. Those two areas are keeping him from being a sure fire 1st rounder. As far as Ochai..... don't get me started. He gets his token 6-10 pts when the game is decided. Apart from that he is a turnover machine and is not a consistent threat to score at all. He may have a shiny game here or there, but don't get excited that he's gonna have a Malik Newman type run. RCJH!!!

Benjamin Shear 2 months, 3 weeks ago

It's so true, Ochai gets points only when he game is pretty much over. Then he looks like a contributor in the box score when he is mostly absent in the game. Why is that? I'm going to sound really harsh right now and I don't mean to come off as a jerk...but is he just dumb? He is obviously freakishly athletic, but that doesn't mean much if your basketball or actual iq is low.

Joe Joseph 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Folks,

For the thousandth time, It's not about being "NBA ready." It's about maximizing your earning potential. Athletes can continue to develop while on an NBA roster and, especially, when it's the only thing they have to worry about.

This 2020 draft class is fairly weak. While Dotson could potentially improve his stock by returning for one more year, he could also likely put himself behind others who are more gifted athletically and who are deemed to be better 'prospects.' Dotson's time to go is, most likely, now.

Benjamin Shear 2 months, 3 weeks ago

You are right. It most definitely is his time to go.

Adam Bengtson 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Garrett lobbing to McCormick next year looks appealing.

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