The case for juco transfer Tyon Grant-Foster to be KU's fifth starter
About the only thing we know for certain regarding the 2020-21 basketball campaign is who will make up four of the five starting spots for No. 6 Kansas during its season opener. KU head coach Bill Self said as much during Monday’s media availability via zoom.
Barring some unforeseen circumstance, Self expects to have Marcus Garrett, Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun and David McCormack in the starting lineup for Thursday’s matchup with No. 1 Gonzaga. That game is slated to begin at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off.
As unpredictable as 2020 has been, it feels pretty safe to assume that the starting lineup for both of this week's games — and likely beyond — will feature that quartet. So let’s have some fun predicting who will round out the starting five, shall we?
In a multi-blog series leading up to a highly-anticipated matchup on Thursday, I'm going to take a look at some of the top candidates for the final starting spot and explain how that player would fit in the lineup. After making the case for Bryce Thompson in the first edition of the series, it is time to turn our attention to another newcomer: Tyon Grant-Foster.
The case for Grant-Foster is actually pretty simple. The 6-foot-7, 190-pound wing can provide a necessary scoring punch to a team that struggled to consistently find an offensive rhythm during last year’s dominant run through the Big 12 slate.
Many of the players from last year’s squad are back, including Marcus Garrett after he was named the 2020 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. So I have to imagine a team led by Garrett is going to pride itself on the defensive end, even if it might not be as dominant as it was last year.
That said, KU will need to be better offensively to have another successful season and ultimately contend in a strong conference. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, Grant-Foster has the skill set to deliver just that in his first year with the program.
Grant-Foster is a junior college transfer from Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College. He led the team in scoring last season with an average of 16.5 points per game, which included 11 games of 20 or more points.
In the final game of his Indian Hills C.C. career, Grant-Foster scored 29 points in 25 minutes of action against Dawson Community College. It was all enough to have him earn a selection on the NJCAA All-American honorable mention team.
What does all that mean? Grant-Foster can flat-out score the basketball. And that should be an expectation for him right away, regardless if he ends up starting for the Jayhawks or not. I actually don’t think it is unreasonable to suggest he could be the biggest offensive threat — or at least top-two — if he were to crack the starting rotation.
In fact, one computer model even projects that. According to Bart Torvik, Grant-Foster is projected to finish second in scoring average with a clip of 13.4 points per game. Garrett leads the way in these projections with 13.5 points per contest, while Agbaji comes in at third with an average of 13.3 points per outing.
More than that, though, it is the way that Grant-Foster can score that should be intriguing enough to give him the nod. A couple weeks ago, Self mentioned that Grant-Foster got on a roll during a preseason practice.
“(He) makes hard shots, gets real baskets,” Self told the media at the time. “He did some things that, without going into too much detail, we haven't had somebody that could go get their own (shot) like he can when he's good in a long time.”
That’s certainly high praise, and speaks to why Grant-Foster is in the mix to be KU’s fifth starter. He really has great athleticism and length, which also allows him to play multiple positions and fit in a variety of different rotations.
I hate to make this argument come down to just one aspect of the game, because basketball is so much more complex than that. But we are really debating one starting spot on an otherwise veteran rotation.
As a result, having a player with an elite trait should be a legitimate reason for putting him in the rotation. If he is on, similar to the practice that Self was talking about, then Grant-Foster could provide an instant impact on the game.
So maybe it can be that simple. Grant-Foster deserves a shot based on his offensive prowess alone. Even if that doesn’t lead to him starting on Thursday, it wouldn’t surprise me if Grant-Foster does get the nod at some point this season.