Devon Dotson ideal guard for KU's late-season push
Ask Devon Dotson to identify the best 3-point shooter on the Kansas basketball team and he’ll preface his response by first telling you he doesn’t study the statistics.
Then Dotson will point to two of his teammates, Quentin Grimes and Ochai Agbaji.
The reply doubles as yet another reminder of the freshman point guard’s savvy, as well as his willingness to defer at exactly the right time.
Dotson isn’t the type to sit in front of a group of reporters and anoint himself as the Jayhawks’ top 3-point shooter. Nor does he have to.
Everyone who is paying attention knows that Dotson is KU’s most reliable threat from downtown now that Lagerald Vick is on a leave of absence. A 6-foot-2 point guard from Charlotte, N.C., Dotson’s 42.2-percent accuracy from beyond the arch leads all active members of the rotation.
The subject of KU’s 3-point shooting, and the team’s increased reliance on long-range jumpers came up earlier this week, ahead of the Jayhawks’ crucial road trip to Oklahoma State (10-18 overall, 3-12 Big 12). In the seven games since they dropped back-to-back road trips to Kentucky and Texas, the Jayhawks are averaging a shade under 25 3-point attempts an outing and making 9.3 a game.
Asked for his thoughts on the trend, head coach Bill Self, who had previously pointed to Dedric Lawson spending less time in the post as a primary factor in KU’s 3-pointer surge, shared another theory on his team’s tendency to hoist more from downtown.
"I think that teams are guarding us in a way that makes us shoot 3s, too,” Self said on Thursday during his weekly press conference. “I think teams are really trying to clog the lane and to do some different things. In order for us to get a good look, a lot of the possessions, I think that is our best opportunity.”
Since Lawson became more of a face-up forward in a tweaked offensive approach, Self also noted the Jayhawks seem to play with more “freedom.” He said that has benefited everyone from Quentin Grimes to Ochai Agbaji to Lawson.
But Lawson has clearly benefited from that shift the most. The redshirt junior forward went from posting up, playing inside and rarely taking a 3-pointer to averaging 3.9 attempts per game in KU’s previous seven contests, a stretch in which Lawson is shooting 12 for 27 (44.4 percent).
In the meantime, while Self described Agbaji (16 for 45 in 14 games) as “not bashful” from 3-point range, the coach called Dotson “pretty selective.”
It was neither a slight nor a challenge. Just an observation.
To the coach’s point, in the past seven games, while KU’s outside shots have gone up as a team, Dotson has only attempted one 3-pointer in three different games: losses at Kansas State and Texas Tech, and a home win over West Virginia.
Would Self like to see Dotson (27 for 64 from deep this season) be less selective as a shooter and more assertive?
"I think Devon is playing like a guard should play,” Self countered. “The way the game is meant to be played is you move it, you pass it and you shoot open shots. And I think he's doing about as good of a job as anybody doing that."
Self also is bullish on Dotson’s defense, labeling the first-year and ever-improving guard as one of the top perimeter defenders in the the conference.
Dotson, averaging 13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists in Big 12 games, while shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 43.2 percent on 3-pointers, said he plays the style of basketball that his coach appreciates because of his competitive nature.
“I just hate losing,” Dotson said, adding he does his best to play with fire and passion. “I try to give 110 percent each game.”
The young point guard’s emergence in the past several weeks has kept KU in the mix for a Big 12 title. Dotson averaged 16.3 points, 4.3 assists and 4.4 rebounds in February, as KU went 5-2. The Jayhawks couldn’t have won at TCU in overtime without him, for sure.
Dotson is KU’s best perimeter player, it’s top 3-point shooter and a worthy co-star to Lawson. And his unassuming basketball personality has made him an increasingly more effective point guard the deeper he gets into his freshman season.
With three games left in the regular season, one gets the sense that March may be Dotson’s best month yet. His trajectory is pointed in the right direction just in time for college basketball’s spotlight to turn up its intensity.
The Jayhawks (21-7 overall, 10-5 Big 12) need for that to be the case, too, if they want to finish the 2018-19 season with the types of accomplishments that are expected around Lawrence.
Dotson is the man for that job. Just don’t expect him to boast about himself when he’d rather tell you about the abilities of the teammates around him.