Why the minutes Kansas guard Remy Martin played on Monday night vs. Texas Tech should mean more than those he didn’t
In the postgame press conference following Monday’s 94-91 double-overtime thriller against Texas Tech, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self was asked why senior guard Remy Martin played just eight minutes in the second half and two overtimes.
“I don’t want to be negative, but who would he go in for,” Self replied. “We (needed) to rebound the ball, so I didn’t think it was a time that you play two little guards.”
That answer, which pegged Martin and Dajuan Harris Jr., as KU’s little guards, sparked a bit of a freak out from Kansas fans on message boards and various social media platforms.
Many fans seemed to think it was obvious that Martin could have — and many believe should have — taken Harris’ spot on the floor a little more often during the final 30 minutes of the KU victory.
Nearly half of Martin’s 8 minutes after halftime — 3:21, from the 8:25 mark of the second half to 5:04 — came with Harris on the floor with him. And Martin checked out for good at the 5:04 mark with KU leading by eight, 70-62.
The Jayhawks squandered that eight-point lead, forcing the teams to play 10 extra minutes and setting up a heck of a finish for KU senior Ochai Agbaji.
Harris, meanwhile, didn’t do a whole lot. At least not on the stat sheet. He finished with 4 points on 2-of-10 shooting and was not particularly effective in the assist department, tallying two assists and a turnover.
What’s more, he was continually picked on by the Texas Tech offense, which found ways to post Harris up and get easy baskets by shooting over him in close. Martin is not really any bigger than Harris. But he does offer more on the offensive end of the floor, both in terms of shot-making potential and his ability to bring energy.
So, I understand the frustration. But you also have to understand the situation.
Basketball is not just about offense. In fact, basketball under Bill Self is almost entirely about trust. And right now, it seems as if Self just hasn’t been around Martin long enough to fully trust him to execute what’s called in late-game settings.
Although the situation with Martin’s playing time has made this a hot-button issue, the concept is nothing new. Self has always leaned on players he trusts the most late in games. Always.
Sometimes, that meant leaving more talented players or better upside on the bench in favor of the guys he knew would do it right. It doesn’t always work out, of course. But things do tend to go in KU’s favor more often than not when assignments are carried out and instructions are executed.
Martin is still learning how to do all of that for Kansas, and no one should expect anything different. He’s been with the program for less than six months. And he’s been injured for a chunk of that time. Some guys still don’t fully get it even after being with Self for four years.
While many fans would argue that Martin didn’t play enough on Monday night, I would argue that the minutes he did play should be viewed as a good sign.
For one, it marked the second most minutes he has played in a conference game at Kansas. And, two, he now has topped the 20-minute mark in back-to-back games.
You’ll notice that Joe Yesufu hasn’t played in either one of those. So it’s clear that, though a little slow-going in the eyes of some, Self’s trust in Martin is being developed. And there’s still time for it to take some major strides forward before the season ends.
Based on some of his biggest moments on Monday night, Martin seems to get that and it appears as if he is doing all he can to earn Self’ trust. The next step is doing it with consistency so Self and Martin’s teammates get to the point where they can rely on him to be in the right spots and make the right plays.
Here’s a look back at Martin’s impact in Monday’s first half.
Perhaps no contribution was as important, if not unexpected, as Martin’s in the opening 20 minutes. Forced into a little more action than has been normal because of foul trouble to Harris, Martin delivered in just about every way imaginable.
And most of his production had nothing to do with offense.
Immediately after checking in for Harris following the sophomore guard’s second foul at the 10:16 mark, Martin drew a foul of his own on the ensuing inbounds play. A few minutes later, Martin drew another foul by going to the glass to help clean up a Texas Tech miss.
It’s been commonplace to see Martin flash his head nod and energetic bounce following big plays on offense. And there were a few of those on Monday night, as well. Most came after a pinpoint pass by Martin led to a bucket for a teammate. But the fact that Martin was feeling himself for his efforts in those back-alley battles showed perfectly where his focus was in this one.
“He brought good energy, good defense, he’s done some good things,” Self told ESPN’s Kris Budden at halftime.
Arguably his biggest sequence of the night came in the second half and featured a defensive rebound on one end and an assist to KJ Adams underneath for an and-one bucket just seconds later.
After finishing the basket through contact, Adams stood along the baseline and roared to the crowd. Facing the other way, about 45 feet from him, Martin did the same near midcourt. Adams missed the free throw, but Kansas still led 59-52 with 11 minutes to play.
Martin, who even mixed in a drawn charge with KU leading by 10 at the 6:48 mark of the second half, finished the night with four points on 2-of-7 shooting with four rebounds, five assists and one turnover.
The numbers are fine, neither stellar nor trash.
It’s the opportunities and what Martin does with them that you should keep an eye on in the coming weeks. Because that’s what will tell you if Kansas fans are ever going to see Martin truly unleashed in a KU uniform.
"I thought he did fine," Self said of Martin after Monday's game. "He made a couple bad plays, obviously, but I thought he did fine. He's having a hard time finishing, obviously, and a lot of times those plays lead to run-outs or fast breaks the other way. But I thought Remy did fine. And if you look at he and Juan's stats together, it's good. But it's 4-of-17 (shooting), and we've got to get more consistent play out of that (position)."
Both Kansas and Texas Tech men’s basketball programs moved up in the latest Associated Press Top 25 college basketball poll on Monday, ahead of their 8 p.m. matchup at Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas, which won a thriller at Kansas State over the weekend, jumped two spots to No. 5 and the Red Raiders, who knocked off West Virginia over the weekend, jumped from No. 18 to No. 13.
Kansas and Texas Tech are separated by a half game at the top of the Big 12 standings, with KU currently in first place at 5-1 (16-2 overall) and Tech (15-4) tied with No. 4 Baylor (17-2) for second place at 5-2.
TCU, at 3-2, also is just one game behind Kansas in the loss column.
“This will be a big game for our league race,” KU coach Bill Self said Saturday while looking ahead to Monday’s matchup.
At the top of the latest AP poll, Auburn jumped into the No. 1 spot for the first time in school history, edging out Gonzaga by 29 points and gaining 45 of the 61 first-place votes. Gonzaga was second with 15 first-place votes and No. 3 Arizona got the lone remaining first-place vote.
Purdue, UCLA, Houston, Duke and Michigan State round out this week’s Top 10.
Texas, meanwhile, fell out of the poll for the first time this season, but was still in the receiving votes category with fellow-Big 12 program TCU.
Here’s a look at this week’s complete AP Top 25:
1 – Auburn, 18-1, 1,504 (45)
2 – Gonzaga, 15-2, 1,475 (15)
3 – Arizona, 16-1, 1,381 (1)
4 – Baylor, 17-2, 1,335
5 – Kansas, 16-2, 1,281
6 – Purdue, 16-3, 1,119
7 – UCLA, 13-2, 1,116
7 – Houston, 17-2, 1,116
9 – Duke, 15-3, 1,017
10 – Michigan State, 15-3, 979
11 – Wisconsin, 15-3, 894
12 – Kentucky, 15-4, 822
13 – Texas Tech, 15-4, 766
14 – Villanova, 14-5, 713
15 – USC, 16-2, 711
16 – Ohio State, 12-4, 584
17 – Providence, 16-2, 542
18 – Tennessee, 13-5, 419
19 – LSU, 15-4, 399
20 – Connecticut, 13-4, 284
21 – Xavier, 14-4, 269
22 – Marquette, 14-6, 177
23 – Iowa State, 14-5, 167
24 – Illinois, 13-5, 155
25 – Davidson, 16-2, 132
Others receiving votes: BYU 120, Alabama 77, Texas 61, Colorado State 57, Florida State 50, Loyola Chicago 21, Oregon 19, Wake Forest 12, Murray State 10, Indiana 10, Iowa 8, TCU 6, Miami (FL) 4, Saint Mary's 3, Boise State 3, Florida 3, Wyoming 2, Seton Hall 1, Iona 1
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said Saturday that one of the biggest keys for Monday night’s game against Texas Tech was for the Jayhawks to find a way to get to the paint on offense.
However, that objective comes with one caveat — Don’t charge when you get there.
“I think that’s what they emphasize,” Self said of Texas Tech and head coach Mark Adams. “Mark does a good job. If you don’t play off two feet against them, you can charge four times in a half.”
The Jayhawks had plenty of charges called against them in a 75-67 loss in Lubbock, Texas, back on Jan. 8, and in addition to taking points off the board, the calls squashed any chance KU had at developing rhythm on offense and also added to Texas Tech’s momentum.
Leaving their feet without a plan was a problem for several Jayhawks in that game — and throughout the early portion of the season — but the stats show and Self has said that his team has improved significantly in that department of late.
Take Saturday’s tough win at K-State for example. KU was not called for a single charge in that game, and, in an area where it would’ve been real easy to commit one, KU senior Ochai Agbaji contorted his body and used his athleticism to avoid a charge on what proved to be the game-winning shot in the final 10 seconds.
We’ve really made it a point of emphasis to play off of two feet on our drives,” Self said. “Even though we’re not great at it, we’ve certainly been a heck of a lot better.”
Playing off of two feet typically allows players to gather and go up with more control. When you attack off of one foot, it’s usually from a running start and that can lead to players being more sped up and out of control. It also makes it easier for defenders to slide over to establish position in time to take the charge. When you go off of two feet, they don’t always have quite as good of a read on where you’re headed or how you plan to get there.
It’s no secret that defense is where the Red Raiders hang their hat. It’s been that way for years, and even though Adams is in his first year as the team’s head coach, he has been given credit as the architect of Tech’s stifling defense for the past several seasons.
“He wants to load up and swarm to the ball,” said Self, noting that Tech’s team defense and relentless effort is what makes the Red Raiders so tough to attack on offense. “The way teams guard in this league, there’s not going to be any pretty wins.”
No. 5 Kansas and No. 13 Texas Tech are slated for an 8 p.m. tipoff tonight from Allen Fieldhouse on ESPN.
Two weeks ago, a game against Kansas State — at home or on the road — looked like it would be one of those rare off nights in the Big 12 Conference, where a B effort would probably get a win.
Today, it looks like the 7th-ranked Jayhawks will need to bring their A-game to Manhattan with them this weekend to leave with a victory.
The Wildcats are just 10-7 overall and still sit at 2-4 in Big 12 play. But it’s those two conference wins that get your attention.
First of all, they came in K-State’s two most recent outings. Second of all, they were both over ranked teams — at home against Texas Tech last Saturday and on the road over No. 23 Texas on Tuesday night.
After opening conference play with four straight losses — two at home and two on the road — something clicked for the Wildcats, oddly enough, in the immediate aftermath of a complete meltdown in a 60-57 loss to TCU.
Perhaps that was it. Maybe Bruce Weber’s club needed to hit that full meltdown mode — rock bottom, if you will — to get upset and start playing better basketball. Now, a fan base that seems mostly ready to move on from Weber must confront the reality that if they root for him like crazy on Saturday to be the hated Jayhawks, it might actually go a long way toward Weber sticking around well into the future. Tough times.
Before we worry about what becomes of Bruceketball in Manhattan, let’s take a quick look at what went right for the Wildcats in their upset wins over the Red Raiders and Longhorns.
That 66-65 win over Texas on Tuesday came just two weeks after the Wildcats lost to Texas at home by double digits.
The Texas Tech win was even crazier. Not only had the Red Raiders just knocked off Kansas and Baylor in recent games, but the Wildcats absolutely controlled that game from start to finish.
Here are a couple of the common factors present in both games that KU figures to be very aware of heading into Saturday.
• Defense. Go figure. In a league made up of defensive stalwarts, the Wildcats have been pretty solid in that area of late. They limited Texas Tech to 39.6% shooting (including 23.5% from 3-point range) and forced the Red Raiders into 18 turnovers. A few nights later, KSU kept Texas to 42.6% shooting from the floor and the exact same 23.5% 3-point clip, giving up just four 3-point makes in 17 tries to both teams. That’s a big one. 43% shooting overall isn’t necessarily guaranteed to get you beat. But if you don’t make more than four 3-pointers, and yet keep shooting them, that’s going to make things tough. Texas only turned it over 11 times, was out-rebounded by just one (32-31) and got to the free throw line 26 times, making 21. Those are all good enough numbers to win a game. But K-State never let the Longhorns get comfortable or get into what they wanted to run. That’s been a problem for Texas throughout Chris Beard’s first season in Austin, and K-State made them pay for it the second time around. In the first meeting, two weeks earlier, was only slightly better from 3-point range (7-for-23 for 30.4%) but outrebounded the Wildcats 40-28. K-State currently ranks 5th in the country in 3-point defense.
• More defense. In that Texas Tech win, the Wildcats limited TTU to just 0.77 points per possession, well below Tech’s season average and good enough to nearly keep Tech from even getting to 50 points. K-State scored at a clip of .94 points per possession in that one, with Nigel Pack and Mark Smith both having efficient days on offense. In the Texas win, though, the ’Cats were only marginally better in that category (1.10 to 1.08) but still found a way to keep the game in the low 60s. Fewer possessions equaled fewer points for Texas in that game. The 65 points the Longhorns scored was just a half dozen below their season average, but K-State’s 66 points was nearly a dozen more than the Longhorns had typically surrendered. So it wasn’t just about K-State’s defense playing well. It also was about Texas’ defense being less stingy than it had been. Why? Could it be that the Longhorns took the Wildcats lightly after holding them to 57 points just two weeks earlier? Neither KU nor K-State figures to take the other lightly on Saturday, but that could be an explanation in at least one of K-State’s non-rivalry wins.
• K-State’s backcourt is one of the smallest in the country, but Pack (6-foot) and Arkansas Little Rock transfer Markquis Nowell (5-8) are both scrappy tough. And they’re not afraid to defend bigger guards — which they very well may have to do against Kansas — or littler, quicker guards like Dajuan Harris Jr. and Remy Martin. That will be one of the interesting matchups in Saturday’s game. And given the way Self has looked to post up both Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun at times this season, seeing how these two guards handle that if and when it’s thrown at them could be a big factor both ways. K-State has, at times, played super small lineups, with the tallest player at 6-foot-4. They did that a lot late in the recent win over Texas and it won’t surprise anyone if they show that look to KU, too.
• COVID-19 is everywhere right now and just about every program in the country has had it affect them in one way or another. But it’s worth remembering here because K-State’s COVID issues, which included taking Weber away from the team for a period of time, may have factored into their 0-4 start in conference play. After all, three of those first four losses were by a single possession — two points to OU and three points to both West Virginia and TCU. If that 0-4 mark had been 1-3 or 2-2, it might not have been such a shock that K-State pulled off back to back wins over ranked teams. From the sound of things, the whole team was back together again against Texas Tech and that in and of itself may have given this team a boost in confidence. After all, per KenPom.com, the Wildcats currently rank 55th in the country and are a top-25 defense.
• While K-State played well in both games, there were other factors in play. Texas Tech, for instance, was playing its fifth game in 10 days, and both head coach Mark Adams and TTU guard Bryson Williams admitted to being tired and fatigued both going into and during the loss to the Wildcats. Both also said K-State was the better team that day and deserved to win, so it wasn’t like they were making excuses. Weber has said that one of the biggest factors in their recent turnaround is that these guys figured out for themselves what it takes to compete in this league. It starts with defense, of course, and that, Weber said, gives you a chance. But that’s just on game day. There’s so much more that goes into it — from practice habits, accountability, preparation and more — that players just have to get for it to matter. Weber said he believes his group is a player-driven team right now, and he’ll take that every day over a coach-driven team, because player-driven teams typically have heart. It matters to them. Instead of a coach telling you why you have to do something or why it’s important to play hard, the players feel that themselves because they’re angry, upset and disappointed when they’re not doing it.
Saturday’s game between No. 7 Kansas (15-2 overall, 4-1 Big 12) and Kansas State (10-7, 2-4) is set for 3 p.m. from Bramlage Coliseum on ESPN+.
Former Kansas guard Marcus Garrett has been waived by the Miami Heat after a wrist injury forced him into season-ending surgery.
According to a report from The Miami Herald, Garrett, 23, will have surgery to fix the “instability in his right wrist” and remain around the organization while going through rehab.
Garrett has not played for the Heat since late December, with tendinitis in the wrist plaguing him throughout the season.
The Dallas native signed a two-way deal with the Heat in September after impressing in the NBA’s Summer League as an undrafted free agent.
While it was his defense, high basketball IQ and effort and tenacity that earned him a roster spot, Garrett recorded 13 points on 5-of-21 shooting (including 1-of-4 from 3-point range) to go along with 23 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals and 3 blocks in 12 games with Miami this season.
The rest of Garrett’s time was spent playing for the Heat’s G League team, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. In Sioux Falls, Garrett averaged 12.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 0.6 blocks in eight games.
The Heat appear to be poised to sign former Virginia standout Kyle Guy to the two-way contract that came open by waiving Garrett. According to the Herald’s report, all two-way contracts become guaranteed for the rest of the season on Thursday.
There’s no way to know for sure whether the Kansas women’s basketball team would have been ranked today, for the first time since 2003, if it had won on Sunday.
But back-to-back wins over Top 15 teams in a conference like the Big 12 certainly would’ve given Brandon Schneider’s team a case.
Instead, the Jayhawks find themselves in the “Others receiving votes” category, right there with their next opponent, Sunflower State rival Kansas State.
Would a win over Baylor have enticed enough poll voters to put KU in their Top 25 to make up the difference between the four votes the Jayhawks got and the 53 votes they would’ve needed to pass Iowa?
It’s hard to know exactly what that win over Baylor would have been worth in terms of the rankings. We know what it would have meant for the program and the buzz they’re trying to create.
Beating a national power like Baylor gets teams noticed. And KU had the Bears on the ropes.
Who cares if Kim Mulkey is no longer the head coach or if Brittney Griner graduated years ago. This is still Baylor. People would’ve paid attention to a KU win. Instead, the game went down as a loss, and KU was sent back to the locker room, tasked with regrouping instead of rejoicing.
The love this team is currently receiving is not limited to votes in the AP poll. The latest Bracketology feature at ESPN.com, which was most recently updated last Friday, included Kansas as a No. 9 seed.
There's a long way to go before Schneider's team can start to worry about their tournament fate or seed positioning. Luckily for the Jayhawks, it likely won’t take much to get their minds back where they need to be.
Schneider said last week that one of his favorite things about this team was that it was committed to the strategy of focusing on the next opponent and nothing else.
So far, that strategy has worked. Even in the losses — to No. 5 Tennessee, No. 14 Oklahoma and No. 15 Baylor — Kansas (11-3 overall, 2-2 Big 12) showed that they could be competitive.
And now they’ve reached the next step of turning being competitive into grabbing big wins.
If you’re reading this, you know KU knocked off No. 13 Texas on the road last week. You also probably know that the rest of the schedule is full of tough tasks and great opportunities.
What the Jayhawks do with them remains to be seen.
Today, though, they’re closer to being relevant in the women’s college basketball world than they have been in a long, long time — 3,290 days to be exact. That was the last time the KU women were ranked, when they last appeared in the AP Top 25 on Jan. 14, 2013.
A pair of home victories over Iowa State and West Virginia vaulted the Kansas men's basketball team (14-2) up two spots in this week's Associated Press Top 25.
Former No. 1 Baylor (15-2), which dropped home games to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State last week, remained the top-ranked team in the Big 12, falling four spots to No. 5.
Three other Big 12 programs — No. 15 Iowa State, No. 18 Texas Tech and No. 23 Texas — also landed in this week's Top 25, with West Virginia, Oklahoma and TCU also receiving votes.
KU will play at Oklahoma at 6 p.m. Tuesday night on ESPN.
Gonzaga jumped into the top spot, with Auburn climbing to No. 2, marking its highest ranking since the 1999-2000 season. Arizona, Purdue and Baylor rounded out this week's top five, with Duke, KU, Wisconsin, UCLA and Houston filling spots 6-10.
After falling on the road to Texas Tech on Jan. 8, the Jayhawks (14-2) bounced back with a tough win over No. 15 Iowa State three days later and a runaway win over West Virginia last weekend.
KU led WVU by just two at halftime but responded with one of its best halves of the season in the second half to win 85-59.
After traveling to Oklahoma and Kansas State (3 p.m. Saturday) in its next two games, the Jayhawks will jump into what could go down as their toughest stretch of the season, with five consecutive games against ranked teams on the schedule between Jan. 24 and Feb. 7.
Here's a look at this week's complete AP Top 25:
1 - Gonzaga, 14-2, 1,486 (25)
2 - Auburn, 16-1, 1,482 (36)
3 - Arizona, 14-1, 1,320
4 - Purdue, 14-2, 1,255
5 - Baylor, 15-2, 1,238
6 - Duke, 14-2, 1,205
7 - Kansas, 14-2, 1,192
8 - Wisconsin, 14-2, 1,056
9 - UCLA, 11-2, 1,041
10 - Houston, 15-2, 1,036
11 - Villanova, 13-4, 908
12 - Kentucky, 14-3, 804
13 - LSU, 15-2, 738
14 - Michigan State, 14-3, 681
15 - Iowa State, 14-3, 665
16 - USC, 14-3, 618
17 - Illinois, 13-3, 521
18 - Texas Tech, 13-4, 509
19 - Ohio State, 11-4, 465
20 - Xavier, 13-3, 427
21 - Providence, 14-2, 350
22 - Loyola Chicago, 13-2, 193
23 - Texas, 13-4, 185
24 - Tennessee, 11-5, 98
25 - UConn, 11-4, 73
Others receiving votes: Iowa 56, BYU 50, Davidson 34, Alabama 26, San Diego St. 25, Miami 21, Oregon 15, West Virginia 14, Colorado St. 13, Texas A&M 10, Oklahoma 7, TCU 4, North Carolina 2, Indiana 2.
Late last week, University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod sent a message to the campus community stressing that Douglas County’s new mask mandate does include Allen Fieldhouse.
But there’s more at stake for Kansas basketball fans who don’t comply with the mask mandate than just disappointing Girod.
According to a page on the official Kansas Athetics web site titled “Mask Mandate – Implications for Allen Fieldhouse,” there is a strict set of rules and consequences for wearing and not wearing masks at upcoming KU basketball games. Those fans who violate those rules could be removed from the venue.
The page notes that “if fans do not comply with the mandate, additional measures will have to be taken, (including) closing concessions and decreasing fan attendance at men’s basketball games.”
But the Q&A section spells out in much greater detail everything that will go into the mask requirement and KU’s policing of it, starting with Tuesday’s 7 p.m. game against Iowa State.
The most noteworthy part of that section is what KU calls a “Three strike policy,” which carries a maximum penalty of fan removal from Allen Fieldhouse.
Here’s a look:
Strike 1: Usher warning
Strike 2: Event Staff Supervisor warning
Strike 3: Removal team (public safety and event supervisor)
Under the section explaining Strike 3, the site notes that “these employees are trained in the art of ‘ejection.’”
“If fans do not comply with this mandate, they will be removed from Allen Fieldhouse,” the site reads.
As has been the case throughout the pandemic — be it when Allen Fieldhouse had a mask recommendation or a mask requirement — KU notes that fans must be wearing a mask at all times except while actively eating or drinking.
The word “actively” is written in all caps for emphasis, and the rule references that if too many fans “try to pretend they are actively eating or drinking” that could lead to the closure of concessions stands at future games.
“There are a number of arenas around the country that have closed concessions at basketball games for this exact reason,” the site notes.
When asked about Girod’s message last week, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said the mandate was not a threat but rather reflected the reality of the current landscape, with the omicron variant pushing the latest COVID surge.
Self said last Friday that he would coach in a mask if those were the rules, and he did exactly that during KU’s loss at Texas Tech over the weekend.
“It is important to remember the reason behind this mask mandate,” the site reads. “KU and Allen Fieldhouse are looking to play an important role in protecting the community by doing our part to slow the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 variant. If our fans comply, as we expect them all to, our hope is to significantly slow the spread of this virus.”
For his part, Self made a plea for fan cooperation by reminding them of what they could be missing out on if people do not comply.
“If you like attending KU basketball games, which 16,000 do every single time we play, then you’re going to have to mask up and respect that,” Self said. “And if we respect it and handle it right, hopefully in the very near future that will be given back to us (and) we don’t have to do that (anymore).”
The KU men are scheduled to play back-to-back home games this week against Iowa State on Tuesday and West Virginia on Saturday. They’ll play two more home games at the end of January — Jan. 24 vs. Texas Tech and Jan. 29 vs. Kentucky.
The KU women’s team is on the road for its next two games but still has two home games scheduled this month — Jan. 16 vs. Baylor and Jan. 22 vs. Texas Tech.
Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji on Thursday night was back at his old high school as one of the guests of honor for a special ceremony featuring his old uniform.
Agbaji, who starred at Oak Park High in Kansas City, Mo., before continuing his basketball career at KU, watched with pride as his jersey was retired at Oak Park during the school’s game against North Kansas City.
With the blast from his past encased in glass, with his No. 30 in light blue on the white jersey, Agbaji shared the moment with fans on hands and then shared his thoughts with a couple of local television stations.
“It means a lot,” he told KMBC 9 News.
“This is my why, why I keep striving to be great, because I know all these people are watching,” he told FOX 4. “I feel the support, I feel the love and that’s what keeps me going.”
Agbaji’s Oak Park story is as unique as it is special. He left the school’s halls as its all-time leading scorer but did not become a target for Kansas or many other Division I basketball programs until his senior season.
Unranked by all of the national recruiting sites, Agbaji jumped into the rankings in the big way after committing to Kansas, climbing into the Rivals.com picture at No. 141.
His story from there is now well-known by Kansas fans. He planned to redshirt as a freshman, but came into the picture midway through the 2018-19 season to help a roster impacted by injuries. Immediately, he showed off his athleticism, charisma, drive and personality.
He has started 90 games in a row since then — good for eight all-time on KU’s consecutive starts list — and, on Thursday, was named to the Wooden Award Midseason Watch List, featuring the top 25 players in college basketball this season.
His 1,183 career points have him in a tie for 40th place on KU’s all-time scoring list — with room to climb — and his 184 career 3-pointers currently have him in the top 10 on KU’s all-time 3-point shooting list.
Beyond that, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie had him listed at No. 14 in the 2022 NBA Draft in his most released mock draft which was published on Thursday.
“I’m not sure what more Ochai Agbaji has to do to get people to buy into him in the public sector,” Vecenie wrote. “He’s averaging 20 points and five rebounds while shooting 50% from the field and 45% from 3. He’s a potential first-team All-American. These guys go in the top 20 typically when they fit well within the NBA construct.”
With his size, strength and athleticism, Agbaji does just that. But talk to anyone who knows him and they’ll tell you that, through it all, he has remained the same friendly, outgoing, people-person type of player he was when he was wearing Oak Park colors all those years ago.
As a wave of positive COVID-19 test results takes it toll on the NBA, the predicament has opened the door for one former Jayhawk to jump back into the league.
According to a repot from The Associated Press, the Miami Heat have used 15 players this season and right now, no more than five of those are available to play.
As a result, the Heat signed three replacement players on Thursday and were closing in on other deals, including one with former Kansas point guard Mario Chalmers — who started on the Heat's NBA championship teams in 2012 and 2013.
Chalmers last played for Miami in November of 2015. His last game in the NBA at all came with Memphis in April of 2018.
Injuries and age in recent years caught up with the hero of KU's national-title-game victory over Memphis at the 2008 Final Four. That drove him out of the league and left him looking for other places to keep playing. Between rehab stints and opportunities overseas, Chalmers kept working and always kept hope alive that he would return to the NBA for at least a small stint before calling it a career.
On Christmas day, Chalmers tweeted that he was "playing for a call up," adding, "That's all I want, Santa lol."
Nobody could've foreseen the pandemic as the event that would lead to him reaching that goal, but now that it has, Chalmers is excited about the opportunity.
“I'm ready," he told The Associated Press. “I think this is more emotion than anything, showing that I've been really working behind the scenes and not just talking about it. I definitely feel good enough to help the team win."
Chalmers' contract is believed to be of the 10-day variety, like many of the players the Heat recently signed. At least temporarily, he will join former KU guard Marcus Garrett on Miami's NBA roster.