Freshman Focus: Kansas PF David McCormack
By now, you've all read a dozen different places, and probably at least that many times, about how talented KU's incoming recruiting class really is.
From five-star guards Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson to beast big man David McCormack and under-the-radar potential steal Ochai Agbaji, Bill Self and company put together a deep and complete group that will go a long way toward softening the blow of having to replace three starters and all kinds of production from the 2017-18 Final Four team in KU’s quest to push its Big 12 title streak to 15 and get back into the national title picture in 2018-19.
But just what does that all mean?
Well, that remains to be seen and won't truly show up until game nights next season, when Grimes, Dotson, McCormack and Agbaji, along with the returning Jayhawks, are out there doing their thing and showing what they can do.
And while we got a brief glimpse this summer into how these guys look in crimson and blue, there are a handful of people out there who have seen them play much more often than those of us who cover the team or follow the Jayhawks in Lawrence or elsewhere.
One such person is Paul Biancardi, a former college coach and current National Director of Recruiting for the ESPN 100 rankings.
This week, we’ve brought you Biancardi’s thoughts from years of scouting each of KU’s Top 40 freshmen at AAU events and all-star games — No. 8 Quentin Grimes, No. 20 Devon Dotson and No. 35 David McCormack.
Next up: PF David McCormack
Whether you’re talking about his physical tools, his mental approach or his overall attitude about his upcoming freshman season at Kansas, McCormack comes across as an impressive player.
Willing to work from sunup to sundown and not afraid of stiff competition, tough challenges or new experiences, the 6-foot-10, 265-pound monster from Oak Hill Academy made one heck of an impression during his first couple of months on campus, with teammates, coaches, academic staff and pretty much anyone else with whom he came into contact.
Of course, for Biancardi, none of this came as a surprise. A huge fan of McCormack the person, Biancardi also considers himself to be firmly in the camp of those who believe McCormack’s Year 1 impact will be significant.
“Oh, no question about it,” Biancardi told the Journal-World when asked if McCormack had Day 1 potential. “Just his physical presence is going to contribute. But this guy embraces being a true center and Bill is so adept at the high-low game that you'll see that again.”
With McCormack likely to open the season behind experienced big men Udoka Azubuike, Dedric Lawson and Silvio De Sousa, it’s hard to place any actual expectations on his potential stat line.
Here’s an early-August guess: 12 minute a game, 4.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, with a few blocks and a few more fouls sprinkled in, as well.
Hitting those numbers, in a crowded frontcourt, would put McCormack ahead of the pace of some pretty talented players to whom he has drawn comparisons this summer.
As a freshman in 2009-10, Thomas Robinson averaged 2.5 points and 2.7 rebounds in 7.2 minutes per game. Those numbers came with T-Rob playing behind Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and Cole Aldrich. A year later, Robinson’s numbers jumped up to 7.6 ppg and 6.4 rpg in 14.6 minutes per game.
Darnell Jackson, in 2004-05, averaged 2.0 points and 1.7 rebounds in 7.0 minutes per game while playing behind Wayne Simien, Christian Moody, C.J. Giles and fellow-freshman Sasha Kaun. A year later, Jackson’s numbers grew to 6.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in 15.3 minutes per game.
So, what you’re essentially looking at, if McCormack hits the numbers outlined above, is a player landing somewhere between freshman and sophomore Thomas Robinson and Darnell Jackson. Biancardi believes such a role is attainable.
“He has tremendous traits,” he said of McCormack. “And because his body is now in the optimum shape, he moves better, he runs better, his hands are good, his footwork and foot organization is solid to good, he's so coachable.”
Most people who look at basketball through the depth chart lens more commonly used in football see McCormack as the early favorite to be the immediate back-up to Azubuike.
Whether things play out that way or not remains to be seen. When it comes down to game time McCormack’s role probably will be circumstantial, based on opposing personnel, matchups, etc.
But there’s little doubt that having another big body to go to in place of Azubuike for whatever the reason is a much more favorable position for Kansas than the one it often encountered last season, when Self, at time, had to turn to 6-foot-8, 215-pound Mitch Lightfoot as a substitute for Azubuike.
“He's different than Udoka,” Biancardi said of McCormack. “He's not as massive as Azubuike, and he's not as intimidating. But he'll get the job done and he'll be a very strong contributor, especially over time.”