KU sophomore Marcus Garrett emerging as key leader during summer workouts
There were times during the 2017-18 season when freshman Marcus Garrett was so overshadowed by the talent and experience on the floor around him that he almost seemed invisible.
That’s not a knock on Garrett. Far from it, in fact. See, Garrett, like a good umpire or quality football referee, learned quickly that sometimes the best way to contribute to the success of a team is by doing things that don’t get you noticed.
So Garrett did. The extra pass. Tough defense. Being smart with the ball and getting it to the right teammate in the right position. All of those contributions, and many more, were staples of Garrett’s game as a freshman. Although his role in terms of minutes played and depth was key for the Jayhawks’ run to the 2018 Final Four, Garrett was allowed to function in a way that kept the spotlight off of him and the pressure down.
He might not be so lucky during his sophomore season.
While there are still players on the Kansas roster with more talent, more pizazz and bigger names, it’s Garrett who could be looked to as one of the leaders of the 2018-19 squad.
With recent returner Lagerald Vick missing all of May and June and the only other returning talent from last year’s team coming in the front court via Mitch Lightfoot, Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa, Garrett could find himself in an important position in KU’s back court and appears to have taken to that role right away.
“Marcus has really been helping me out a lot,” five-star freshman Quentin Grimes said during a break at Washburn Basketball camp earlier this week. “Just kind of drawing up the plays and helping because I missed two or three weeks and they got a little head-start on me. He seems like he’s been here two, three years, actually. He’s really been helping me out.”
Grimes is far from the only one.
Fellow-freshman Ochai Agbaji was also at Washburn camp the other day and he, too, said Garrett had played a big role in helping him adjust to the Kansas way of doing things during his first month as a Jayhawk.
“You can tell that there are some leadership roles to fill and I think he can be one of those guys who steps to really keep us in check and all that,” Agbaji said of Garrett. “He’s definitely talking to the freshmen and all that, helping us get the speed of the game and all that stuff.”
Given that half of the players who make up KU’s back court are in the shoes Garrett stepped into just one year ago, the Dallas native’s familiarity both with the KU program and with what the younger players currently are going through makes Garrett a huge asset for KU coach Bill Self in the early stages of summer workouts.
Beyond just the basketball aspect of taking charge, Grimes said Garrett had been a huge help in other areas, as well.
“College,” Grimes said. “It’s good to have that mentorship out there to get acclimated before the season.”
The fact that Garrett was a leader on his high school team and played with one of the best leaders the KU program has ever had, in new Charlotte Hornets point guard Devonte’ Graham, only strengthens the case for those who envision Garrett becoming one of the Jayhawks’ new leaders.
Garrett’s growing confidence also appears to be helping in that regard.
“He’s not quiet at all,” said Grimes of the player who said little and let his actions speak for him a season ago. “It’s good to have that leadership out there on the court.”
There will be other Jayhawks who slide into that leadership role this season. As is the case on just about any team, it’s only natural for the point guard to take on some of it. So freshman Devon Dotson and Cal transfer Charlie Moore figure to carve out some kind of leadership role in time.
And Grimes himself, fresh off of an MVP showing at the FIBA Americas tournament with Team USA, also said he was comfortable taking on a leadership role and he believes that, after a couple more weeks on campus he could “ease into that role when the season starts.”
Rather than one unquestioned leader like the 2017-18 Jayhawks had in Graham, this season’s group may be taking its direction from a number of different leaders and in a number of different ways.
But as of today, and at least as it pertains to the KU backcourt, it sounds as if Garrett is leading as much as anybody.