Individual attention on the rise for Jayhawks waiting in the wings


Kansas senior guard Devonte' Graham smiles with transfers Dedric Lawson and Charlie Moore after a missed chance by Mitch Lightfoot during an exhibition game Tuesday against Pittsburg State at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas senior guard Devonte' Graham smiles with transfers Dedric Lawson and Charlie Moore after a missed chance by Mitch Lightfoot during an exhibition game Tuesday against Pittsburg State at Allen Fieldhouse.

Although most of what the Kansas men's basketball program does during the season is rooted in team-oriented activities, in practices, at shoot-arounds, during film sessions and on off days, a question crossed my mind this week.

Has KU coach Bill Self had been able to spend more individual time working one-on-one with his core players this season because of the Jayhawks' thin roster and smaller-than-usual number of eligible players?

The answer? Not exactly.

“I would say probably not,” Self said Thursday. “Most of our individual stuff is primarily done during the offseason.”

Save for his highly publicized individual free throw work with sophomore center Udoka Azubuike a few weeks ago, Self has continued to operate with that team-first mentality despite having just seven players in his regular rotation.

Just seven players have played in all 30 games this season, with regular starters Devonte' Graham, Malik Newman, Lagerald Vick, Svi Mykhailiuk and Azubuike starting 93 percent of the time, and Marcus Garrett and Mitch Lightfoot playing in every game but starting just nine times.

Although Self has had plenty of one-on-one or two-on-one conversations with his top seven throughout the season, most of his practice time with that group has been spent keeping them together as one cohesive unit, playing against the likes of red-shirt tranfers Dedric and K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore, Sam Cunliffe, Billy Preston, when he was still here, Silvio De Sousa from time to time, and walk-ons Clay Young, Chris Teahan and James Sosinski.

“The advantage is, if there is an advantage, when we practice at home you can keep your core seven or eight together all the time,” Self said. “So a lot of times, if you've only got 10 guys out there, you're switching jerseys and doing that stuff. So that may be a little bit of an advantage, keeping your team together, spending more time with your team, that could possibly play than having to switch jerseys a lot.”

Beyond the obvious advantage of allowing that core group to get used to playing together and fine-tuning specific roles while doing so, Self's 2017-18 squad has benefitted from facing four players on the scout team that have started elsewhere during their college careers — the Lawson brothers at Memphis, Moore at Cal and Cunliffe at Arizona State.

Facing that kind of challenge day in and day out has pushed KU's top players and Self said Thursday that there was one member of that group who has made the challenge harder than any other.

“Dedric, we don't have anybody that can guard him,” Self said. “He's really a talented, very skilled, skilled guy.”

He also figures to be a huge part of KU's future.

And while his presence on the red team has helped pushed KU's starting five and rotation guys, Lawson's ability to play with two or three teammates who will be out there with him in key roles next year also has benefited that group and given them a bit of a head start on the 2018-19 season.

As he has tried hard all season to keep his starters fresh, not by resting them on game night, but by limiting their work during the week, Self and his assistant coaches have taken advantage of more opportunity to work with that group that's waiting in the wings, teaching them not only the ins and outs of how to run scout team offense and defense for that particular foe, but also everything they need to know about the KU system and culture so they'll be even more ready when their time arrives.

“If you're talking about doing more stuff with Charlie and Dedric and K.J., I would say the answer is yes,” said Self of being able to provide more individual attention this year compared to previous years. “(Wednesday), the other guys didn't practice, (so) the focus was on the guys that didn't start. So maybe a little bit (more) with those guys.”


Titus Canby 2 weeks, 6 days ago

This makes me wonder, where will the team's leadership come from next year? Because they were starters this year, will it be Newman, Vick, and Udoka?

Jonathan Allison 2 weeks, 6 days ago

It's definitely hard to not think about next year and all of the depth of talent that we will have.

Self may have to use Calipari's "platoon" system early on in order before paring the rotation down to 8 players or so.

Next year's team may legitimately be the deepest team that Bill Self has had at KU. We don't know exactly who all will be returning next year, but we know that at least one scholarship player will likely leave early, and maybe up to three. Vick, Newman, and Dok all are candidates to leave early. Some have speculated on Cunliffe possibly transferring again, but I highly doubt it because of the transfer rule he'd either have to sit a year and lose eligibility or transfer out of NCAA D1.

I like to look at the roster in three parts: PGs, Wings, Posts

PGs: Devon Dotson, Charlie Moore (with possible depth from Newman if he returns and Marcus Garrett may develop into an option for PG depth if Newman doesn't return)

Wings: Vick/Newman, Garrett, Grimes, Cunliffe, KJ Lawson, Agbaji

Posts: Dok, D. Lawson, De Sousa, McCormack, Lightfoot

First Unit: Dotson, Vick/Newman, Grimes, Dok, D. Lawson 2nd Unit: Moore, Garrett, Cunliffe/KJ, Lightfoot, McCormack

If Dok goes pro, then McCormack moves to the #1 line on the depth chart.

If Vick and Newman both go pro then Garrett moves to the first unit.

We can have three players leave for the draft and still be 10 deep.

Tim Orel 2 weeks, 6 days ago

You have DeSousa sitting out next year? Does his half year in the program not help him get a leg up on some of the others?

Jonathan Allison 2 weeks, 5 days ago

oops, with that much talent it was hard to get everyone on the depth chart. Forgot De Sousa, I guess that he battles with McCormack and Lightfoot for first big off the bench.

Eric TheCapn 2 weeks, 6 days ago

The date in the photo cutline is incorrect/missing. Feel free to delete this comment.

Kevin Boone 2 weeks, 6 days ago

I can't wait to see how next year's team falls into place. There will be attrition, but even if the worse-case-scenario happens, KU is going to be loaded! Don't want to get ahead of myself, I want to enjoy the last games of the Graham and Svi era, But I am definitely pumped for 2018-2019!! RCJH!!

Jonathan Allison 2 weeks, 6 days ago

" playing against the likes of red-shirt tranfers Dedric and K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore, Sam Cunliffe, Billy Preston, when he was still here, Silvio De Sousa from time to time, and walk-ons Clay Young and Chris Teahan." -and James Sosinski

Matt Tait 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Yeah. Meant to add him back in and spaced it out. It's done now. Thanks.

Danny Hernandez 2 weeks, 6 days ago

next years team will have the hunger for number #15, Dedric will be one tough dude, I mean, we will kick ass

Tony Bandle 2 weeks, 6 days ago


1] With the graduation of Devonte and Svi and the possible loss of Malik, next season's team starts out with point guards who have not spent one minute of regular game time experience.

2] The achievement of gaining that record 14th title relaxes the intensity of the team. Extending a record is a lot different than breaking a record.

3] The record setting perimeter game with its main weapon, the three pointer, is diminished significantly.

4] Although still a challenge, the rest of the league now knows that Allen is no longer untouchable territory and success against Kansas in the Phog is achievable.

5] Kansas [knock on wood] is about to go through an entire season with a seven man rotation without one significant or even minor injury. The odds are greatly against that happening again.


1] Charlie Moore has spent an entire season practicing at point guard in the KU system and Mr. Dotson is an uber-talented PG who will pick up the system quickly and both will push each other to higher levels in the battle for playing time!

2] The achievement of setting the record takes the pressure off and allows this team to cruise forward. Besides, the onus of being the team to break the streak remains a legitimate motivation!

3] The influx of perimeter talent will help compensate for any outside shooting drop off. But, even more importantly, the emergence of an army of big men [Dok the Lawsons, De Sousa, McChormack, Lightfoot] will allow Bill to return more to base strategy of inside outside.

4] With attrition by graduation and OAD exiting, the rest of the league realizes that they may have had their last shot at KU's streak for the next couple of seasons. And still, the PHOG is the PHOG!!!

5] As so eloquently posted by Jonathan's comments shown above, it's been a long time since KU has had a team so deep that with possible injuries at the post, wing or back court , though a challenge, could be so readily addressed and compensated for. [PS Let's not try to prove my theory, if that's OK with everyone].

Those are my points. Please feel free to choose the scenario which you feel will apply. :)

Dave Miller 2 weeks, 6 days ago

I think the streak continues next year. KU will be talented, deep, and as always, immersed in a winning culture and tradition. I think either Garrett or Cunliffe will be gone because the playing time won't be available. Just my thoughts. I could be way off base or on target. Who knows? But, it will be fun as always to watch KU play.

Andy Godwin 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Garrett is not going anywhere. If you listen to Self, he is one of his favorites, equilibrating him to Devonte. He says Cunliffe is a raw talent but continues to talk about how he will improve and contribute - a four year player. Can't believe Udoka is ready to move on given he has not yet developed a shot outside of 2 feet. Big guys in the NBA have to have range. More likely either Newman or Vick will be leaving to open up a spot for the KC kid.

Gary Wirsig 2 weeks, 5 days ago

6 of why the streak will continue. Coach Self guides, pushes, and wills the team to number 15. Here's another thought - and I admit it's out there. As long as Self is at the helm, recruiting and coaching, will he ever relinquish the Big 12 regular season championship? Feel free to scoff.

Mike Greer 2 weeks, 6 days ago

As stated above, I think Sam stays. I know kids make hasty decisions sometimes coming out of high school, so maybe one transfer is not out of the ordinary, but to wait out another season is unlikely in my view. Sam had to have had a reason to come to Kansas, and I doubt it was to wait a year and transfer again and loose another year. Garret has had quite a bit of playing time this year and looked the best he's looked against Texas, I think he stays. Vick and/or Newman could enter the draft and that would free up some playing time. It's going to be a good team next year, as stated above, perhaps the deepest Coach has had, maybe he'll go a little deeper into the bench next season if he doesn't see a drop off in performance.

Jerry Walker 2 weeks, 6 days ago

None of the underclassmen,Vick - Newman - Udoka, will be leaving for an NBA address.

Newman and/or Vick might opt for a European payday.

Udoka? 7'ers with his present skill set are a dime a dozen in the NBA. In another year or two he could develop into a lottery pick. He's only 18 years old.

Cunliffe? Who knows...his only real option would be to transfer down to D2.

Redshirts? None of the transfers and it's hard to imagine any of the three McDonald's All-Americans wearing a redshirt. Agbaji maybe?

My guess? Nobody leaves early or transfers out. This team will be loaded!!

Jonathan Allison 2 weeks, 5 days ago

we are one scholarship over the limit. Someone will leave. Unlikely that anyone would give up their scholarship and stay as a walk-on.

Travis Clementsmith 2 weeks, 5 days ago

I thought we were at the limit, but would need to create room if Langdon decides to come?

Jonathan Allison 2 weeks, 5 days ago

I have got 14 committed scholarship players for next year... 13 is the limit, no? Agbaji put us over the limit.

Timothy Bents 2 weeks, 5 days ago

I always figured Vick was on a three year track like Wayne Seldon. He hasn't had the same coming out party as Wayne but he is still super athletic and a possible 2nd rounder.

Jonathan Allison 2 weeks, 5 days ago

If no one else elects to leave I could see Vick being the odd man out. By all accounts he has behaved himself this year, but he took some lumps his first two years with some off-court issues. He's been somewhat mercurial this year as well at least on the court.

I don't know that he will have to go, because I think that if Dok gets first round interest he may go. And Newman might be thinking about making the jump as well.

Newman was considered a possible OAD once upon a time. Now he's been in school 3 years and he isn't getting younger. He's played pretty well over the second half of the season. It's uncertain that he will be better positioned for the draft after a 4th year in school. Especially with the crowded backcourt that we will have next year.

Alan Dickey 2 weeks, 5 days ago

Yeah, I think we have 13 scholarships and a total of 13 potential scholarship players unless another recruit commits, which I find unlikely given how loaded we may be:

C - Udoka Azubuike / Jr. / 7-0 / 280
C - David McCormack / Fr. / 6-10/ 260 (Rivals #34)
PF - Dedric Lawson / RS-Jr. / 6-9 / 230
PF - Silvio De Sousa / So. / 6-9 / 245 (Rivals #25)
PF - Mitch Lightfoot / Jr. / 6-8 / 210

SG - LaGerald Vick / Sr. / 6-5 / 175
SF - KJ Lawson / RS-So. / 6-8 / 210
SF - Sam Cunliffe / RS-Jr. / 6-6 / 190

SG - Malik Newman / RS-Jr. / 6-3 / 190
SG - Quentin Grimes / Fr. / 6-5 / 180 (Rivals #10)
PG - Devon Dotson / Fr. / 6-2 / 180 (Rivals #17)
PG - Marcus Garrett / So. / 6-5 / 180
PG - Charlie Moore / RS-So. / 5-11 / 170

Jonathan Allison 2 weeks, 5 days ago

Did I miss something on Agbaji? Is he going to walk-on or decommit?

Alan Dickey 2 weeks, 5 days ago

No, I just forgot about him. So, we do have 14 potential scholarship players. Maybe Agbaji would redshirt given how loaded we likely are at the wing?

Jonathan Allison 2 weeks, 5 days ago

even as a RS he still counts toward the scholarship limit though. Someone has to give up a scholarship to make room.

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