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The case for Kansas sophomore Marcus Garrett to keep shooting

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Kansas' Marcus Garrett (0) shoots while defended by Kentucky's PJ Washington during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. Kentucky won 71-63. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Kansas' Marcus Garrett (0) shoots while defended by Kentucky's PJ Washington during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. Kentucky won 71-63. (AP Photo/James Crisp) by AP Photo/James Crisp

There’s been a lot of chatter in the past 48 hours — and, really, all season — from people who think Kansas sophomore Marcus Garrett should not shoot the ball from the outside the rest of the way.

One problem: He has to.

Beyond the fact that Garrett CAN actually make the shot — even if it’s not his biggest strength, it’s reasonable to expect a major Division I college basketball player to be able to hit open jumpers — Garrett has to keep shooting when he’s left open because the defense wins if he doesn’t.

Now, if it’s not there and Garrett can’t find his shot, as was the case on Saturday night in Lexington, Ky., where he went 1-for-9 from the floor, he should stop. But deciding not to even try fails the Kansas offense in two ways.

First, it plays right into the hands of the defense. If defenders believe Garrett will not pull the trigger, they can lay off of him and instead crowd the paint around Dedric Lawson. Not good for Lawson or the KU offense.

Second, anyone remember the Texas game at Allen Fieldhouse a couple of weeks ago? The Longhorns defended Garrett exactly the way Kentucky did but encountered one small problem. The outside shots that Garrett took — many of them early in the game — actually went in and the 6-foot-5 sophomore combo guard went on to enjoy a career night, which sparked his offensive resurgence and sent his confidence soaring.

Did you know that the 9 attempts Garrett had against the Wildcats at Rupp Arena over the weekend marked the fewest he had attempted in four games? You didn’t hear quite as much talk about Garrett shooting too much during that stretch, did you?

The reason was simple. Most of Garrett’s attempts during his recent 3-game streak of reaching double figures in scoring came in the paint. But he did still shoot six 3-pointers during that stretch, knocking in three of them, and those shots at the rim were only possible because defenders had to respect his shots from distance.

In many ways, Garrett is the poster child for the old saying KU coach Bill Self likes to use about a good shot and a bad shot — It’s a good shot or a bad shot when it leaves your hand. Whether it goes in or not has nothing to do with it.

As long as Garrett continues to take good shots — read: he’s open, in rhythm and is aware of time, score and situation — he should be encouraged to keep shooting.

Because for every couple of nights like Kentucky, there likely will be another night like Texas. The Jayhawks would not have held off the Longhorns two weeks ago had Garrett not stepped into his jumper like he knew he was going to make it.

Not only did his 20-point outing allow Kansas to capitalize on a night when Garrett’s shot actually was falling, but it also forced the UT defense to come out and guard him, which, in turn, opened up two options — Garrett driving by defenders after close-outs and Lawson having more room to work down by the basket.

Garrett is shooting just 40.7 percent from the floor this season and 23.3 percent from 3-point range, numbers that clearly leave a little to be desired.

However, during the 4-game stretch leading up to his rough night against Kentucky's length, Garrett's numbers improved to 62.1 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point range. Those numbers came against Big 12 competition and over an average of 33 minutes per game. So it can be done.

Garrett has talked a lot this season about his coaches and teammates telling him to stay aggressive. This Kansas offense desperately needs that right now. And Garrett’s a smart enough player to know that.

In many ways, that really is what this whole conundrum comes down to — trusting Garrett to make the right plays.

A season ago, as a true freshman on a team loaded with shooters and scorers, Garrett did plenty of that, making the extra passes, dishing assists and doing whatever he had to do to get his teammates open or steal extra possessions so the likes of Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Malik Newman could get another crack at putting points on the board.

Garrett’s 2017-18 season-high of 8 field goal attempts came during his fourth college game. He made four of them. After that, the Dallas native attempted 6 or 7 shots just four more times in the team’s final 35 games.

So it’s not as if this guy does not know when to shoot and when not to.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Garrett’s jumpers during recent weeks, it’s that they may be a little lazy. Maybe that’s just the way he shoots them or maybe it just looks that way from my seat.

But it looks like a lot of arms and wrist and very little legs.

I’m no shooting guru, and, as we all know, it’s rarely a good idea for a guy to try to change his shot in the middle of the season.

Garrett doesn’t need to do that. But he does need to keep shooting.

Comments

Phil Leister 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Sigh. His mechanics are so poor. I don't think anyone wants him to change his shot right now, but wasn't he supposed to be working on his mechanics in the offseason? With the arc, or lack thereof, on his shot and the rotation on the ball, the rim is considerably smaller for him. I'm no shooting guru either but that much is obvious.

He does need to keep shooting, as long as the majority of the shots are drives to the bucket. There is no reason for Marcus to shoot 3+ jumpers a game. He is an above average finisher at the rim.

Matt Tait 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I hear what you're saying, Phil. It's not pretty. But if he doesn't keep shooting at least a couple from distance per game, opposing defenses are not going to give him the opportunity to drive. He's a D-I basketball player. He has to be able to take — and make — a couple of wide-open outside shots per game when the defense gives those to him.

Len Shaffer 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Just because he has to be able to make them doesn't mean he can. I know he had a nice stretch of scoring over a few games, but as you pointed out, most of that came on drives.

I don't think you can use ONE game where he shot well from the outside as an example to prove a pattern. The pattern of not making them has gone on for far too long and his overall numbers don't lie.

I understand what you're saying about the defense, but I think he would have to prove that he could make outside shots consistently over a number of games before defenses would start to regularly play him tighter on the outside. The fact that he's been able to drive as well as he has despite them playing so far off of him is a real tribute to his driving ability, and he should stick to that unless and until his outside shot becomes significantly better than it has been thus far.

Finally, I would argue that when someone with his numbers is taking an outside shot, it is a bad shot, even if he's open. The one exception to that would be if it's near the end of the shot clock.

Bill Lamson 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I totally agree with you Matt...make or miss he has to keep shooting at least a few 3's a game otherwise defenders not only help more on others but they don't play as close to him which makes it harder for him to get around them and to the rim. He's one of if not the smartest player on the team so I have faith in him more than others that he'll only take a good shot. And given that he's only a sophomore...we need him to keep shooting, gain confidence etc so next year he's even better. Once players lose all confidence and stop shooting it's VERY hard for them to get it back.
And on a related note...the other person who needs to shoot more is Dodson. He is passing up way too many open 3's. I get that he wants to be the true point guard/distributor, but he's passing to guys who aren't any better at 3's than him...Vick being the only exception. And it seems like he's not exactly finishing at the rim all that great so a few more 3's would help his game as well.

Pius Waldman 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I don't understand why the coaches don't see this. Yes he is great at driving to the rim and doing layups. But his distant shots are throwing to the rim instead of shooting. Very little arc makes it hard to drain and usually pop up away from the rim. His free throws show the difference he shoots rather than throws to the goal. Udoka has the same problem.

Aaron Paisley 2 months, 3 weeks ago

His ability to drive to the basket was opened up because he knocked down some outside and midrange shots. Driving to the rim should be 80% of his FGA, but the other 20% are what lets him be able to drive to the basket. He needs to keep shooting.

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