After heavy freshman feel in 2018-19, Kansas basketball likely moving back toward a veteran lineup


Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) and Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) strip a ball from Texas forward Mohamed Bamba (4) during the first half on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) and Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) strip a ball from Texas forward Mohamed Bamba (4) during the first half on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

Barring something unforeseen happening on the recruiting trail in the next couple of weeks — and let’s face it, absolutely nothing would surprise me the way things have gone this offseason — the Kansas men’s basketball team is moving toward the 2019-20 season facing the prospects of handing out exactly zero starts to a freshman for just the second time in the past 12 seasons.

That became more a likely path earlier this week when 5-star guard R.J. Hampton announced he was headed overseas instead of coming to KU, and became even more clear on Wednesday night, when Devon Dotson announced he was returning to Kansas for his sophomore season.

Dotson’s return, along with the fact that the calendar soon will turn to June, all but locks in KU’s starting lineup for the 2019-20 season.

The only spot in the starting five that is currently even debatable is the 4, where junior-to-be Silvio De Sousa and sophomore-to-be David McCormack likely will battle for a starting nod in the months ahead. More on that in a later blog.

But outside of that position, the rest of the spots in the starting five look to be set. And that’s a good thing. This isn’t college football and this also isn’t a program that has to worry about guys competing on a daily basis. You simply don’t survive at Kansas if you’re not ready to compete. So the idea of establishing a starting lineup early on can only help the chemistry and progression of this team rounding into form sooner rather than later.

The rest of the starting five that will join either De Sousa or McCormack likely will look like this: Two sophomores in the backcourt, with Dotson and Ochai Agbaji. Junior Marcus Garrett holding down the third guard position. And senior Udoka Azubuike at the 5.

Again, no freshmen. And if everyone stays healthy, it’s hard to see that changing.

Kansas is still in the running for 4-star prospect Jalen Wilson, a 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward who had signed with Michigan but was given his release after a coaching change. In fact, Wilson is expected in town today to start his Kansas visit and plans to visit North Carolina next week before making a decision between those two programs and a possible return to Michigan.

There’s a lot to like about Wilson’s game and his upside is off the charts. Not only would he be the prize of the 2019 recruiting class for Kansas, he also would play. A lot. And he would probably log big minutes and have a very important role, both next season and well into the future. Whether he would have the potential to be a starter in Year 1, however, is entirely up to him and how quickly he makes the adjustment to the college game.

The exact same could be said for Kansas signee Tristan Enaruna, a Top 50 prospect with crazy high upside who this coaching staff absolutely loves. He’s another versatile forward who can play a bunch of positions, and he, too, will have a role next year and has an incredibly bright future. But he’s not pushing a veteran out of the starting lineup any time soon either.

And there has been some chatter, at varying levels of volume, that Class of 2020 point guard Kyree Walker could reclassify into the 2019 class and join the Jayhawks in the relatively near future, as well.

That may well happen and it would be an outstanding pick-up for the Jayhawks. Had Dotson elected to stay in the draft, KU’s pursuit of Walker would really have become interesting. But until they land him, or, more importantly, until he actually reclassifies into the 2019 class, there’s no sense in talking about him as a potential starter at Kansas either.

In the 11 seasons since the Jayhawks won the national title in 2008, the program has averaged 40 starts per season by freshmen.

That includes an 11-year high of 101 starts made by freshmen Agbaji, Dotson, Quentin Grimes and McCormack last season. And it also includes the 93 starts by freshmen in 2013-14 when a couple of guys named Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid were around.

Only three times in those 11 seasons did Kansas fail to give 10 or more starts to freshmen and two of those three single-digit seasons ended at the Final Four.

Two seasons ago, when Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykahiliuk and company reached the Final Four, Marcus Garrett was the lone freshman to record a start for Kansas, finishing the season with seven starts.

And during the 2011-12 season, which ended with a loss to Kentucky in the national title game, Kansas did not have a freshman start a single game.

The only other time in those 11 years that KU freshmen failed to crack double digits in starts came in 2015-16, when KU reached the Elite Eight and saw Cheick Diallo make one start.

So what’s the moral of the story here? While freshmen have been good to Kansas in terms of filling up the stat sheet and producing on the floor while playing key roles and giving the Jayhawks a chance to compete at the highest level, their best teams in the past decade have come with veterans in the starting lineup. And going that route again is exactly where the Jayhawks appear to be headed entering the summer before the 2019-20 season.

Season Number of starts by a KU freshman Leader
2019-2020 ???? ????
2018-19 101 Grimes, Dotson 36
2017-18 7 Garrett 7
2016-17 41 Jackson 35
2015-16 1 Diallo 1
2014-15 39 Oubre 27
2013-14 93 Wiggins 35
2012-13 40 McLemore 36
2011-12 0 N/A
2010-11 11 Selby 11
2009-10 39 Henry 36
2008-09 63 Taylor 33


Dwayne Mudd 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I predict DeSousa starts over DMac. DMac is the man but I think DeSousa compliments Big Dok better with his skill set. DMac will be trouble off the bench. Pretty freakin nice player to have coming off the bench!! Go Hawks!!!

Drew Doerfler 10 months, 2 weeks ago

dmac and azuibuike will not be a good combo for Self, especially with a lack of 3 point shooting....all teams would have to do is clog up the paint which Azuibuike and Dmac would be doing anyway when out there together

Craig Carson 10 months, 1 week ago

I worry about that as well..we have seen UK have that same situation..good front court but unreliable outside shooting....any competent coach can game plan around that...but I honestly think Dotson and Abaji can hit be pretty reliable from the outside..though another 3 point threat would be help a lot...just hope Dok has been practicing his FT and Garret his 3pt shot

Doug Longstaff 10 months, 2 weeks ago

It's interesting you already have Garrett penciled in to start. I'd say he's got a leg up right now to be the third of three starting guards, but based on skill set, I think he's the most likely to be bumped out. You really need a shooter in there. Ochai is probably better than the 30% he shot from three. Dotson is serviceable, but he's primarily looking to make plays rather than spot up.

Garrett is going to struggle from distance. One of the strengths of having Udoka in there is he will force help--you have to double him or else he's going to get 15 dunks a game. Somebody is going to be open on the perimeter. You want that to be someone who can hit the shot, and Garrett is the least likely candidate to do that consistently.

We'll see--maybe Bill is thinking the obvious rebounding advantage we'll have with the two big look will be good enough to get us more second shot opportunities than we've ever had before, and so he values Garrett's defensive expertise over someone who will shoot it better?

Jay Scott 10 months, 2 weeks ago

....because the one coach in all of college basketball who values defense and avoiding turnovers the most is going to put the best defender on the team and maybe in the country and the guy who is the best ball manager on the bench.....a junior and leader who has played major minutes since his first game ...

Who are these fans?

Dave Miller 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Starters will probably be Devon, Ochai, Marcus, Silvio, and Udoka. That means when/if teams double down on Dok, Ochai is on the floor and plays can be run to set him up for the shot. Then we still have Marcus on the floor with his defensive expertise. And towards the end of the season last year, Marcus was driving more and getting better at it. I think a veteran line up is gonna be so fun to watch next season!!

Drew Doerfler 10 months, 2 weeks ago

exactly on can play defense, but in today's still need to score.....Garrett couldn't even beat Grimes out for starting last year and what did Grimes do? not much......and i'm a big fan of Garrett, but he is better coming off the bench, unless Agbagi turns into a lights out shooter and Dotson speeds up his release on his shot........Garrett will get plenty of playing time, but just not with Dotson and Agbagi at the same time. Today, you need 3 point shooting to space the floor..especially with Azubuike and Dotson's drives.....and who are these fans? looks like more knowledgeable and intelligent than yourself mr jay

Jay Scott 10 months, 2 weeks ago

"Garrett will get plenty of playing time, but just not with Dotson and Agbagi at the same time"

...nothing personal Drew... but you have no clue. That's Craig Carson or Joe Ross level clueless. Garrett played max minutes last season and 20 per his freshman year. He's not just the best defender, he's the best defender at 3-4 positions. "In today's game you have to score" What does that even mean? Point values are identical for each team. Defense counts as much as offense. Why do you think Vick was sent packing?

If healthy, he'll play when it counts. That's a certainty.

Clarence Glasse 10 months, 1 week ago

Well Jay, I can't comment much on players' skill sets, defense, offense, etc. Just don't know enough about those criteria per player. But your post is a fun read for me. You did good. Thanks!

Craig Carson 10 months, 1 week ago

@Jay ...Keep my name out of your mouth.....once again, you aren't the standard of knowledge and common sense so I suggest you take yourself off that imaginary pedestal of intellect you have mistakenly placed yourself an adult and leave peoples names out of your comments...idiot

Mike Hart 10 months, 1 week ago

Doug, the other thing that Garrett can do... is take the ball to the basket. Look how successful he was the 2nd half of the season (when healthy) last year going straight to the rim. When he's blowing by defenders going to the basket.. he will create and set up more dunks for Dok and DeSousa. Agbaji will be critical to 3 point shooting success and his athleticism is off the charts. If we can bring in a knock down 3-point shooter to complement our stable of guards... we are going to be tough. With our inside game now... Agbaji is going to get a ton of open looks at 3... with Grimes only knocking down 34% from 3 last year... eclipsing that bar isn't that Herculean of a task.

Jeff Coffman 10 months, 2 weeks ago

if any of the new guys can drain threes and play defense, they will see a lot of playing time and likely a start.

Pius Waldman 10 months, 1 week ago

It appears winning teams need to score long distance and that also opens up the inside to drive for scores. Doke needs to develop more shots than jams. Many would agree the loss of Grimes won't be a big factor. I predict De Sousa will be very valuable and score greatly.

Craig Carson 10 months, 1 week ago

Unfortunately at this point in Doks KU career, this is what he I'm sure Self would flip out if Dok starts shooting 10ft jump shots instead of going to the post..especially when no KU opponent will have a player his size to put on him...

Jaston Archie 10 months, 1 week ago

So in an era where small ball and a scoring versatile big man is prevalent, like the devastating Villanova teams and the Golden State Warriors, Self will go with a traditional big man in Dok who has no shot outside of 3 feet, a 4 man in De Sousa who has no shot, a 3 man in Garrett who has no shot, a 2 guard in Obaji who can barely shoot, and a PG in Dotson who is a driver more than a shooter.

What the hell is going on? KU is a dumpster fire

Layne Pierce 10 months, 1 week ago

Ochai and Dotson will shoot a little better this year, and they will be more open because of Doke and Silvio commanding respect down low. Garrett may well start for defense and guts, but at times we will have to get something out of McBride, Braun and Emarunu. Maybe Wilson if he comes. A dead-eye 3pt shooter is the major weakness of this team.

I disagree that DeSousa has no shot. He showed the ability to score around the basket when he played, and he will be bigger stronger and hungrier than in the past.


Robert Brock 10 months, 1 week ago

People are saying that De Sousa is a poor shooter - based on what? We haven’t seen De Sousa play since he arrived straight from high school and was shoved into the lineup to play as an emergency on a Final Four team full of shooters. He was told to rebound, pass the ball, and play defense. He did an amazing job under the circumstances. He has had a chance to practice with the team and will know plenty about the sets and positioning and, I am guessing - he will show that he, indeed, is a good mid-range shooter. Beware Silvio in the hi-low, pick ‘n roll, and the pick ‘n pop. It’s going to be fun.

Mike Greer 10 months, 1 week ago

Obviously, there are a number of people who post here that are not KU baseball fans, if they were they wouldn't be trashing our Coach and players. If they think they're fans, and know more about basketball than Coach Self, please post the year you were inducted into the HOF, or maybe just the last year you coached a D1 college conference champion. That would at least give you a modicum of credibility.

I understand everyone is entitled to their opinion, but trashing your team and very successful Coach, without ever watching a game, is getting a bit old. If you watched a game, it was obviously the one I missed.

Mike Greer 10 months, 1 week ago

Jeez, can you edit your own comments? Auto fill in has struck again. Basketball, basketball, basketball, maybe now it won't fill in baseball. Basketball, there that should do it.

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