Why Kansas senior Marcus Garrett is laboring so much of late and what can be done about
Marcus Garrett’s five-turnover effort in Kansas’ 77-69 loss at No. 2 Baylor on Monday was borderline historic and underscores an issue that has plagued the Jayhawks throughout the 2020-21 season.
What’s more, it marked the second game in a row inside Baylor’s Ferrell Center that the KU point guard has turned it over five times.
Prior to Monday night, Garrett had turned the ball over more than four times in a game just twice in his 114-game Kansas career.
Both of those games came last season, when Garrett gave it away five times in a win at Baylor and coughed it up six times in a road win at West Virginia.
Other than that, the Dallas native has been remarkably solid with the ball in his hands, committing two or fewer turnovers in 85% of his games as a Jayhawk and one or none in 68% of his outings.
Given those numbers, along with Garrett’s propensity to handle pressure of just about any kind from his freshman season on, we can draw two conclusions from the data.
The first, and perhaps most obvious, is that Garrett’s role has changed dramatically from his first three seasons to this one and that is impacting his play.
In each of his previous seasons, the Jayhawks had another true point guard on the floor with Garrett — Devonte’ Graham in 2017-18 and Devon Dotson in 2018-19 and 2019-20 — who both handled the ball and initiated the offense, leaving Garrett to attack and make plays for himself and others at the right time and against less resistance on both ends of the floor.
“He’s always been kind of Robin and somebody else was Batman,” Kansas coach Bill Self said on “Hawk Talk” Tuesday night. “And this year he’s Batman and really doesn’t have a Robin when you talk about ball handling. … If you’re going to handle the ball as much as him, you’re going to have two or three turnovers. You have to understand that. I think a lot of that is fatigue.”
The second conclusion is that Garrett might simply be playing out of position.
Self said as much last week while previewing KU’s upcoming game with Iowa State that wound up being postponed, and the fact that nearly 25% of Garrett’s career games with more than two turnovers have come this season illustrates the point, as well.
“We’ve talked about that a lot as a staff,” Self said. “Last year or the year before or the year before that, he was really a 3 guard that could play point. He didn't have the ball hawk guarding him and he had more space when he caught it, usually, because of the way people guarded or the way the other personnel matched up. This year, it just seems like he has to labor so much to get what he gets.”
Although he has praised Garrett’s point guard skills in the past, Self recently called Garrett “the prototypical 3 guard,” and noted that the new role has cut into some of Garrett’s effectiveness.
“We’re asking a lot of Marcus,” Self said. “I think Marcus is better when he's not on the ball so much, but we really don't have as many choices not to put him on the ball unless he and (freshman Dajuan Harris) are in the game together.”
Ninth-ranked Kansas (10-4 overall, 4-3 Big 12) has tried that at times this season, but only in small stretches and not even every game.
The reason is simple. Harris, though talented and described by everyone as a true, pass-first point guard, has not quite progressed to the point where the KU coaches can hand him the keys to the team on a full-time basis. Some of that has to do with his understanding of Self’s system, shortcomings as a shooter and experience in the offense. Some of that has to do with his defense. And some of that has to do with his size.
Harris remains a promising part of KU’s puzzle. And as he continues to improve, the opportunities will be there to play him with Garrett a little more often.
Until then, though — and most likely even after that — KU’s best chance at success continues to be with Marcus Garrett in the game.
“I don't really see that changing a lot,” Self said recently. “I think it's just something that we're going to have to play through and he's going to have to play through with it.
“We can say what we would like to do that’s in the best interest of Marcus, but what's in the best interest of our team is still having have the ball in his hands rather than somebody else. He needs to play; he needs to be in the game.”
The Marcus Garrett Turnover File:
• 30 career games with 0 turnovers
• 48 career games with 1 turnover
• 19 career games with 2 turnovers
• 10 career games with 3 turnovers
• 4 career games with 4 turnovers
• 2 career games with 5 turnovers
• 1 career game with 6 turnovers