Norman, Okla. — Devon Dotson may not have played in KU’s 66-52 victory over Oklahoma on Tuesday night at Lloyd Noble Center.
But that does not mean that Dotson did not play a role.
Sidelined because of a hip pointer that kept him out of parts of last Saturday’s loss to Baylor and may keep him out longer depending on how treatment and recovery go the rest of the week, Dotson found ways to impact KU’s most recent victory even while wearing street clothes on the Kansas bench.
The two biggest benefactors of Dotson’s presence in Norman on Tuesday night were junior guard Marcus Garrett and freshman Christian Braun.
Those were the two players who Dotson kept in contact with throughout the hard-earned, shorthanded victory, lending advice when he could, encouragement when needed and tips throughout.
“To the team, he just told us go get a win,” Braun said of Dotson’s words of encouragement after learning at Tuesday’s shoot-around that he would miss the game. “You know, every game in conference play, you just have to find a way to win.
“But, personally, he just told me if I needed any help, you know, at shoot-around with plays or if I was going to be handling the ball, which I didn’t have to because Marcus did such a good job, he just told me if I needed any help to let him know. So he helped us all out just with plays and little stuff that we take for granted because he always does it.”
Garrett had a little more communication with Dotson throughout the game, as he played 38 minutes, handling point guard duties for nearly all of those.
“He put confidence in us,” Garrett said of Dotson. He was just telling us before the game, ‘Just play our game. Just keep doing what we do and we can still win the game.’ On the court, he was coaching us, telling us what he was seeing on the bench. That helped out a lot.”
At halftime, the conversation between Dotson and Garrett turned more specific.
“He was basically telling me the reads off the pick and roll,” Garrett recalled.
That input no doubt helped the Jayhawks both execute and remain calm in Dotson’s absence on Tuesday night. And with no exact timeline known for his return, it should serve the Jayhawks well moving forward should Dotson have to miss any more time while his left hip heals.
“I have no idea. I have no idea,” Self said when asked if he knew when Dotson might be back on the court.
“Devon’s a tough kid,” Self said. “I mean, he's a tough kid, but I guess the pain and where it is and everything and any type of movement that requires any quick-twitch or change of direction or anything like that, he hurt. He was laboring quite a bit. So we were better off playing other guys at 100% than him at 50, probably.”
Self and the Jayhawks head to Texas this weekend for a 1 p.m. Saturday showdown with the Longhorns in Austin.
A source close to the Kansas basketball program told the Journal-World on Tuesday afternoon that KU point guard Devon Dotson will not play in tonight's 8 p.m. game at Oklahoma.
Kansas coach Bill Self said Monday that he thought Dotson would be fine for the game and that the hip pointer Dotson suffered in last Saturday's loss to Baylor at Allen Fieldhouse would not keep him out of KU's next game.
At that time, KU had not yet practiced following Saturday's loss, and had only run through film and a walk-through in preparation for the matchup with OU.
Senior guard Isaiah Moss is expected to slide into the starting lineup in Dotson's place, with junior Marcus Garrett and freshman Christian Braun likely handling the bulk of the point guard responsibilities against the Sooners.
KU and OU tip off at 8 p.m. from Lloyd Noble Center on ESPN.
A couple of months removed from winning three games during Les Miles’ first season in charge, the Kansas football program last week picked up a key offseason victory that should be celebrated every bit as much as any of those in-season wins were.
KU’s decision to promote Emmett Jones from receivers coach to passing game coordinator last week — read: make sure he sticks around Lawrence instead of leaving for other opportunities — was by far the biggest and most important news of the offseason to date.
Keeping arguably the best assistant coach on staff and one of the top recruiters in the Big 12 Conference in town made last week a win for all kinds of reasons.
Continuity is key and Jones’ contract is also now guaranteed through the 2022 season. Jones’ recruiting skills are second-to-none. And his ability to both motivate and hold players accountable is a crucial part of the steep climb Kansas football is facing.
Clearly, the reasons Jones is so important to this program go well beyond his coaching chops. But to look past those would be a mistake.
What he got out of a largely unproven group of wide receivers during the 2019 season was rock solid. And it significantly upgraded the production of the Kansas offense.
Remember, it was Steven Sims Jr., (now killing it with the Washington Redskins) and Jeremiah Booker who had done most of the heavy lifting at the position for the three previous years, and both were gone when the 2019 season began.
Sure, there were bodies there and plenty of potential, but players like Andrew Parchment, Stephon Robinson Jr., and Kwamie Lassiter II were just that — potential. Yet Jones pulled something significant out of each one of them.
And don’t even get me started on the work he did with senior receiver Daylon Charlot. That, to me, was the biggest sign of just how talented Jones is as a coach and a human being.
In just a few months, he reached Charlot in a way that two other coaching staffs — both here and at Alabama — could not. And through equal parts love and compassion and hardcore expectations, he turned Charlot into the player Kansas fans expected to see when he transferred from Alabama in the first place.
As a group, the numbers put up by the KU wideouts in 2019 went up in every important category — more receptions (184-178), more yards (2,387-1,909), more touchdowns (20-15) and a higher yards-per-reception average (13-10.7).
And, remember, those numbers were recorded without the luxury of having two proven seniors, like Sims and Booker, who were both solid throughout their KU careers. They also came in Jones’ first season coaching these guys and first season under Miles.
KU’s head coach, offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon and quarterback Carter Stanley all had key roles in elevating the production in the passing game. But it was Jones who worked with the receivers day in and day out. And it was Jones who tapped into what it took to make each one of them more prepared, more aggressive football players.
He did so by connecting with them as people first and then by removing the fear of failure and replacing it with confidence and swagger.
Jones would be the first to tell you that it’s the players who deserve the credit for their production last season. They put in the time and the work required to be ready to deliver and then went out on Saturdays and did just that.
The players themselves would tell you that they could not have done it without Jones.
He just has a special way of reaching people. Whether watching film and breaking down coverages or joking around before drills or at media sessions, Jones always seems to know the temperature of the room and makes sure everyone is comfortable in his presence.
Not only that, but rare is the instance when you walk away from a conversation with Jones without having learned something of value.
Retaining him does not guarantee that Kansas will win a bunch of games next season. But trying to do that without him — both next year and into the future — would have been much more difficult.
For the second time this season, the status of an injured ankle belonging to Marcus Garrett was a hot topic heading into KU's next basketball game.
And for the second time this season, it does not appear that Garrett will miss any additional time.
"It's getting better," Garrett said Friday morning of the left ankle he rolled during Wednesday's win at Iowa State. "I'll be good for tomorrow."
Tomorrow, of course, brings the third-ranked Jayhawks' Top 5 showdown with No. 4 Baylor. And because of both the low-grade severity of the injury and the magnitude of KU's next game, Kansas coach Bill Self said he fully expected Garrett to play against Baylor when the Jayhawks and Bears tipoff at noon Saturday on CBS at Allen Fieldhouse.
Asked if he thought Garrett would be 100% for the Baylor game, Self was less sure.
"I don't know; I honestly don't," he said. "We didn't practice (Thursday). We just watched tape and (had a) walk-through. So, he didn't push it at all. But I can't imagine him not getting jacked up to play and adrenaline taking over."
That was not always the case. Garrett, who said he landed on a teammate's foot which caused the ankle to fold over in the win against the Cyclones, said he was initially much more worried about the severity of the injury.
"It felt more serious than what it really was," he said.
After missing roughly 8 minutes in the first half after being examined on the bench and back in the KU locker room, Garrett returned to the game late in the first half and then played the first 10 minutes of the second half. He moved well, running, jumping and cutting without issue and helped the Jayhawks cruise to their biggest win at Iowa State since 2003.
With around 10 minutes remaining and the game well in hand, Garrett asked out of the game and did not return.
"Yeah, it started doing some crazy stuff," he said Friday. "It started getting sore so I was just asking to come out."
As for how this latest injury — to the opposite ankle — compared to the ankle injury that kept him out of the second half of KU's loss to Villanova a few weeks ago, Garrett said the two were "very different."
"The feeling at Villanova was almost like I couldn't move," he said. "This game, it felt like that but once I started moving it loosened up."
Provided Self and Garrett are correct in their assessment of the junior guard's status for Saturday, expect to see KU's most experienced player and top defender in his usual spot in the starting lineup when the Bears and Jayhawks open play.
The standings show the Kansas Jayhawks at 1-0 in the Big 12 Conference race, with an early lead on five other Big 12 teams in the race to win this year’s Big 12 crown.
But that’s not quite the way KU coach Bill Self sees it.
The man who has made a career out of winning on other coaches’ home floors actually sees the Jayhawks sitting even after the first game of Big 12 play.
Let me explain, as Self did on Monday’s edition of “Hawk Talk” with Voice of the Jayhawks Brian Hanni.
The formula Self’s uses is simple. A home win is worth nothing and a home loss is worth negative-1. A road win is worth plus-1 and a road loss doesn’t hurt you.
So today, after knocking off West Virginia, 60-53 at Allen Fieldhouse last weekend, the Jayhawks are even because they won at home.
“To me, winning a home game is just breaking even,” Self said. “It’s not a bonus. It’s not anything. It’s just breaking even. If you lose a home game then it’s a big minus. And certainly winning a road game is a plus and losing a road game is breaking even at most places.”
The No. 3-ranked team in the country will have a chance to move to plus-1 in Self’s eyes on Wednesday night, when they take on Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, where they will look to get back to their winning ways away from home after a rough run in that department last season.
“(That’s) the best way to win a league,” Self said Monday night of winning on the road. “Our road record has been so good up until last year in league play. Just winning at home’s not enough. You’ve got to go .500 or better on the road.”
Had the Jayhawks done that a season ago, their NCAA-record streak of consecutive conference titles would be alive and well at 15 in a row.
“Instead we went 3-6,” Self reminded, making even a perfect 9-0 mark at home more or less irrelevant in the league race that Kansas lost by two games to Kansas State and Texas Tech.
“Home wins, (it’s) imperative that you get them,” Self said Monday. “But road wins are the ones that actually give you a chance to separate yourself. You’ve got to split on the road at worst, and then you’ve got to win them all at home. And if you don’t do that then you’ve got to steal one somewhere.”
Given the fact that the Jayhawks will be a road favorite on Wednesday night, winning in Ames would not be considered stealing one. But since KU still can go unbeaten at home this season, the Jayhawks are not quite in the position of needing to think about stealing anything yet.
Here’s a quick look at the Big 12 standings along with where each team sits according to Self’s system.
Baylor 1-0 – Even after home win vs. Texas
Kansas 1-0 – Even after home win vs. WVU
Oklahoma 1-0 – Even after home win vs. K-State
Texas Tech 1-0 – Even after home win vs. Oklahoma State
TCU – 1-0 – Even after home win vs. Iowa State
West Virginia 1-1 – Plus-1 after road loss at KU and road win at Oklahoma State
Texas 0-1 – Even after road loss at Baylor
Iowa State 0-1 – Even after road loss at TCU
Kansas State 0-1 – Even after road loss at Oklahoma
Oklahoma State 0-2 – Minus-1 after road loss at Texas Tech and home loss vs. WVU
So the only blood drawn in the race to date came from Monday’s road win by West Virginia at Oklahoma State. Every other team did what it was “supposed to do” and now we move onto Round 2.
No. 4 Baylor gets its chance to move into plus territory tonight with a road game at No. 22 Texas Tech.
And TCU will get the same chance in Manhattan against Kansas State.
It may be a bit early to start tracking this stuff, but wins away from home — and what Self often refers to as “holding serve” at home — are the way the Big 12 will be won.
Asked the annual question about what record he thought it might take to win the conference this time around, Self, at first, gave no answer and then settled in on a record that he seemed to think might do it.
“Oh, I have no idea,” he said. “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. I think you could probably give it another 10 days or two weeks (and) probably get a feel for that. But 14-4 (in Big 12 play) right now, to me, looks like a very, very good record.”
Self on Thursday was asked about a recent comment made by ESPN college basketball analyst Seth Greenberg, who said on the air that he thought Self would end up leaving Kansas for San Antonio at the end of the 2019-20 season.
“My boldest prediction for 2020 is Bill Self to San Antonio,” Greenberg said during Wednesday’s appearance on ESPN’s "Get Up!"
Rumors of Self someday joining the Spurs are nothing new and have been a regular part of the KU basketball season for years.
But unlike previous reports of the Spurs being interested or Self being tied to San Antonio, this latest instance was merely one man’s prediction about what might happen.
Nonetheless, Self reacted to Greenberg’s take during Thursday’s press conference.
“Well first of all, I haven’t talked to Seth in five or six months,” Self began. "And secondly, and most importantly, I haven’t talked to (Spurs GM) R.C. (Buford) ever about (the job), and he was in my wedding and I was in his so I’ve known him pretty well and we’ve never once discussed it. And thirdly, I think it’s kind of an insult to the Spurs because they have the greatest coach maybe our sport’s potentially ever known — certainly the NBA — one of the two or three best of all time for sure. So, yeah, there was absolutely zero truth to that.”
Self went on to say that comments like those made by Greenberg “cracks me up.”
“What it was was ‘Bold predictions for 2020,’ so you just grab something or throw something against the wall and hope that something sticks,” Self said. “But, no, there’s zero truth to that. That’s not even one that would impact us positively, negatively. There’s nothing to it at all.”
Out of the boot and off the scooter that aided his rehab from a broken left ankle suffered back in November, Kansas freshman Jalen Wilson has been on the practice court for the Jayhawks during the past few days.
But Self said the freshman from Denton, Texas, remains a couple of weeks away from being fully cleared for practice.
“He is participating in individual (drills), he’s on the court, moving about a snail’s pace, adding a little bit each and every day, and we’re hopeful — hopeful that within a two-week period he can be released and be full go. But we’re not at that point yet, where he can have contact at all.”
With a potential return nearing, Self said no decision had been made on whether to redshirt the 6-foot-8 wing or to try to work him into the rotation before the end of the season.
“We haven’t decided yet,” Self said, noting that he recently talked to both Wilson and his parents about his future plans. “I don’t think you make a decision on what you want to do with him until you see how his health is. If he’s not 100%, why would you even consider it? And if he is 100%, how does he fit in and does he have a chance to impact this team?”
Self said it was still too early to make any final decisions and added that Wilson was “on schedule” for a full recovery.
“I’m hopeful, and I know he’s hopeful that he can get to be 100%,” Self said.
With 12 games worth of lessons now in their memory banks, Kansas basketball freshmen Christian Braun and Tristan Enaruna have reached the first true checkpoint of their college careers.
The non-conference season is now a thing of the past — save for a date with Tennessee in late January during the Big 12/SEC Challenge — and it’s nothing but Big 12 Conference battles from this point forward.
Don’t think for a second that either player will be gun shy going into what the Jayhawks typically refer to as “the second season.”
“Definitely ready for that,” Enaruna said after KU’s 72-56 win at Stanford on Sunday. “It’s going to be exciting.”
The Jayhawks open Big 12 play at home against West Virginia at 3 p.m. on Saturday. And after spending the past eight weeks figuring out their roles and taking inventory on what works, what doesn’t and how the Jayhawks want and need them to play, Braun and Enaruna believe they’re prepared for the step up in intensity that’s just around the corner.
“I think we’re ready,” Enaruna said. “I think there’s a whole lot more to learn, but the main thing we took away from this non-conference (schedule) is just the experience and getting used to playing on these types of stages and just playing with the guys and being coached by coach.”
Enaruna stepped into the rotation first, flashing his defensive potential and easy-going offense during the first few weeks of the season.
But it’s Braun who appears to be riding the bigger wave at the moment.
Having put together three strong outings in a row in wins over Kansas City and Stanford and KU’s loss at Villanova, it’s the 6-foot-7 guard’s confidence that his coaches and teammates have noticed most in recent weeks.
“I’m excited about him,” KU coach Bill Self said of Braun. He still looks hesitant to me in some ways, but he didn’t look hesitant shooting the ball (against Stanford on Sunday).”
In 19 minutes against the Cardinal, Braun knocked in 3 of 4 shots from 3-point range and also showed off the tenacity and hustle that teammates and coaches have raved about since the summer.
But it wasn’t just the fact that Braun drained a career-high three triples against the Cardinal that mattered most. It also was when those shots came.
Two of them squashed Stanford runs and kept the momentum on KU’s side. And the third gave the Jayhawks an 18-point lead with 7:13 to play.
“I think I’m getting more comfortable each game,” Braun said after Sunday’s win. “And my teammates are helping me out, getting me more comfortable (and allowing me) to do what I normally do and what I’m used to doing.”
As a shooter and while crashing the offensive glass, cleaning up the defensive glass or hustling behind the play, Braun appeared more comfortable than ever and found his production from playing hard.
“That’s kind of what he does, what he’s good at,” Enaruna said. “Just playing hard, hustling, stealing extra possessions and being on the defensive glass a lot. I think he was really good. You know, you could really see his confidence today with a couple of shots he made, and that’s good to see. It’s good to see that he’s growing.”
When Braun plays with confidence, good things tend to happen. And when good things happen, his teammates make sure to feed that confidence.
“The biggest thing we tell him is that we need him to knock down shots, him and Isaiah (Moss),” junior guard Marcus Garrett said of Braun. “Those are our 3-point shooters and we have to show confidence in them for them to be able to make those shots. So every time they’re open, we tell them to shoot the ball.”
The two KU freshmen are comfortable with their place on this team right now. And both are playing with the most confidence they’ve had this season.
“I’m pretty positive on that,” Enaruna said with a smile.
Pressed into extended action because of an ankle injury to junior guard Marcus Garrett on Saturday against Villanova, Kansas freshman Christian Braun bobbled the ball on one second-half possession and didn’t blink.
The moment was the perfect illustration of the type of poise and confidence Braun displayed in helping Kansas nearly claim a hard-fought road win against the 18th-ranked Wildcats in front of a rocking crowd of more than 20,000 mostly Villanova supporters at Wells Fargo Center.
Instead of letting the temporary juggling act derail the set, Braun calmly collected the ball and turned to make a play.
He did a lot of that in this one. Far more than his final numbers — 6 points on 3-of-5 shooting to go along with two big rebounds and a late block — suggest.
And it was Braun’s aggressive and unflappable performance, in a hostile environment against a Top 20 team, that had Kansas coach Bill Self encouraged about the outing even if he was disappointed by the outcome.
“I thought he was good,” Self said of Braun, who followed up a season-high 21 minutes against Kansas City the weekend before with his best overall game in 16 minutes against the Wildcats. “I thought Tristan (Enaruna) did some good things, too. They competed hard.”
That they did. And they had to, or else the Jayhawks (9-2) might have been cooked much sooner than at the final buzzer.
With Villanova leading by 8 early in the second half and the home crowd roaring with approval, Self subbed both Braun and Enaruna into the game.
At that point, things could have gone one of two ways. Either the freshmen could’ve wilted in the moment and the Wildcats could have run away with an easy and much more convincing win or KU's rookies could have locked in and proved they belonged.
Both players chose the latter, but Braun did his with more fireworks.
Three times in about a two-minute span after staring down that 8-point deficit, Braun drove the ball hard to the rim and either scored or created a scoring opportunity for a teammate.
Later, with Kansas trying to close — without Garrett, no less — Braun caught a pass on the wing opposite the KU bench, took a few dribbles to his left and finished in traffic for the and-one opportunity that put KU up 55-51 with 1:49 to play.
You might’ve seen that one. Or at least the aftermath. Braun emerged from the gathering of bodies like a wild man, screaming profanities that inspired his mother to remind him to “(watch) your language, son” on Twitter and firing up his teammates with every syllable.
The only thing that took away from the moment was the missed free throw that followed. As it turned out, it was a big one, as it would’ve given the Jayhawks 56 points in a game they lost 56-55.
But those things happen. And as much as the miss — among other things — took away the Jayhawks’ opportunity to win that particular game, they did nothing to take away from the massive moment of growth and confidence Braun gained from performing so well on such a big stage.
To see just how far Braun has come in the first two months of the season, all you have to do is go back to the other time the Jayhawks played a game like this — Nov. 5 in New York City, when the freshman played just four minutes in his KU debut and had a line of one missed shot and two fouls to show for it.
That’s a pretty big jump in just over seven weeks. And that’s exactly why Self left Philadelphia saying his team “got better” even in a losing effort.
“This is an important game,” Self noted. “But (Villanova coach) Jay (Wright is) very hopeful that he plays in a lot more bigger games than this, and I’m very hopeful of the same thing. This would be a great game to win, obviously, for seeding purposes for both teams. But in the big scheme of things, I think our team benefited from playing this game. … There were some things about the game that were positive for us growing up, even though the outcome wasn’t great.”
Even though he was referencing his own team’s gains from playing a program like Kansas, Wright, after the victory, shared a simple theory he has that applies to Braun’s most recent outing.
“You learn lessons from playing the best teams,” Wright said.
If that’s true, the lesson Braun learned by playing Villanova last Saturday was that he most definitely belongs on the court with anybody and the Jayhawks, with or without Garrett, are going to need more from him moving forward.
The poise is there now. The polish will come.
No x-ray was taken on the injured right ankle of Kansas junior Marcus Garrett, according to KU coach Bill Self.
In a text message to the Journal-World on Sunday evening, Self also said that Garrett was “doing better.”
Injured late in the first half of Saturday’s 56-55 loss to No. 18 Villanova, Garrett left the floor with around four minutes remaining in the half and did not return to the game.
He was on the bench throughout the second half and, as KU’s most experienced player, did his best to help his young teammates from his seat next to the KU coaching staff.
Like many of his teammates, Garrett traveled home for the holidays from Philadelphia, landing in Dallas sometime Saturday night.
He’ll be there through Christmas and will report back to Lawrence with the rest of the team by Dec. 26 to begin preparations for Sunday’s road game at Stanford.
Garrett missed five full games with a high ankle sprain to his left ankle during Big 12 Conference play last season. Even after returning he never played at 100% the rest of the season.
There was enough optimism around the program Saturday night to suggest that his latest injury will not take Garrett down the same path this season.
Self said Saturday he did not believe the injury was “going to be something that drags out to conference play.”
Garrett is currently averaging 8.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 28 minutes per game in 11 starts this season. He ranks second on the team with 19 steals and is shooting 48% from the floor and 37% from 3-point range.
The Jayhawks will travel to Stanford next weekend for a 2 p.m. clash with Jerod Haase’s club on Sunday at Maples Pavilion on the Stanford campus.
That game is slated to be televised by ABC.