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Though statistically not as nasty, “Press Virginia” still has bite

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) is careful not to step out of bounds after contact from New Mexico State forward Johnny McCants (35) with seconds remaining in the game on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018 at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) is careful not to step out of bounds after contact from New Mexico State forward Johnny McCants (35) with seconds remaining in the game on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Kansas freshman Devon Dotson has seen so many different looks this week during KU’s preparation for the West Virginia’s vaunted full-court pressure that it temporarily threw off his ability to count correctly.

“We’ve been doing different drills,” said Dotson, who will face the Mountaineers for the first time at 1 p.m. Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va. “I think we did 9-on-5, 8-on-5, 6-on-5, just different ways of getting it in and finding the spots.”

While Dotson was correct in recalling the KU offense’s trial runs against a scout team defense with six and, yes, even eight, defenders on the floor at once, KU coach Bill Self later revealed that the Jayhawks did not go all the way to nine.

“I don’t think we’ve ever gone nine,” Self said. “Just eight.”

When told that Dotson shared a memory of a 9-on-5 drill, Self smiled and then ribbed his freshman point guard.

“Maybe there was nine out there,” Self said. “Or maybe he didn’t learn at an early age to count that high. I thought it was only eight. But he may have felt like there were nine or 10 out there.”

The whole concept of flooding the floor with extra defenders dates back to Self’s first season at Kansas, back in the 2004 NCAA Tournament, when the Jayhawks were preparing for a Sweet 16 game against No. 9 seed UAB and the Blazers’ backbreaking full-court press that eliminated top-seed Kentucky.

Rather than playing 5-on-5 during the days leading up to the game with UAB, Self put eight defenders on the court in an attempt to better simulate UAB coach Mike Anderson’s “40 Minutes of Hell” pressure defense.

By the time the game rolled around, the Jayhawks were so tired of seeing eight defensive players on the floor and so relieved to see just five, that they carved up the UAB press and rolled into the Elite Eight with a 100-74 victory.

Self said the strategy often utilizes help from the team managers so everyone in the rotation can take a turn at trying to break the press.

With Anderson and his pressure defense later landing at Missouri for a handful of years, this type of preparation became somewhat routine, back when the Jayhawks and Tigers were still in the same conference.

“Every time we played against Missouri or played against Mike, we played against eight (in practice),” Self said. “And it always looked like crap. But it’s a lot easier playing against five after you’ve been playing against eight; or at least it should be, in theory.”

Asked where he picked up the practice trick, Self was unsure of its origin.

“It’s just something we decided to do,” he said. “You can't simulate how good their (West Virginia) press is playing against five, so, obviously, you put more (defense) out there to offset maybe not having a (Jevon) Carter or (Daxter) Miles in the backcourt (pressuring your offense).”

While the Mountaineers (8-9 overall, 0-5 Big 12) still try to play the same style, Bob Huggins’ press has not been nearly as effective this season and Self said that was largely due to the change in personnel.

“Look who they lost,” Self said, noting that WVU has played most of the current season without its best shot blocker in injured center Sagaba Konate and also without Carter and Miles who Self called “probably the two best on-ball pressure defenders on the same team in the country.”

The Mountaineers inability to impact games with their press in the same manner as they’re accustomed also shows up on the stat sheet.

Entering this week, WVU ranked as one of the least effective teams in the nation on both sides of the turnover equation. West Virginia has forced its opponents into a turnover on just 17.5 percent of their possessions (259th in the country) while also turning it over themselves 21.7 percent of the time (306th).

Beyond that, the Mountaineers have recorded a steal on just 7.2 percent of possessions, which ranks them 297th nationally, while having the ball stolen from them 11.6 percent of the time, which ranks 339th among 353 Division I programs.

“It’s not the same personnel pressing,” Self added. “But they are still doing different things, picking up full (court) almost every possession. But it’s not as much of an attack-type pressure as what it was in the past years, pressure that has given us problems over times, especially at their place.”

Despite the statistics, KU’s past struggles at WVU Coliseum or even Dotson’s trouble keeping track of how many defenders Self threw at him in practice, Saturday’s game will feature just 10 players on the floor at all times and Dotson believes the work the Jayhawks put in this week on preparing for the press will have No. 7 Kansas (15-2, 4-1) ready.

“Ball pressure, trapping everywhere, constantly just hounding the ball handler,” said Dotson when asked what stood out about the WVU pressure. “I watched both of the games last year and I’ve seen their intense defense, full-court pressure. We should be ready for it and we’ve been preparing all week for it.

“You just have to be composed and really look at your options,” Dotson added. “It’s difficult, but you’ve got to get through it. Just stay composed. You can’t get rattled.”


Going off script isn’t necessarily a bad thing for maturing Jayhawks

Texas guard Matt Coleman III (2) tries to steal the ball from Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Texas guard Matt Coleman III (2) tries to steal the ball from Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

It’s common, in football, for head coaches and offensive coordinators to script the first 15 offensive plays of a game and has been for years.

The strategy not only brings a sense of calm and cohesion to the game plan and opening drive but also allows the offense something extra to really focus in on during its practices leading up to game day.

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self is willing to do the same thing — or at least something similar — in developing his scouting reports and game plans for any given Kansas basketball game, but that does not always mean Self and the Jayhawks stick to the script.

Take Monday’s 80-78 victory over Texas as an example.

Back at home after their first true road win of the season, the 7th-ranked Jayhawk jumped out to an 8-0 lead on three jumpers that lit Allen Fieldhouse on fire and forced UT coach Shaka Smart to take an early timeout.

The fast start was the second in a row of its kind for the Jayhawks, who opened last weekend’s game at Baylor on an 18-2 tear. And Kansas added another fast start by blitzing Texas with a 19-7 run to open the second half, turning a halftime deficit into a 10-point lead.

Thrilled by the start to both halves — Self said he liked the second-half start better “because we needed something good to happen early in the second half” — Self explained after the game that there was no magic formula to either of them simply because of the way Texas plays, forcing teams to play up-tempo and go off script instead of settling into half-court sets.

“The way (Texas) played, they didn’t allow us to run one set play,” Self said after the game. “They pressed into man (defense) and we’re not going to back it out with 18 (seconds) on the (shot) clock to run a play. And there were so many transitional type things and we don’t back it out after transition to run a play. So, it wasn’t like it was scripted at all, like we normally do. The guys just had to go make plays.”

And that’s exactly what happened.

A transition 3-pointer from the wing by Quentin Grimes off an assist from Lagerald Vick got things going. Vick followed that up with an unassisted 3-pointer of his own near the top of the key. And one possession later, Dedric Lawson walked into a 15-foot jumper that set the margin at 8-0 1:43 into the game.

Nothing was run, no sets were called and the Jayhawks had not even looked to the bench to get instructions from Self or his staff.

That changed as the game went on, of course. And that guidance from the bench became incredibly important as Texas stormed back and wound up making it a one-possession victory for Kansas.

But that early, free-flowing style of play proved something about this Kansas team. Despite playing with two freshmen, a sophomore and a first-year Jayhawk, this group has the ability — and, more importantly, the maturity — to get good looks and make things happen even when things don’t go according to plan.

Credit the guards and their play-making ability for a lot of that. But credit their preparation in practice for it, as well.

KU sophomore Marcus Garrett, who scored a career-high 20 points in the win over UT, including 13 in a row for Kansas after a pair of Devon Dotson free throws gave KU a 10-5 lead, briefly explained why his team has benefited from those fast starts the past couple of games.

“Moving the ball, driving downhill and getting Dedric touches,” Garrett explained.

So why can’t Kansas sustain those and run away from someone like so many KU teams did in the past?

Well, part of it is the talent of the opponent. Self said after Monday’s victory that the Big 12, this year, is not made up of teams that are going to roll over when the score gets out of hand. There are too many good defensive teams and too many good coaches to allow that to happen.

The other part of it is the mindset of the Jayhawks and Garrett touched on that again Monday, just as a couple of his teammates have done in the not-too-distant past.

“We just have to keep fighting,” Garrett said. “Once we go up, I feel like we get to a point where we feel like the game is over, we’ve won, and I just feel like we have to keep on fighting and doing what we did to (get) up.”

Added Self, not interested in putting too much stock, good or bad, in what happens in the first two or three minutes of any game: “The thing about it is, it’s great to start fast and there’ve been many games where we haven’t started fast, but it’s so early. We were up 8-0 because we made three hard shots. It wasn’t like we were playing unbelievable. And they missed probably the same shots that we made. … I’d like to say that we can script getting off to a better start, but that was not the case (Monday night).”

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KU coach Bill Self talks Silvio De Sousa, says something needs to be determined one way or another

Kansas' Silvio De Sousa, left, watches from the bench during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas' Silvio De Sousa, left, watches from the bench during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) by Associated Press

Responding to questions about a Monday report stating that Kansas officials are in the process of urging the NCAA to immediately reinstate sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa, KU coach Bill Self offered little new information. But he did share some insight regarding De Sousa’s status after No. 7 Kansas’ 80-78 win over Texas on Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

“I can’t say that there’s anything new (or) that we know anything will be done this week,” Self said. “I’m not in the know on a lot of those things. You guys may not believe me, but that’s factual.”

As he has been throughout the season, Self remains hopeful that De Sousa and the school will hear something “sooner rather than later” that would allow everyone to move forward.

“You know, we’re getting toward the end of the season,” Self began. “Something needs to be determined one way or another. He’s obviously ready to move forward with whatever it is, and he’s been very patient, and then us, as a team, we need to know, too. So I’m certainly hopeful we’ll get something sooner rather than later, but I don’t have a time frame.”

Asked how much he or university officials had been able to keep De Sousa informed about what has gone on during the past couple of months — during which KU has voluntarily held De Sousa out of games while awaiting guidance and word from the NCAA about his eligibility — Self painted a picture of a player who was aware of what was happening and why.

“I think he knows that there is definitely an effort (being made) to try to assist the process,” Self said Monday night. “The one thing that he has been very mature about is, he’s seeing big picture, because I think the school has done a good job educating him on the dynamics and why maybe things aren’t moving as quick as we want them to. He’s handled it like a stud. And, you know, he’s crushed.”

As for whether he could foresee a resolution that puts De Sousa on the court for Kansas sometime this season, Self said simply, “We’re certainly not putting all our eggs in that basket, but we’re very hopeful.”

One thing Self is not worried about is De Sousa following the path taken by former KU forward Billy Preston, who, last season, got tired of waiting for the NCAA to rule on his eligibility status and left the program to sign with a professional team overseas last January.

“No,” Self said. “But that was a totally different situation. I mean, you’re talking apples and oranges.”

Reply 20 comments from Armen Kurdian Tony Bandle Dane Pratt Dirk Medema Dale Rogers Sreagan Oklahawk58 Jeff Coffman Karen Mansfield-Stewart Phil Leister and 5 others

KU’s Dedric Lawson honored again, Jayhawks still 7th in AP poll

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) shoots over Baylor guard Jared Butler (12) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) shoots over Baylor guard Jared Butler (12) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson) by AP Photo/Jerry Larson

For the third time on the newcomer circuit and sixth time in the weekly awards, KU junior Dedric Lawson was honored by the Big 12 on Monday as the conference’s newcomer of the week.

Lawson, who averaged 24 points and 8.5 rebounds during wins over TCU and Baylor last week, earned the top newcomer honor for the third time.

Lawson scored a season-high 31 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in KU’s win over the Horned Frogs last Wednesday and followed that up with a 17-point effort at Baylor last weekend. His performance in Waco, Texas, included a season-high five blocked shots and a career-high five steals, which made him the third player in Big 12 history to record five blocks and five steals in the same game.

Baylor’s Quincy Acy (2008) and Brian Skinner (1996) previously achieved the feat.

Lawson, now has 11 double-doubles this season, which, heading into last weekend, tied him for the most in Division I so far this season, with South Dakota State's Mike Daum and Bowling Green's Demajeo Wiggins.

None of the three recorded a double-double in their most recent games and UNC-Wilmington's Devontae Cacok did, giving him the national lead, with a dozen.

Lawson, the Memphis native who transferred from Memphis before the 2017-18 season, has recorded a double-double in seven of KU's past nine games.

Jayhawks still 7th in AP poll

Despite two victories last week, including yet another Top 25 win, the Jayhawks stayed in the No. 7 spot in this week’s Associated Press Top 25, released Monday.

The top 10 spots remained unchanged, with Duke, Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia and Gonzaga holding down the top five spots and Michigan State, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech and Nevada surrounding KU in rounding out the Top 10.

Future KU foe Kentucky (Jan. 26 in Lexington) and past KU victim Marquette, each jumped six spots to Nos. 12 and 15, respectively.

Oklahoma jumped three spots to No. 20 and Iowa State, which was ranked No. 20 after knocking off KU, fell out of the Top 25 following losses to Baylor and Kansas State.

Five of this week’s Top 25 teams owe one of their losses to Kansas, with No. 3 Tennessee, No. 6 Michigan State, No. 15 Marquette, No. 20 OU and No. 22 Villanova all falling to Kansas earlier this season.

Complete AP Top 25 for January, 14, 2019 —

1 – Duke, 14-1 (36)

2 – Michigan, 17-0 (9)

3 – Tennessee, 14-1 (13)

4 – Virginia, 15-0 (6)

5 – Gonzaga, 16-2

6 – Michigan State, 15-2

7 – Kansas, 14-2

8 – Texas Tech, 15-1

9 – Virginia Tech, 14-1

10 – Nevada, 16-1

11 – Florida State, 13-3

12 – Kentucky, 12-3

13 – North Carolina, 12-4

14 – Auburn, 12-3

15 – Marquette, 14-3

16 – Buffalo, 15-1

17 – North Carolina State, 14-2

18 – Ole Miss, 13-2

19 – Maryland, 14-3

20 – Oklahoma, 13-3

21 – Houston, 16-1

22 – Villanova, 13-4

23 – Iowa, 14-3

24 – Mississippi State, 12-3

25 – Indiana, 12-4

Others receiving votes: Louisville 112, Nebraska 36, Ohio St. 34, Wisconsin 31, Iowa St. 20, UCF 17, Purdue 16, Kansas St 14, St. John's 12, TCU 12, Murray St. 9, Washington 8, Arizona 8, LSU 7, Seton Hall 6, South Carolina 6, Temple 5, Minnesota 3, Wofford 2, Cincinnati 2, Florida 1, Hofstra 1.


Report: KU officials to ask NCAA to reinstate sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa immediately

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa watches warmups alongside assistant coach Norm Roberts, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa watches warmups alongside assistant coach Norm Roberts, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

According to a Monday report from Seth Davis, of The Athletic, the Kansas men’s basketball program is prepared to rule KU sophomore Silvio De Sousa ineligible and request that the NCAA immediately reinstate him.

Davis’ report, which cites multiple sources who claim KU is prepared to “formally acknowledge to the NCAA that a violation took place,” answers the question that KU officials would or could not last week.

When reached by the Journal-World last month for clarity in De Sousa’s case, an NCAA spokesperson said that NCAA rules require KU to first rule the player ineligible, then submit a request for reinstatement before the NCAA can even begin to review the case.

When asked last week if KU either had ruled De Sousa ineligible or submitted a request for reinstatement to the NCAA, KU associate director Jim Marchiony told the Journal-World, “We cannot get into any particulars, but everyone is working together for a resolution that is best for all parties involved.”

Without knowledge of whether KU had submitted a request, it was hard to know whether the NCAA was simply moving slowly, as many critics claim, or if De Sousa’s case was even being reviewed at all.

Davis’ report, if accurate, would suggest that the NCAA, per standard procedure of eligibility reviews, has not even formally been reviewing De Sousa’s case.

However, the report also addresses what the NCAA has been doing while De Sousa has sat in street clothes waiting to find out more about his status, which has been in limbo as Kansas coach Bill Self voluntarily has elected to hold De Sousa out of competition while waiting for some kind of guidance or answer regarding whether the 6-foot-9 sophomore from Angola would be eligible if he played.

“Over the last three months, Kansas has been working directly with members of the NCAA’s enforcement division to investigate the matter and agree upon a set of facts,” Davis wrote. “There is no guarantee the NCAA will accede to Kansas’ wishes, and there is no standard for how long the NCAA must take to render a decision. However, the anticipated step raises the possibility that De Sousa could play for the Jayhawks this season.”

According to Davis’ sources, KU’s formal request to reinstate De Sousa is expected to be submitted to the NCAA’s Academic and Membership Affairs Group as early as this week.

KU officials on Monday morning had no further comment on De Sousa’s status or Davis’ report.

The violations in question, of course, stem from De Sousa's recruitment and its role in the recent college basketball corruption investigation, which revealed in federal trial that De Sousa's guardian, Fenny Falmagne, allegedly received a $60,000 payment from Under Armour to steer De Sousa to Maryland and later requested $20,000 from an Adidas rep to help him "get out from under" the Under Armour payment so De Sousa could attend KU.

Also in play is an alleged $2,500 payment from Adidas rep T.J. Gassnola to Falmagne to help De Sousa enroll in online classes so he could attend KU after graduating from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., a semester early.

Reply 51 comments from Dane Pratt Jayhawkmarshall Robin Smith Shannon Gustafson Barry Weiss Mike Hart Jaylark Kenneth Johnson Ervin O'Neal Eric Dawson and 21 others

First came the phone call, then the decision and, finally, a wild debut for KU freshman Ochai Agbaji

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) gets on the floor for a ball with TCU guard Kendric Davis (5) during the second half, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) gets on the floor for a ball with TCU guard Kendric Davis (5) during the second half, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It’s been 34 years since Kansas basketball coach Bill Self last scored a point in an NCAA basketball game. But credit Self directly with seven key points during No. 7 KU’s 77-68 victory over No. 25 TCU on Wednesday night.

Actually, credit Self’s cell phone provider.

Last Sunday night, roughly 24 hours after a 17-point road loss at Iowa State, and less than 12 hours after learning that he would lose 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike for the rest of the season, Self grabbed his phone and made a call to a player he believed would be a big part of KU’s distant future.

What Self did not know when he began dialing was that the future was now and that the call had the potential to change the way the rest of the season plays out for the Jayhawks.

“Sunday night, I got a call from Coach Self just saying they want to pull my redshirt,” Kansas freshman Ochai Agbaji recalled Wednesday night after scoring 7 points in 25 dazzling minutes of his KU debut. “And after that they just said I’ll be practicing with the blue squad, running with them, seeing how I feel the next two days before the game.”

What the Jayhawks saw Monday and Tuesday was the same thing they have seen since the Kansas City, Mo., prospect from Oak Park High first reported to campus last summer after shooting up the recruiting boards from unranked to Top 150 in a matter of days last winter.

“The first time we played pickup, he got bouncy, he dunked one, he hit a shot and I was like, ‘He’s straight, ain’t he,’” recalled KU junior Dedric Lawson after Wednesday’s victory. “We knew what type of player he could be.”

Energy. Effort. Passion. Poise. Pride. And more than a little game to go with it. Agbaji flashed all of that during this week’s practices and again on Wednesday night, when he helped No. 7 Kansas hold off No. 25 TCU at Allen Fieldhouse.

His presence on the floor and energy off the bench, helped spark a Kansas offense that had looked stagnant in recent games and was still searching for how to move forward without Azubuike.

“It all came really fast, but it was good,” Agbaji said of the sequence that led to him being in uniform, instead of in street clothes, on Wednesday night.

Conversations with Self, his parents and a few other people close to him, helped Agbaji reach the decision that he was ready to play. He admitted Wednesday that he paused a little before deciding to ditch the redshirt only because he wanted to make sure it would be worth it.

"He trusted me, so I just went along with it," Agbaji said of his head coach.

Self, who Wednesday called Agbaji, “a cool kid,” said on Monday, before any final decision had been made, that he would not pull Agbaji’s redshirt just to give him spot minutes. And the Hall-of-Fame Kansas coach backed it up during Agbaji’s first night in action, giving him 13 first-half minutes and 12 more in the second, including the final few as KU fought to hold off a late TCU run.

Asked what it meant to him to still be on the floor with the game on the line, Agbaji lit up.

“A lot,” he said. “I mean, I’ve never been in that position before. It was just very intense. It was just fun to play in.”

As for who he credited for keeping him calm and allowing him to operate more like a veteran than a wide-eyed rookie, Agbaji spoke of those who had experienced it before.

“It was really my teammates and the coaches,” he said. “They put me in the right position. They didn’t (put) any pressure on me to do anything, they just wanted me to make the right play and play to my athletic ability.”

Kansas sophomore Silvio De Sousa, one of Agbaji’s teammates who had been in the same situation more recently than most, also played a small role in Wednesday’s Agbaji launch party.

After checking out of the game for the first time following a stint of 7:08 on the floor in the first half — “They kept subbing and I was like, ‘I’m still in,’” Agbaji marveled — the 6-foot-5 freshman took a seat next to De Sousa on the KU bench.

“He was like, ‘It’s really different being out there,’” Agbaji recalled of De Sousa’s words in that moment. “I was like, ‘Oh, I’m tired,’ I was breathing really heavy. It really is (different) because you’re just having to think and there’s a lot going on.”

Said Self, referencing a similar path walked by De Sousa nearly one year ago to the day: “I asked Silvio, ‘What was it like your first time coming in?’ And his first time he touched it, he threw the ball to the fifth row behind the scorer’s table. He said, ‘He was good,’ considering he had that much poise and everything.”

One of the most impressive parts of Agbaji’s big night came long after the final horn had sounded. Sure, he was thrilled with how he played, even calling it “really good” during a postgame self-evaluation. And, yeah, he couldn’t wait to talk to his friends and family about his big night. But before all of that, Agbaji, on three separate occasions, made sure to point out that he could still get better.

It sounded a little like the words uttered by freshman point guard Devon Dotson throughout November and December and seemed sincere, not like he was searching for the right soundbite.

“It’s not easy to come into the Big 12 and play your first game (and) he was comfortable,” said Lawson, continuing to sing the praises of his young teammate. “He wasn’t rushed when he got the ball. He had poise. He knocked down shots. You have to tip your hat to a guy like that, who wasn’t highly recruited, with so much talent, to come in and produce for us. I’m glad he’s here.”

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Self on Tuesday’s “Hawk Talk:” Freshman guard Ochai Agbaji will play Wednesday vs. TCU

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji is pictured on Media Day, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji is pictured on Media Day, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The groundwork was laid a couple of days earlier, but the move became official on Tuesday night.

On his weekly "Hawk Talk" radio show on KLWN on Tuesday night, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self announced that freshman guard Ochai Agbaji would in fact be available to play during Wednesday's game against No. 25 TCU.

The move to bring Agbaji into the lineup will put an end to the plan to redshirt the 6-foot-5 freshman from Kansas City, Mo. And it figures to inject a little life into a KU roster searching for ways to move on without 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike, who was lost for the season after suffering a wrist injury during last Friday's practice.

Agbaji, of course, will not slide into the 7-foot center's position. But he will bring an added element of athleticism and perimeter depth to a team that figures to play a lot of four-guard lineups the rest of the way.

"We are bringing Ochai out of his redshirt and he will play tomorrow and moving forward," Self said on Tuesday night.

On Monday, Self revealed that he had talked to Agbaji and his family about a possible move. He also noted that he would not pull the redshirt off of the talented guard unless he intended to play him.

"We're going to play small a lot and we need depth," Self said Tuesday. "We need guys that can make some plays above the rim that you can't really teach. As far as athletic ability, he's the best athlete that we have on our team, so we're excited."

Just how much Agbaji will play, especially on Wednesday, remains to be seen. But his teammates have said he has looked great in practice and that his ability to defend and play above the rim would be an asset to the KU program.

“He's been great," fellow-freshman Devon Dotson said on Monday. "He can run the floor with the best of them. He’s really athletic, really fast, a high-flyer. He could really help us out.”

Dating back to last summer, Agbaji has approached his first season at KU with a team-first mentality 100 percent of the time. He said then that he would love to play but added that he would do whatever Self and the coaching staff thought was best for him and the team.

At the start of the season, that certainly was to redshirt to save a year of eligibility. But with the injury to Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa still facing an uncertain future, KU's depth has dwindled and the Jayhawks figure to be able to use Agbaji as a rotation piece who can keep things fresh on the perimeter and make some plays with his good attitude, all-out hustle and athletic ability alone.

People close to the program said Agbaji was one of the more talented and consistent players on KU's roster throughout the summer and called him a pleasant surprise given how late the Jayhawks landed him in the recruiting process.

He only has improved since then, both as a player and in terms of his physical make up, and has been a real asset in practice, pushing the starters and rotation guys as a member of the scout team on a daily basis.

In his last and lone action in a game setting at Allen Fieldhouse, Agbaji played 23 minutes in KU's two exhibition games, finishing 5-of-5 from the floor, 3-of-3 from 3-point range for 14 points and 7 rebounds. He added two turnovers, a block and a 1-of-2 clip from the free throw line in KU's wins over Emporia State and Washburn.

As Self mentioned on Monday, the stage Agbaji is stepping into on Wednesday night will be much different than those exhibition games and unlike anything the freshman guard ever has experienced.

But all signs point to him being ready and he certainly seems mature enough to handle it.

KU and TCU are scheduled to tipoff at 8 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN2 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Reply 15 comments from Tony Bandle Tim Orel Surrealku Boardshorts Armen Kurdian Layne Pierce Stuart Corder Dane Pratt Robert  Brock Bryce Landon and 3 others

The path to success is all about defense for Kansas basketball without Dok

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) and Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) stuff a shot attempt from Oklahoma guard Christian James (0) during the first second, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) and Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) stuff a shot attempt from Oklahoma guard Christian James (0) during the first second, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

While so much of the focus in the aftermath of Udoka Azubuike’s season-ending wrist injury has been on how the 7th-ranked Kansas basketball team will survive without its most dominant offensive player, the answer to the question might actually be found on the other end.

Sure, the Jayhawks will need to figure out a way to score some points — particularly the easy baskets that Dok was known for getting — but the better path to success for this KU team — which, oh, by the way, is still ranked in the Top 10 — might be through its defense.

Losing Azubuike will leave a void on the defensive end, as well, with the Jayhawks struggling to fill the massive void he leaves in the lane as one of the biggest presences in all of college basketball.

Azubuike wasn’t even that great of a shot blocker, but just seeing his 7-foot, 270-pound frame camped out close to the basket often made opponents think twice about attacking the rim.

“We didn’t have great shot blockers,” Self said Monday. “But Dok was a presence that at least people had to think about certain things.”

Freshman David McCormack, who stands 6-10, 250, and junior Mitch Lightfoot, who, at 6-9, 220 is the team’s best shot blocker, will be able to help in that area. But the increased focus on defense should and likely will extend beyond the paint.

Marcus Garrett and Devon Dotson are terrific and tenacious defenders. Lagerald Vick and Quentin Grimes have the size and athletic ability to be as good as they want to be. And the Jayhawks, even beyond those six players, still have a few other bodies that can provide the necessary depth to allow KU’s front-line players to go nuts on the defensive end.

I sort of picture this becoming like those old, dominant Nebraska Cornhusker football teams that had those stout defenses known as the Black Shirts.

Offensively, the Huskers only did a few things, but did them perfectly, and were able to execute so well that they had great success even though everybody knew what was coming. The defense handled the rest, with the mantra being, "If they don't score, we can't lose."

The Kansas basketball program won't hold anybody scoreless, of course. But that can be the sole goal on each possession.

While this shift, should it happen, might take some getting used to for the players, it’s right in Self’s wheelhouse.

Think about it. What, other than toughness, have you heard Self talk most about during his 16 years at Kansas? It’s all defense all the time for the KU coach, who constantly scours postgame box scores and pregame stat sheets to see how his teams stacked up on the defensive end.

Forcing an opponent to shoot less than 40 percent in a game from the floor gets Self going way more than watching his own team hit 50 percent or better from 3-point range. And steals, deflections and hustle plays that lead to easy buckets in transition are the things that send Self's fist-pumps flying, way more than any uncontested, two-handed monster jam.

Expect that mentality to be pulled, ever so gently, out of his players moving forward, with extra emphasis in practice, entire scouting reports built upon it and constant reminders in the huddle of that old reliable sports phrase that has served so many teams well in the past — defense wins.

For the past few seasons, Kansas has challenged that notion by riding the hot-shooting hand of half a dozen different players to three consecutive Elite Eights and one trip to the Final Four.

This team is not those teams and a new batch of sharpshooters is not walking through that door any time soon. So the Jayhawks have to change. And they have to adjust. And they have to lock in and focus on executing, all the way down to the smallest detail, exactly what the coaching staff asks them to do.

Can they do it? Sure. It won’t be easy and there will be lapses, but this lineup is more than capable.

Will they do it? You’re not alone if you’re sitting there wondering that right now.

“If you stop think about it, can we become totally opposite of what we’ve been?” Self asked on Monday. “Can we become a charge-taking team? Since we don't have shot blockers, can we become a team that’s better positionally, that you can’t get beat as much because you don’t have the guy behind? Could we be a team that maybe soft presses and (does) some things to create activity? Things like that, that maybe wouldn’t be in our best interest if you’re playing two bigs, stuff like that.”

“So we’ve got some stuff to look at,” Self added. “I don’t think we need to change who we are, but we do need to make some tweaks to allow us to have a different mindset, defensively, at least in some situations.”

Reply 8 comments from Cassadys Carsonc30 Surrealku Matt Tait Ashwingrao Jaylark Gh1992

Kansas point guard Devon Dotson named Big 12 newcomer of the week

Kansas' Devon Dotson (11) gets past Eastern Michigan's Malik Ellison (10) to put up a shot during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in Lawrence, Kan.

Kansas' Devon Dotson (11) gets past Eastern Michigan's Malik Ellison (10) to put up a shot during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in Lawrence, Kan. by Charlie Riedel/AP Photo

KU point guard Devon Dotson on Monday earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honors for his role in the Jayhawks’ runaway win over Eastern Michigan last Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Dotson, who has started all 12 KU games this season and is averaging 31.5 minutes per game, was 5-of-7 shooting with four assists, three steals, one blocked shot and three rebounds in the 87-63 in over the Eagles.

The Charlotte native’s .714 shooting percentage was his best of the season and his three steals and blocked shot tied his season highs. Dotson has scored in double figures in each of his last two games and eight times total so far in 2018-19. He leads Kansas with 37 assist and his 18 steals are tied for first on the team.

Dotson becomes the fourth different Jayhawk to earn Big 12 weekly honors this season, joining redshirt junior Dedric Lawson, who has earned both player and newcomer of the week honors, senior Lagerald Vick, a two-time player of the week, and freshman Quentin Grimes, who was named the Big 12 newcomer of the week on Nov. 12.

Asked Monday what he still would like to see from his fabulous freshman in terms of development and improvement, Kansas coach Bill Self pointed to the offensive end of the floor.

"As good as he’s done, and I think he’s done great, I still think he can get more assists, create easier baskets for Dok and Dedric than what we’re doing right now," Self said. "Even though he’s doing a good job of getting downhill, I just think simple plays — feeding the post, (throwing it to the) outside hand — those will be things that he’ll continue to get better on as he continues to move forward.”

Reply 1 comment from David Robinett

KU junior Dedric Lawson honored again by Big 12

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) shoots next to Arizona State forward Romello White during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) shoots next to Arizona State forward Romello White during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) by Associated Press

Mr. Double Double, Dedric Lawson, added to his in-season hardware haul this week, when the Big 12 Conference named him the conference's player of the week following his big performances against South Dakota and Arizona State.

Lawson, the conference's leader in scoring (20.6) and rebounding (11.4), earned his fifth weekly award of the season, three player of the week nods and two newcomer of the week honors.

Lawson posted back-to-back double-doubles with 16 points and 14 rebounds in a home win against South Dakota and a season-high 30 points — his first 30-pointer at KU — and 14 rebounds at No. 18 Arizona State last Saturday. He has recorded four double-doubles in a row and has a Big 12-leading eight for the season.

The Memphis native and preseason All-American was named Big 12 Player of the Week Nov. 12 and Nov. 26 while also earning Newcomer of the Week accolades on Dec. 2 and Dec. 17

In addition to the leading the Big 12 in double-doubles, Lawson also is the only player in the Big 12 currently averaging a double-double and one of four players in NCAA Division I averaging 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds.

After a short holiday break, Lawson and the Jayhawks will return to Allen Fieldhouse to host Eastern Michigan at 1 p.m. Saturday, when Lawson will try to make it five double-doubles in a row.

The game will be KU's final nonconference clash before the start of Big 12 play — Jan. 2 vs. Oklahoma at Allen Fieldhouse — and will be televised by Jayhawk TV and ESPN+.