Five-star Class of 2020 point guard R.J. Hampton on Thursday trimmed his list of finalists to 5, with Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, Memphis and TCU making the cut.
Hampton, a 6-foot-5, 170-pound prospect from Little Elm, Texas, is ranked No. 5 overall in the 2020 class by Rivals.com and is regarded by many recruiting analysts as a “can’t-miss” prospect.
Hampton recently caught up with Rivals analyst Corey Evans to give his thoughts on his 5 finalists. Of Kansas, the dynamic, play-making point guard said simply, “KU is college basketball. The atmosphere is second to none. Coach Self is a Hall of Famer. They always push for the title and the development, (and) the strength and conditioning program is top-notch. There is a lot to like about Kansas.”
Despite Thursday's news, Evans said fans should not expect the elite point guard to make a final decision any time soon.
"Like most heavily rated and coveted prospects, Hampton will likely wait until he has a greater grasp of the potential roster makeup of each of his finalists before considering his college destination," Evans wrote Thursday. "Whichever program he does select (can) expect a do-it-all guard who has evolved into a more-than-solid play-making (guard) who is at his best on the attack."
Here's a quick look at what Hampton told Evans about the rest of his finalists:
• Duke - “Coach K is amazing. Year after year, he puts his team in position to win the national championship."
• Kentucky - "It is Coach Cal and the way that he treats his players. He demands a lot out of you and you have to really work, but he wants nothing but for them to succeed."
• Memphis - “Playing for one of my idols would be great. Coach Penny (Hardaway) has revived the Memphis program and the staff is next level."
• TCU - “The TCU program is making strides year after year. Coach (Jamie) Dixon really lets his guards play. They recruit at a high level and the Big 12 is great basketball.”
The first 22 games of Quentin Grimes’ Kansas basketball career have been a self-described adventure of “ups and downs.”
While averaging just over 25 minutes per game and starting all 22 contests, Grimes has produced 7 double-figure scoring games, 5 games of 3 points or fewer and 10 games where he his final point total landed somewhere in between.
Before experiencing his first taste of Tuesday’s Sunflower Showdown, Grimes talked openly about his rookie season and the challenges he has encountered.
“It’s definitely been a struggle, for sure,” the former 5-star prospect and one-time projected lottery pick said. “But there’s always been those couple games where I almost broke out and have shown what I can do.”
One such moment came in his Kansas debut, where he scored a career-high 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting in a win over Michigan State at the Champions Classic.
His best stretch of the season came in late December/early January, when he reached double digits in 3 consecutive games — 16 vs. Eastern Michigan, 14 against Oklahoma and 19 at Iowa State — but he followed that up with 5 straight single-digit scoring efforts, including a 0-point outing in the rematch with Iowa State at Allen Fieldhouse.
Despite the rocky road and inconsistency that, to this point, has defined him as a college player, Grimes said his head has remained in a solid place.
“I feel like it’s going good,” he said. “I’m staying in the gym and not getting down on myself and, moving forward, I feel like I’m on the right track, moving in the right direction. So I feel like it’s going to end up pretty well for me and the team going forward.”
As for any ideas why the 6-foot-5, 210-pound guard from The Woodlands, Texas, has had to endure those ups and downs and episodes of inconsistency, Grimes had a theory on that, too.
“Maybe just trying to figure out the offense, trying to be maybe too perfect out there, trying to meet every need that coach Self wants out there,” the freshman said. “Just trying to be too perfect and not just going out there playing free.”
While the former No. 10 overall prospect in the Class of 2018 per Rivals.com has underwhelmed in many areas thus far, he also has done his best to stick with it. Grimes has a good support system — from friends and family to trainers and teammates — and those people, and others, have helped him keep his head up while trying to make the transition.
Of late, it’s been baby steps, and not big explosions, that have backed Grimes’ claim that he is moving in the right direction.
Against Texas Tech last Saturday, in a huge win for the Jayhawks, Grimes scored just six points, but also dished 4 assists and swiped 2 steals while grabbing 3 rebounds.
Those 2 steals pushed his total to 9 for the season, with 5 coming in the first 18 games and the remaining 4 coming in the last 4 games.
“That question’s asked, it seems like, every game,” Self said after being asked if Grimes’ recent outing possibly was a precursor for a breakthrough. “But, yeah, I thought he did some good things. … I do see some positives moving forward in things other than scoring,” Self added. “He had 9 paint touches off the bounce against Texas Tech. The game before he had 1.”
And therein lies what appears to be the key for Grimes’ production. On nights when he’s aggressive, good things usually come. On nights when he’s not, his numbers tend to underwhelm.
For the second game in a row, and the first time on the road, Kansas sophomore Marcus Garrett is expected to be in street clothes when the 13th-ranked Jayhawks travel to Manhattan on Tuesday night to take on Kansas State.
Garrett, who injured his left ankle during last Friday's afternoon practice ahead of KU's home game against Texas Tech, sat out of that one while wearing a walking boot on his left foot.
The Jayhawks, fueled by sensational defense and a wild home crowd, rolled over the Red Raiders, 79-63, in a game that wasn't that close, making the absence of Garrett much easier to stomach.
It remains to be seen if KU will encounter similar success against the Wildcats, but if they do, they'll have to do it without Garrett, who is widely regarded as the Jayhawks' best defensive player.
KU coach Bill Self confirmed as much Monday afternoon during a meeting with the media.
"I don't think so," Self said when asked if Garrett could play Tuesday. "I'd like to be able to tell you (he's) questionable, but that's wishful thinking. We're hopeful that he'll be able to go by this weekend."
After Tuesday's edition of the Sunflower Showdown, the Jayhawks return home for another Saturday game at Allen Fieldhouse against Oklahoma State. Tipoff is set for 11 a.m.
KU and K-State square off at 8 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN.
It’s rare, on a team with a so many players who have been through the battles before, to have a freshman step up and lead them.
And it’s almost unheard of for that to be the case when that freshman sat the first 15 games of the season and spent more time thinking about redshirting than contributing up to that point.
But that very well might be what’s happening with this Kansas men’s basketball team.
Never was that more evident than during last Saturday’s enormous home victory over No. 16 Texas Tech that, at least momentarily, righted KU’s ship and kept the Jayhawks (17-5 overall, 6-3 Big 12) right in the thick of things in the hunt for this season’s Big 12 crown.
Ochai Agbaji is that freshman. And with each passing game, the 6-foot-5 guard from Kansas City, Mo., continues to flex his leadership muscles and show the world that his contributions to this Kansas team go well beyond high-flying dunks, defensive effort, infectious energy and trying to keep from hitting his head on the backboard.
Agbaji, who made his second consecutive start for Kansas in Saturday’s 79-63 win over No. 16 Texas Tech, scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in KU’s latest victory.
His numbers earned Agbaji Big 12 newcomer of the week honors, but what he did in terms of leadership during the Jayhawks’ most recent victory was at least equally as impressive as the stats he posted.
The problem with freshmen leading a team at this level comes from the fact that just about every experience they encounter is new.
First road game. First game against a Big 12 team. First Big 12 road game. First game on a huge national stage. First time talking to the media after a great game. First time talking to the media after things went wrong.
The list goes on and on and does not ever truly end until freshmen become sophomores.
But Agbaji’s actions run counter to that argument. He carries himself like a player who has been there before, and, new or not, he doesn’t seem to mind stepping into a leadership role even while experiencing things around him for the first time.
After the game, Agbaji attributed any credit for his enhanced leadership to a total team effort in that area, saying, “I think it was everybody, really, that stepped up. We kind of held each other accountable throughout the game and our leadership just kind of spread around all five of us on the court.”
But actions speak louder than words and nobody’s actions, in terms of leadership, were more noticeable than Agbaji’s against Texas Tech.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights:
• With Tech on the free-throw line and the Jayhawks taking their spots outside of the lane, it was Agbaji who shouted and gestured, “Hey! Everybody box out. Go for the ball. We’ve got to go for the ball.”
Obvious stuff, to be sure, but the sequence followed a couple of trips where the Red Raiders got easy offensive rebounds on long misses.
• During a break in the action, as officials prepared to put the ball in play for an inbounds pass, Agbaji calmly looked out toward Devon Dotson and winked while asking, “Hey Dot, you good?”
Dotson nodded and play continued. It wasn’t the biggest moment in the game or anything that most people would’ve even noticed, but it illustrated Agbaji’s awareness of all things happening on the court and his willingness to check in with his teammates to make sure they were in good shape.
It’s a simple gesture, of course. But it’s so impressive in this case because Dotson has played in 22 games for the Jayhawks and Agbaji has played in just 8. It would be real easy for him to be worried most about himself and his play while still trying to settle in, but, clearly, Agbaji feels comfortable enough out there to keep an eye on everybody.
• A while later, again with Tech on the free-throw line, it was Agbaji who sought out the information — “Who’s got shooter?” — while trying to make sure assignments were in place. Fellow freshman Quentin Grimes answered, telling Agbaji that senior guard Lagerald Vick, on Agbaji’s side, had the responsibility of boxing out the shooter and the Jayhawks secured the rebound on the missed free throw.
For what it’s worth, and to Agbaji’s point about all five guys stepping up, Grimes also was more vocal than normal with his directions and answers during Saturday’s game. So credit him improved leadership, as well. There’s just something more commanding and more natural about the way Agbaji leads. It’s like he was born to do it.
• Case in point, later in the game, after an and-one bucket by Dotson in transition, Agbaji raced by the KU point guard, high-fiving him along the way, and immediately sought out freshman forward David McCormack while the rest of the gym celebrated Dotson’s bucket.
“Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave,” Agbaji yelled, trying to get McCormack’s attention so he could help explain to him — and encourage him — what went wrong a few possessions earlier when McCormack had the ball stripped from him in the post.
• Late in the game, after a defensive foul called on Dotson sent the KU point guard toward the referee both to seek an explanation and voice his displeasure with the call, Agbaji cooly walked by Dotson and pulled him away from the official back toward the KU bench.
It’s not that Dotson was in jeopardy of getting a technical foul or anything crazy like that that made Agbaji’s move worth noting — more the fact that Agbaji was clearly operating with the mentality that what's done is done and it's time to focus on what comes next. That's what coaches beg for and love to see from players of all ages.
Leadership, of course, comes in all shapes and sizes and is a trait that, even when being done differently, can be equally effective through many styles.
But in Agbaji, the Jayhawks appear to have found the total package — a player who both leads by example and isn’t afraid to do the talking necessary to make sure the entire team is clicking and doing what needs to be done.
I’d imagine the freshman’s leadership skills are only going to grow from here — both the rest of this season and well into the future.
A home victory over ranked Texas Tech and a road loss at Texas in the last week resulted in KU dropping two spots in the latest Associated Press Top 25, released Monday.
The Jayhawks (17-5 overall, 6-3 Big 12) are now ranked No. 13 heading into their Tuesday night showdown with Kansas State in Manhattan.
The Wildcats, who sit atop the Big 12 standings with Baylor at 6-2, are unranked in this week’s poll but, like the Bears, are receiving votes.
Kansas is one of three Big 12 teams ranked in this week’s poll, with Iowa State at No. 17 and Texas Tech at No. 18.
The Jayhawks have played seven teams in the current Top 25 — with 4 of them residing in the Top 10 — and already have wins over teams ranked 1st, 9th, 10th, 17th and 18th on their 2018-19 resume.
Kansas currently ranks 14th in the KenPom.com rankings and 17th in the new NET rankings, which are being used this season in place of the RPI ratings of the past.
AP Top 25, Feb. 4, 2019:
1 – Tennessee, 20-1 (48)
2 – Duke, 19-2 (12)
3 – Virginia, 20-1 (4)
4 – Gonzaga, 21-2
5 – Kentucky, 18-3
6 – Nevada, 21-1
7 – Michigan, 20-2
8 – North Carolina, 17-4
9 – Michigan State, 18-4
10 – Marquette, 19-3
11 – Virginia Tech, 18-3
12 – Houston, 21-1
13 – Kansas, 17-5
14 – Villanova, 18-4
15 – Purdue, 16-6
16 – Louisville, 16-6
17 – Iowa State, 17-5
18 – Texas Tech, 17-5
19 – Wisconsin, 16-6
20 – Iowa, 17-5
21 – LSU, 17-4
22 – Florida State, 16-5
23 – Buffalo, 19-3
24 – Maryland, 17-6
25 – Cincinnati, 19-3
Others receiving votes: Washington 135, Mississippi St. 133, Auburn 128, Kansas St 114, Baylor 44, Wofford 15, Lipscomb 5, Syracuse 3.
Tuesday night, after a 10-point loss at Texas, Kansas coach Bill Self promised that he would do more to help fix KU’s struggling offense.
It remains to be seen how well the buttons he pushes work on game day, but the work definitely has begun.
Freshmen guards Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji on Friday briefly explained the things the Jayhawks have emphasized during the film sessions and practice time since the Texas loss. And, according to Dotson, the new mentality has a lot to do with attacking quicker and more often.
“He’s just made some tweaks in the offense, just getting right into things sooner and just getting more aggressive with things,” Dotson explained. “Changing some sets here and there. Just tweaking it to make it better.”
As the team’s point guard, Dotson said he thought a lot of the initiation of the new offense would fall on his shoulders and he added that overall leadership was another popular topic this week.
“That’s something that this team needs right now and we just keep working at it and leading each other in the right direction and helping each other out.”
Changing things on the fly, whether it’s the offense or the voice, or voices, leading a team, can be difficult. And, from the sound of things, that has held true for the Jayhawks this week.
“Practice yesterday was kind of a struggle,” Agbaji said before Friday’s practice. “But today we’re going to come in with positive attitudes. I know everybody’s just going to lift each other up.”
Asked to explain why, or how, things were off during Thursday’s practice, Agbaji pointed to energy as much as anything.
“Things weren’t really going offensively,” he said. “Nobody was really up. There was no emotion. We were kind of flat yesterday. We’re going to figure it out today, though.”
Asked for his assessment of his team's Thursday practice, Self said simply, "It was fine."
"I don’t know if I’d say great, but it was fine," he added. "We put in some new stuff and some new wrinkles so yesterday was kind of a day where guys were trying to get comfortable, but it was fine.”
Before Thursday’s practice, during KU’s regular film session, Agbaji said the Jayhawks “fixed some of our offense,” and then tried to implement and execute the changes during practice.
“(To) make it more simple for Dedric (Lawson) to get touches because, obviously, he’s going to be getting a lot more attention as we move on throughout the Big 12 Conference,” Agbaji said.
Lawson, KU’s leading scorer and All-American candidate who currently averages 19.2 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, has struggled in the past two games.
Partly because of the defense played against him and partly because of the lack of offensive support from his teammates, Lawson has made just 11 of 33 shots in KU’s back-to-back losses while still finding a way to put up 33 total points and 22 rebounds in those setbacks.
While the offensive changes might take some time to fine-tune, Dotson said the team was trending toward getting over the rough 72-hour stretch in Kentucky and Texas.
"You know, that Tuesday loss (at Texas) hit kind of hard, but you’ve just got to forget about it and move forward to Texas Tech (3 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse),” Dotson said. “I feel like we’re in a positive state. We know we have a big one Saturday. It’s a huge game for us and we’re just preparing this week for it and getting ready for it. (Thursday’s) practice, I feel like we were all pretty much together. We communicated. We just wanted to get better and I feel like this week should be a big week for us.”
In case you needed more of a reason to label the upcoming couple of days a monster weekend for Kansas basketball, here’s a reminder that Top 10 2019 prospect Matt Hurt is coming to town for an official visit.
And he’ll be treated to a doozy, with the 11th-ranked Jayhawks, losers of 2 straight and 5 of their last 11 games, playing host to No. 16 Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse, in a game that figures to have a massive impact on the Big 12 race and KU’s hopes of extending its consecutive title streak to 15 later this season.
Both teams enter the game at 5-3 in the Big 12, a half game behind Kansas State and Baylor at 5-2.
That alone makes Saturday’s 3 p.m. game bigger than most. But add to it the fact that KU will be hosting one of its most important recruiting targets in some time and it turns a nice little Saturday into a huge weekend.
Ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 7 overall player in the 2019 class, Hurt will be back in Allen Fieldhouse with a completely different perspective than he had during his previous trips.
Unlike those visits, which came when he was much younger and were of the unofficial variety, this one is the real deal. Not only will the KU coaching staff get the entire 2 days to devote their time to hosting Hurt and his family, but Hurt will arrive with the idea that, one way or the other, he’s going to have to make a college decision in the next couple of months.
For the most part, Hurt’s recruitment has been kept pretty quiet. The 6-foot-9, 200-pound versatile forward from John Marshall High in Rochester, Minn., has long been one of the top prospects in the class — and at the very top of KU’s wish list for big men in the 2019 crop — but he has not been that loud about his process.
No weekly updates. No must-see videos on Twitter or Instagram. Hardly even any updates of any kind, for that matter.
Last week, Hurt was named to the 2019 McDonald’s All-American team and, in December, Hurt scored the 3,000th point of his prep career. Not much, outside of Minnesota, was made about either achievement and that appears to be just the way Hurt likes it.
Still, you can’t say too much about how important Hurt is for Kansas’ 2019 recruiting class.
With solid backcourt pieces Christian Braun and Mackey McBride already signed, the Jayhawks need to add a big man and Hurt is the perfect option. In addition to bringing good size and athleticism, he is known as a lights-out shooter and that trait alone would go a long way toward making an immediate impact on the offensively challenged Jayhawks.
“Matt Hurt is one of those players in a recruiting class that can instantly make a class great,” said KUsports.com recruiting insider Matt Scott. “The ultra-skilled wing from Minnesota can simply do it all on the offensive end of the court. He can score at all levels and is a matchup nightmare for opponents because he can play multiple positions.”
But landing Hurt would have a much greater impact on this program than elevating its final ranking in the 2019 class into the Top 10 or Top 20.
It would be a sign that there all is well in Lawrence despite a rougher than expected 2018-19 season and Kansas missing out on a few other top prospects, most notably Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who chose Villanova earlier this winter.
“For Kansas, Hurt is exactly the player the program needs,” Scott added. “He can play with bigs or play small ball. He can play in transition or in the half court. He simply is a player that defense have to pay attention to, which can create opportunities for his teammates.”
The Jayhawks remain in the running for a few other Top 40 prospects in the 2019 class, including No. 16 prospect Precious Achiuwa (6-9, 215, Montverde, Fla.), No. 33 prospect Cassius Stanley (6-5, 185, Chatsworth, Calif.) and others.
But there’s no doubt that, given the time and resources the Kansas coaches have spent on recruiting him and the enormous talent he possesses, Hurt is the marquee name still available on KU’s wish list in the 2019 class.
“This kid is the most important official visitor in some time for the KU program,” Scott said. “Why? Because he’s a perfect fit for the Jayhawks.”
From his own temporary posts on Instagram that express his frustration to the tired tone in his head coach’s voice, the Silvio De Sousa waiting game appears to be taking its toll on the Kansas basketball program.
While both De Sousa and the Jayhawks remain hopeful that the NCAA will provide some kind of answer regarding his eligibility for the remainder of the 2018-19 season, waiting on that answer continues to be a disappointing endeavor.
Asked Wednesday night on his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show if there were any update on De Sousa’s status, Kansas coach Bill Self once again had nothing new to report.
“No, no. It’s beyond frustration,” Self said. “And if we’re frustrated, imagine what the kid is. But he’s handled it beautifully.”
Although De Sousa has continued to work hard in practice and kept a good attitude around his teammates, Self said the sophomore forward who no doubt would provide the Jayhawks with a big lift for the final 10 games of the regular season if he were cleared, continues to struggle with the situation more and more each week.
A couple of weeks ago, Self characterized De Sousa as “crushed” by the situation. On Wednesday night, he went into a little more detail.
“He comes in every day and asks what’s new and comes in happy and leaves out sad, it seems like, because we don’t have any information to tell him,” Self said. “We’re still holding out hope that we’ll have information for him, but it’s been very disappointing that we haven’t been told anything yet. I’m sure that in whoever’s mind, there’s good reason that’s the case. But, for the youngster’s sake, it’s certainly been very frustrating.”
Meanwhile, De Sousa, who has not been made available for interviews since KU’s media day back in October, has posted temporary messages on Instagram during the past several days, all falling under the theme of begging someone to make some kind of decision.
However, even if that decision came back today and was positive for De Sousa and Kansas, Self cautioned against expecting too much too soon from the power forward from Angola.
In short, De Sousa might, for a week or two anyway, more closely resemble the player who struggled last winter than the player who helped the Jayhawks big time in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments last March.
“He’s gotten better, there’s no question,” Self said. “But the reality of it is you can grow and get better but you can’t really practice him with the first group unless you have a good hunch that he would be declared eligible because you’d be taking reps away from guys that need that.”
“We don’t have the depth to practice 2 and a half hours every day. So he’s been basically with the scout team. And his attitude’s been great and he’s picked that stuff up really quickly. So he’ll be better because one thing that he’s learned how to do is he can (is understand), ‘OK, Iowa State runs this and he’ll remember how to run it, or Oklahoma does this,’ and for him to have to force himself to remember how all these other teams do things, that will help him with executing what we’re trying to do.”
But running scout team offense and trying to help a struggling Kansas offense on game night are two completely different things, Self said.
“The reality of it is, there’s no pressure playing on the scout team,” the coach explained. “If you throw it away, it’s not like it’s the end of the Earth. And getting guys to play the same way they would with Dedric (Lawson), when you’re playing with walk-ons, is a little bit different. Because on the scout team he knows he’s got to score or do whatever and sometimes you can develop some bad habits.”
Noting that he was speaking with more than a little blind faith, Self added: “Whenever he’s told that he could play, if that day ever comes, it’s still going to take a while before he’s ready to step in and be an impact guy. … If it does happen, it’s still not going to happen overnight, as far as impact. But we have no indication it’s going to happen, though, although we still ask every day and (are) holding out hope.”
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.
KU forward Dedric Lawson has responded by being much tougher on the glass since his dud at Baylor earlier this month
At the time, during a road game at Baylor back on Jan. 12, the Jayhawks were playing for just the third time this season after learning that junior center Udoka Azubuike would be sidelined the rest of the way.
So, it’s possible that Kansas junior Dedric Lawson was still adjusting that day.
If that’s the case, consider Lawson fully adjusted. Never was that more obvious than Saturday night, in Lexington, Ky., where Lawson recorded yet another double-double and did everything in his power to make sure Kansas competed on the glass with the bigger, stronger Kentucky front court.
Lawson finished Saturday’s loss to the Wildcats with 15 rebounds — 4 offensive and 11 on the defensive end — outdoing the combined total of KU’s next three leading rebounders in the game.
It wasn’t that way back in Waco, Texas, where Lawson finished with just three rebounds against Baylor on a day when Kansas got whipped on the glass, 49-30.
After the game, Lawson immediately questioned whether it was the worst rebounding game of his career and Kansas coach Bill Self also had no problem calling Lawson out for his poor effort on the glass that day.
Evidently, that’s all it took for Lawson to get things fixed.
In KU’s four games since that Baylor victory, Lawson is averaging 12.3 rebounds per game and has reached double-digits three times. 15 against Kentucky. 15 against Iowa Stat. 11 at West Virginia and 8 in a home win over Texas.
While those types of efforts have been big for Kansas in all four of those games, his willingness to go to war on the glass was absolutely huge on Saturday against Kentucky.
“We’re obviously very light in the butt, to put it mildly,” Self said after the loss. “And going against big, heavy bodies, and men, a fifth-year guy (Reid Travis) and P.J. Washington’s beyond his years, physically, and Nick (Edwards) is, as well. Basically, we’ve got one guy really ready to go against that, and that’s an awful lot to ask from one guy.”
Lawson didn’t mind. Instead of making excuses or whining about not getting help, the junior transfer simply said situations like those required players stepping up to the plate and finding a way to get the job done.
Lawson’s doing that. And Self believes double-digit rebounding efforts might be a little easier to come by in the weeks ahead provided Lawson continues to bring the energy and focus that he’s had since that Baylor game.
“Our league has some length,” Self said. “But they don’t have length like Richards, at least since it seems like all the big guys in our league are getting hurt.”
Next up, Kansas will face Texas at 6 p.m. on Tuesday night in Austin, Texas, and Lawson will look to make it four out of five double-digit rebounding efforts in that one.
In KU’s first meeting with the Longhorns, which came two days after that outing against Baylor, Lawson grabbed 8 rebounds, all on the defensive end.