Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Benton Smith: Lack of leadership evident during Jayhawks’ recent road woes

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) drives past Texas guard Courtney Ramey (3) to score during the first half on an NCAA college basketball game in Austin, Texas, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) drives past Texas guard Courtney Ramey (3) to score during the first half on an NCAA college basketball game in Austin, Texas, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)


Austin, Texas — Call it a lack of leadership, the absence of a coldblooded mindset, relative inexperience or all of the above. But this Kansas basketball team doesn’t yet know how to win on the road.

The evidence against the Jayhawks turning this season into one that will be deemed as acceptable or memorable in basketball-crazed Lawrence mounted Tuesday night at Frank Erwin Center, where KU trailed for more than 37 minutes of a 73-63 loss at Texas.

The Longhorns, losers of five of their previous six games before topping KU, confounded the Jayhawks as much as a hot Kentucky team did in front of a far more packed arena with exceedingly more engaged fans three days earlier.

The venue doesn’t matter. Nor does the atmosphere. The fact is, KU’s players don’t handle adversity inside opponent’s arenas in the same way they would inside Allen Fieldhouse.

The Jayhawks’ record in true road games dropped to 1-5 on the season with their third consecutive defeat on a foe’s home floor.

An irritated Lagerald Vick told his teammates in the locker room afterward, Dedric Lawson shared, that the Jayhawks aren’t any good on the road.

Vick’s words aren’t inaccurate.

But the senior guard also could help matters if it were possible for him to break out of his normal persona and provide some of his far less experienced teammates with the guidance they need in these very situations.

Ochai Agbaji, following his 24-point performance in his first career start — in what was just his seventh college basketball game — was asked for any theories he may have about what issues have torpedoed KU on the road.

“Coach was talking about it in the locker room, which I agree with him,” Agbaji began, “just the lack of leadership, really. I mean, this has been a struggle throughout the season.”

The number of games remaining for somebody to emerge on that front and fill that void is beginning to dwindle, which makes the idea of one of KU’s six primary rotations players suddenly changing character and making it happen seem less than likely.

”I think that’s something we really need to work on,” Agbaji offered, “or someone needs to step up.”

If that and other factors aren’t fixed soon, how can this same group of Jayhawks (16-5 overall, 5-3 Big 12) be expected to win at Kansas State next week or at Texas Tech in late February?

KU is now 1-3 in road conference games, a fact that, as of Tuesday night, had KU tied for second in the Big 12 standings, a half-game behind co-leaders K-State and Baylor (the one league team KU has defeated on the road so far).

Now that Bill Self has witnessed his team win just one road game and lose five — at Arizona State, Iowa State, West Virginia, Kentucky and Texas — he has spotted a common theme.

Even though he called KU’s 1-5 road mark a “B.S. stat,” adding, “Look at who we played,” before admitting, “It should be better than 1 and 5, I agree with you a thousand percent on that,” Self’s big-picture view of what ails the Jayhawks when they’re away boils down to coming through at crucial junctures.

“I do think winning important points,” Self said of one attribute that’s lacking. “Basketball’s a lot like tennis, too. There’s certain games in a tennis match and certain points that are more important to win than other points. You get a chance to break you’ve got to win that point.

“I don’t play tennis, but I think it sounds pretty intellectual,” Self joked of his analogy. “But basketball’s the same way. There’s certain possessions, you’ve got to get a stop. You’ve go to get a stop under five on the shot clock. And you’ve got to maybe manufacture a basket, under five on the shot clock. But still we get three shot clock violations and they score at the end of the clock.”

On a night when KU’s offense was ugly at best against the Longhorns (12-9, 4-4), the visitors somehow still had some life in the game’s final stages.

Lawson hit a 3-pointer with 1:01 remaining to cut UT’s lead to 4. But when the Jayhawks needed a defensive rebound with Kerwin Roach shooting a one-and-one at the foul line, Texas came up with the offensive board.

“That was not why we lost, but that eliminated (KU’s best chance),” Self said. “That and the possession (just before) where we were down four after they turned it over.”

At that juncture, Lawson was open up top for another 3-pointer, that would’ve cut it to 1.

“Dedric got a decent shot, but it was definitely too deep,” Self said. “That was probably a situation where we probably would have been better off driving it.”

The Jayhawks would have given themselves a much better chance of winning at Texas had they come through with consistent effort and focus, too. Those intangibles, as well as just a willingness to fight and compete, have to start with someone. Even if it’s a different player every game that sets the tone it needs to happen.

“That’s the difference in winning and losing, things like that,” Self said of KU’s inability to close possessions with winning plays on either end of the floor. “And I do think those are things that are correctable. But when you go back over time, I think the consistent theme on a lot of our situations when we’re playing good talent away from home is we have less margin for error. And when you give away possessions, it’s hard to come back from that.”


Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 10 months ago

This team doesn't need A leader. Anyone of them should be a leader. Lead others to make easy buckets. Screen for others, etc. TOs# ~= Asst# tells us that this team doesn't play together well.

Been telling this, but if you don't coach the players to make the right decision, act quickly, it's a recipe of a disastrous team. Seems like our players practice Xs & Os drills too much without getting equipped with skills development. How many do we scores from jumpshoots? How many lobs/dunks? We've got kids who have the tools, and yet they're rarely displayed. Dok and Sousa are not the only ones who can dunk in this team. I'm glad Ochai played significant minutes today. He's really coming along at the right time.

Ashwin Rao 3 years, 10 months ago

This was meant to happen... a (hopefully one!) down year after being spoiled for 14+ years. I am glad that we have the record for the most conference wins.

Hopefully, we come together and, in addition get De Sousa back into the team, and we make a deep inroad into NCAA tourney.

Marc Frey 3 years, 10 months ago

De Sousa will not play, I have believed this since the shoe scandal hit. KU can chance it, and the NCAA is dragging its feet hoping De Sousa declares and leaves. Its late January...he is not going to play.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 10 months ago

The NCAA ruled that Miami's Dewan Hernandez would have to sit out the remainder of the 2018-19 season and 40% of 2019-20 for entering into an agreement and accepting benefits from an agent. Not sure what the benefits were, and how they relate to SDS, but just getting an answer is encouraging.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 10 months ago

its been a strange year as far as individual players being consistent from one game to the next. Every game someone who broke out the prior game fades into the shadows. Dedric is about the only player who you can count on to playing his normal game from one to the next. last night we had 3 starters...garrett, grimes and dotson who combined for 14 points. that is not going to cut it on the road. my guess is that Agbaji starts our next game and either Vick or Grimes comes off the bench.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 10 months ago

Agbaji should replace Vick. Vick came off the bench because Self thought it would light a fire under his ass. It didn't have the desired effect.

[''] 3 years, 10 months ago

Because Vick is a terrible teammate and not a team player. If its not about him he doesn't care. Ochai is 100X more solid, consistent and mature - and we are talking FR vs SR. Grow up Vick!

Dirk Medema 3 years, 10 months ago

Did they give any explanation at the beginning of the game (I missed the start) about why Vick didn't start? The even bigger deal though was that he didn't start the 2nd half - though deservedly so.

There was one image of him on his way off the court after being subbed of him scowling and barking at a teammate I believe. It reminded me of a similar image from a game earlier this year of him walking to a timeout with the same appearance directed at Devon. While I'm not certain about what was being said about either situation, and fully recognize that leaders sometimes need "Tough Love", it didn't appear that both words were embodied in either exchange. It also seems questionable that a player who's being benched in both halves of a game should be barking at teammates.

Coach Self made the comments during the summer and fall about Vick doing everything he had been asked to do and more to return to the team. I'm wondering if Coach would make that same comment now.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 10 months ago

Any chance we can add some football players to the roster? They can't do any worse than the guys we currently have.

Jay Scott 3 years, 10 months ago

Any chance we can add some 5 year olds to make comments? They can't do any worse than the guys we currently have...

Bryce Landon 3 years, 10 months ago

Any chance the LJW could ban your pompous ass from this site?

Jay Scott 3 years, 10 months ago

Bryce. I'm sorry that you get upset when your comments are accurately described. If you stopped posting the kind of nonsense above, you'd need not worry.

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 10 months ago

If anyone were to get removed it would be you and your sexist remarks. One of these days I'll post pictures of you on here so everyone can get a good laugh at who's behind this keyboard cowboy persona.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 10 months ago

Bryce - While recognizing your sarcasm, aren't you also the person that transferred to Iowa for the football season? Do you know anything about KU football players.

Bill Lamson 3 years, 10 months ago

It's hard not to be incredibly frustrated with this year, especially after having been spoiled for so long, but let's be honest...we've had some very bad luck. You can't deny that if we had Dok and Silvio, let alone even one of them, this would be a TOTALLY different team. Either of them would take a lot of pressure of Lawson in the paint and that would then trickle down to the other younger players not feeling as much pressure. So we're really asking players to do things they weren't expecting to do at the beginning of the season, and almost all of them are very young and inexperienced. The fact that we're even in the running for the league this year is a pretty good accomplishment.

Jay Scott 3 years, 10 months ago

More comments from Bill Lamson please!

Jason Venable 3 years, 10 months ago

There are several freshman being asked to do things on other teams, and they are producing at high levels. Why is it so different for ours? Agbaji is a stud.

RJ King 3 years, 10 months ago

Jason, to which freshmen specifically do you refer?

Duke's Barrett, Redish and Williamson have each other, and were ranked 1, 2, 3 (correct?). Johnson and Herro are producing at Kentucky - along with sophomore PJ Washington and 23-year-old Reid Travis.

Nassir Little is struggling at UNC. Bol Bol and King are flourishing at Oregon - which is 12-8 and 8th in the pathetic Pac-12. Charles Bassey doing well for Western Kentucky (11-10 and 7th on Conference USA). Romeo is shining at Indiana, but surrounded by plenty of upper classmen. Hoosiers are 12-8, and 8th in the Big 10, btw.

At one point we had FOUR freshman on the floor against Kentucky.

Give us some examples (other than Duke) of multiple freshmen in the starting lineup - or playing 25-30 minutes per game, producing at high levels, and WINNING games against TOP SOS competition. Until then, I'm agreeing with Bill Lamson.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 10 months ago

He never mentioned anything about having multiple freshmen on the court at the same time. Once again, you missed the point.

It was a simple question. Why haven't OUR freshmen such as McDonald's All-American's David McCormack, Grimes, and Dotson produced anywhere near as well as expected?

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 10 months ago

Dotson has produced as expected. Nobody should be complaining about what he's doing as a Freshman PG. He's one of the best Freshman PG's we've had here, at least in the modern era. He's ahead of Mason & Graham at this point in their career and Sharon may be the best competition for him so far.

McCormack got a high ranking in a down year. He would likely be a 50-60's ranked guy any other year. For that ranking he's about where he should be. He'd likely be better right now if he was getting more minutes but when the team wins or loses every game by a possession or two you're either playing to win or playing to develop, you can't do both.

Grimes has been a turd, no argument there.

Agbaji has VASTLY exceeded expectations.

By my count that's 2 of them at or above expectations,1 around expectations, and 1 well below.

Quickley or whatever can't even get off the bench for a not very good 'Nova team this year. Langford is scoring a lot but he's shooting worse from 3 than Garrett or Grimes and is scoring through volume (because he's on a crap team so he has to be ball dominant). Herro came was supposed to be a sharpshooter but he's shooting 18% from 3 (worse than Garrett or Grimes by a long shot). He's only playing because of defense.

There are plenty of examples of Freshman flourishing or not. The bias comes from the fact that nobody talks about the ones having a bad season elsewhere but yet the great ones get national attention. So fans only know the "bad" Freshman on their own team and not elsewhere.

RJ King 3 years, 10 months ago

Once again??? Marius, I didn't miss the point. Perhaps I missed a comma here or there, or perhaps Shannon Gustafson is simply much better than me at articulating a point.

I was saying that many other freshmen who are "being asked to do things on other teams and are producing at high levels" are playing alongside the likes of Reid Travis, or at least a handful of upper classmen. Some of the others are producing, but not necessarily winning. (or producing against weaker competition.)

You're right. Jason never mentioned anything about having multiple freshmen on the court at the same time. I didn't miss the point. That IS my point. That most of the other freshmen - except perhaps at Duke and Kentucky - get to play alongside sophomores or upper classmen. That's an advantage, not only to relieve the pressure, but to slide in an already well-oiled machine.

Mine was an honest question to Jason. Not snarky. I just wanted a comparison of apples to apples. The answer to your question is the same as above, and the same as Shanon's:

McCormack hasn't played enough to even provide a sample size, let alone grow and improve much. Grimes has obviously underperformed, and Dotson is every bit as good or better than advertised. Throw in Ochai and you have another over-achiever.

But throw them ALL IN TOGETHER - or even just 2 or 3 on the floor??? Sometimes the "whole" is nowhere near the sum of its parts.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 10 months ago

Bill - Definitely agree with you about bad luck and such, but the very fact that Ochai is even in the lineup is because several players (Garrett, Grimes, Moore, KJ, and maybe Mitch and McCormick too) are not living up to their expectations going into the season. This would be a TOTALLY different team if any of those players (preferably more) were living up to expectations.

Accept for Dedric and Dotson, it would seem to me that no one has really met expectations on a consistent basis. And really the times of meeting expectations just highlight the general underachievement.

David McNickle 3 years, 10 months ago

No rim protector. No shooters. No one takes the ball to the hole and finishes. No leadership(although in another year I think Dotson will be one). What we thought would be our biggest strength is now a glaring weakness(inside play on both ends). And our one senior is either hot or no factor. It's all the makings of round of 32 exit. Another thing to look at is we have had one player ineligible or someone significant with a season ending injury for the last 5 or 6 years.

Jason Venable 3 years, 10 months ago

This^^^ "Another thing to look at is we have had one player ineligible or someone significant with a season ending injury for the last 5 or 6 years.". There is something very wrong going on in our program. Several players have been ineligible. or have been involved with some type of legal problem. It's happened quite a bit under Self's watch. I haven't read anything about UNC, UK, MSU, Duke or any other top program where this happening. It's more than mere coincidence at this point. And it seems like when we get some of the late signees those are the ones that are questionable.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 10 months ago

Do you really think that ineligible players and injured players are related?

How many article, and how closely do you follow the other programs?

Maybe it's just a matter of not noticing.

SDS would have been considered an early commit except that he also reclassified.

David McNickle 3 years, 10 months ago

Injuries and ineligible players are not related. But that doesn't mean they aren't factors with this team for the last few years. Losing Embid completely changed that team. Losing Dok completely changed this team. Having Silvio this year would have been nice. Having Preston last year could have helped. If you don't recruit like Duke, UK, and now Nova, you can't afford to lose an Alexander, a Preston, or even a DeSousa. I'm saying, losing a significant player every year, one you were counting on for big contributions, every year, is a significant impact. This has gone on for the last 5 or 6 years.

3 years, 10 months ago

'Even though he called KU’s 1-5 road mark a “B.S. stat,” adding, “Look at who we played,” : OK: a 'top-ish' level team in the Awful Pac12, 2 middling & 1 Last Place B12 teams, & a (granted) tough UK team whose White Guy from Wisconsin (for F's sake-Herro) Owned LGV. not sure "BS stat" is necesarily accurate. we cant handle the road atmosphere w no leadership. maybe Ochai steps up-he's Giannis just missing 6". season aint over yet tho. rcjh

Jay Scott 3 years, 10 months ago

Herro had 6 points on 2-9 vs Vick. Vick has 10 pts on 4-9. Is that what "owning" looks like?

Is your point that a white kid can't guard? Maybe commenting in public isn't wise for you...

Armen Kurdian 3 years, 10 months ago

The team is painful to watch for sure, we're not used to seeing this kind of discontinuity. But every year it seems like this has been happening...Cliff, Billy, Silvio, Dok, we lose a key piece of the puzzle and have to adjust. Just have to get used to it this time.

Brad Watson 3 years, 10 months ago

What I saw last night was a team bottoming out....which is good...better now than in March....happy to see more floor time for McCormack...I hope that continues...without multiple outside scoring threats...the small lineup is easy to defend....Coach is a master Chess player....the pieces are there...but they are not in the right spots on the board currently...he will think us out of this predicament eventually patient...its a few moves away.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 10 months ago

Wise words. There's a reason he's in the HofF.

Bj Cassady 3 years, 10 months ago

This is a team of cant's: Can't rebound; Can't have assists; Can't have consistent guard play; Can't have inside play; Can't develop the bigs; Can't develop the bench; Can't play tough; Can't win on the road; Can't decide who "the man is"

Jay Scott 3 years, 10 months ago

Can't believe a team with absolutely no ability to do anything has beaten seven top 25 teams.....

Or maybe it's just that fans like Bj Can't understand basketball....

Len Shaffer 3 years, 10 months ago

Most of those wins were with Dok, and none of them were on the road.

I believe KU is 9-0 with Dok and 7-5 without him. That doesn't bode well for the future.

David Howell 3 years, 10 months ago

I agree with a lot of posters, we've become spoiled as fans. But at the same time too many people think the season can be turned around. How ?

You have to do a lot of things consistently right to be a great team. The Jayhawk's lack outside shooting, rebounding outside of DLawson, defense, free throw shooting, etc. Doing any of these consistently is out of the question right now.

The big early season wins are long forgotten due to losing DOK and the fact that their level of play has gone downhill .......... Grimes is not near the player everyone was led to believe. With the Adidas/NCAA mess will KU even have any top notch recruits for the 2019/20 season ?

Every BIG12 team has been itching to knock the Jayhawk's off the pedestal for over a decade. This year their wish is sadly coming true.

Brad Watson 3 years, 10 months ago

Its a hard team to figure out...head scratcher for sure.....BJ tells the truth....the reality as of Kansas Day 2019....but the season is not over yet.

Dane Pratt 3 years, 10 months ago

It's Bill's fault. He set the bar too high.

Aaron Paisley 3 years, 10 months ago

This team has a senior leader and KU has taken on the personality of that senior leader unfortunately. This was always the danger of bringing Vick back and we're seeing his personality run off on this group.

Dotson has the potential to be a great player and has shown glimpses of being a leader throughout the year. He's just yet to fully take charge of his team and I think being a freshman has contributed to that.

Unfortunately, Dotson doesn't have anyone to show him how to be a good leader. We saw a similar issues several years ago when Mason got here. He played behind the worst PG of the Bill Self era in Naadir Tharpe and then struggled his second year to establish himself as a leader. That's around the time the string of great PG's was broken. When Self got here, he already had Miles who learned from Hinrich. Miles mentored Robinson, Robinson mentored Collins, and Collins mentored Taylor. That's where the pattern was broken. Elijah Johnson wasn't a leader or a PG. Naadir Tharpe was a freshman that year and was not a good leader and gone after two years which left Mason without a mentor and was forced to learn how to lead along with Graham.

Jay Scott 3 years, 10 months ago

All great points except that EJ most certainly WAS a point guard. He just wasn't very bright. NBA scouts compared him to Baron Davis when he arrived in Lawrence.

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