Wednesday, April 1, 2020

KU junior Marcus Garrett named Naismith Defensive Player of the Year

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) smiles after a big dunk from Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) smiles after a big dunk from Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Kansas junior Marcus Garrett on Wednesday backed up his status as the best defender in the Big 12 Conference by winning the national 2020 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

Garrett beat out Duke’s Tre Jones, Kentucky’s Ashton Haggans and Baylor’s Mark Vital to win this year’s title as the best defensive player in college basketball. The announcement was made just after 11 a.m. on a live stream of CBS HQ.

“It’s definitely huge,” Garrett said in an online interview after winning the award. “A lot of thanks to my teammates, Coach (Bill) Self, the coaching staff and Jayhawk Nation.”

In a news release shortly after the announcement, Garrett added: “These awards are won as a team, not individually. I’d also like to thank the Naismith Awards voters. We had a great season, as did the other finalists who were also worthy of this award. I hope and pray all are safe with the current happenings worldwide, and (that) we get back to normalcy soon. Rock Chalk.”

Garrett is the second Big 12 player in the three-year history of the award to bring home the trophy, joining West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, who won the honor in 2018.

Garrett ranked among the Big 12 leaders in steals per game (1.8) this season and also averaged 4.5 deflections per game, including 6.9 during KU’s last nine games.

Asked recently on The Jayhawker podcast if he had ever coached a better defender, Self said “I don’t know that I have.”

“Marcus has it all,” Self said. “Marcus has hands, he’s tough, he can slide, he’s got size, he’s got length, he anticipates. He’s got a lot of stuff to him that a lot of people don’t realize. I think Marcus Garrett’s emergence and the way he matured as a player gave us confidence.”

For the season, Garrett averaged 9.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while also leading the Big 12 in assists (4.7 per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.7.

He was the 2020 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, a USBWA All-District VI pick, all-Big 12 second and third team and a unanimous choice for the all-Big 12 Defensive Team for the second year in a row.

“I think he was the best on-ball defender, best off-ball defender in the country and could guard any 4 man,” Self told CBS.

Asked on camera how he was able to be all of those things while standing just 6-foot-5, 185 pounds, Garrett said it was a matter of mindset.

“I feel like I just try my hardest to make it hard on the offensive player,” Garrett said. “Try to stay in front of them; play solid, good defense; and make the offensive player take hard, contested shots.”

While former KU great Mario Chalmers often gets mention as the best defensive player to play for Self, the KU coach recently explained why Chalmers and Garrett were in different categories.

“Mario was the best at stealing the ball,” Self said on The Jayhawker. “Better than Marcus. He was by far the best. But we always put Mario on the other team’s worst player because we knew he couldn’t guard the best one and we knew he wouldn’t be disciplined enough to stay connected to him, so (we) put him on the worst so he could just run around and take everybody’s ball.”

That was never the case for Garrett, who almost exclusively guarded the opposing team’s best player, whether he was 6-foot-10 or a lightning-quick point guard.

“I remember somebody asking (KU freshman) Tristan (Enaruna), ‘What’s the scouting report on Marcus Garrett if you’re the other team,’” Self began. “He said, ‘Don’t ever dribble it when he’s guarding you.’”


Greg Ledom 2 years, 4 months ago

I think Marcus has grown as a player as much as anyone over the last 10 years that's played for the Jayhawks. I know he's taken as much flak as anyone over the last 10 years. What perseverance and dedication to improving his craft (shooting included). He's a different kind of stud so to speak, but a stud nonetheless. Congrats to you Marcus, you earned it.

Daniel Cummings 2 years, 4 months ago

Congratulations Marcus! It's not sexy or headline grabbing but your commitment to lock down and help defense is a huge reason the team was so successful this year. I hope you take tremendous pride in this recognition of your immense contributions!

Eric TheCapn 2 years, 4 months ago

I think it's a very sexy headline and title. Best in the nation/world in your class at anything is super sexy.

Scott Proch 2 years, 4 months ago

Way to go Marcus! 'Glue guy' has turned into 'Absolute Leader guy' before our very eyes. I can tell young Braun wants to be you when he grows up.

Len Shaffer 2 years, 4 months ago

So great for Marcus and so well-deserved! And I LOVE Tristan's quote!

I can't believe the award has only been around for three years. Wouldn't you have thought they'd recognize defense a little bit BEFORE 2018???

Armen Kurdian 2 years, 4 months ago

First time I saw him play, I figured, OK, he's going to be a bench player for us during his career, decent work expected.

This is what Bill Self does to these kids...most impressive.

RJ King 2 years, 4 months ago

And fans need to have a little trust and patience.

When I watched him freshman year, I saw a kid who looked to be a starter from soph to senior year. Same focus and attack as Releford, but more explosive (higher center of gravity) and longer, quicker arms. I saw a kid who seemed extremely poised and not easily rattled. A kid who looked like he bought into the system, and was on the same page as Self. He just needed more time.

The game isn't one dimensional, and you could see an intelligent player who was going to round it out. We (thought we) had scorers in Devonte, Svi, Newman, Dotson, and Grimes. Last year, we didn't have the pieces - with Dok hurt, Lawson our "big" man, Dotson a freshman, Grimes underperforming, and Vick being Vick. But Marcus elevated the defense anyway, and his attack mode never went awol - regardless of his shooting.

I was baffled by those who constantly called for his benching. One idiot even made fun of his hair. Shame on those fans. (Some of the same ones who bemoan the lack of 3 and 4-year players who develop their game over time.) This is exactly what we are privileged to witness with Marcus.

Dale Rogers 2 years, 4 months ago

Yes!!! This is one of the most deserved awards I have read about in a long time! Congratulations, Marcus!

Blake Brown 2 years, 4 months ago

Love it. As I see it, there was Marcus and then everyone else for this award which was so much earned and deserved. Congrats to him and how wonderful we get to witness one more year of his brilliance, probably taking it up a level or 2 and as our point guard.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 4 months ago

One of the biggest credits to Marcus IMO is the transformation of the team over the course of the year. He’s not the best player, so maybe he was initially reluctant to be the leader. As the season progressed though, the team seemed to begin to recognize him as the best defender, and took on the persona of being a defensive team with him as the leader. It’s commendable that he would recognize the team in his acceptance, and that is just more deserved credit to him. Hopefully the young guys will embrace the mentality so that it becomes a consistent identity of the program. Rock Chalk.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 4 months ago

The nice thing about the ‘08 team was that Mario had others around him like BRush who was more of a Garrett type “I’m going to take your best player and neutralize him” player.

That is interesting to hear Coach’s perspective “now that he doesn’t have to make them happy “.

Armen Kurdian 2 years, 4 months ago

I'm surprised he just averaged 1.8 steals/game, seemed more like 18!

Tony Bandle 2 years, 4 months ago

If you watched MG closely, you'd see he rarely let anyone get around him, was the best "fight thru screens" guy on the floor and would, invariably, force his man on the dribble to their weak hand.

My only concern is, by moving to point guard and that's position of responsibility, will that be a situation that might dilute his defensive impact. He's had Frank and Devon out there the last three seasons and that freed him up to focus on the biggest back line threat.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Steve Corder 2 years, 4 months ago

‘Don’t ever dribble it when he’s guarding you.’”

Best quote of the entire article!

W Keith Swinehart II 2 years, 4 months ago

Dok guards the rim. Marcus guards the court. What a defensive force.

Scott MacWilliams 2 years, 4 months ago

Congratulations Marcus!! Absolutely deserved, no question ever!! Here's hoping that your leadership next year gives us another great defensive group! It was great the way they could take almost anyone out of their game and grind out wins. ROCK CHALK!!

Joe Joseph 2 years, 4 months ago

Marcus Garett won defensive POY despite playing on bum ankles the entire season.

Think about that for a second.

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