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Monday, March 14, 2022

I’m just happy’ - Late emergence by senior guard Remy Martin has changed Kansas and turned around his season

Kansas guard Remy Martin (11) smiles as he chats with an official during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Remy Martin (11) smiles as he chats with an official during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, at Allen Fieldhouse.

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The big question throughout the several weeks that Kansas guard Remy Martin sat out with a bone bruise in his right knee was whether he had enough time to work back into the rotation without disrupting the Jayhawks’ rhythm.

In three games last weekend at the Big 12 tournament — all Kansas victories — Martin answered that question with a resounding yes.

But it wasn’t just his impact and production during 56 combined minutes at T-Mobile Center that mattered the most. It was how energized and optimistic his teammates were about him being back that stood out.

“His energy, his talking on the court, keeping guys composed throughout the game. I thought he did really good at that,” senior guard and tournament MVP Ochai Agbaji said after Saturday’s 74-65 win over Texas Tech. “Everything else besides scoring. I know everyone sees the scoring, but behind the scenes he was making sure guys were aligned and stuff. It was great to see that, and moving forward we’re going to need that from him.”

Perhaps this was what the Remy Martin Experience was going to look like all along. Forget about the preseason conference player of the year honor, the expected acclimation time or the adjustments required to play for a head coach as demanding as Bill Self.

Martin was always going to fit with the Jayhawks if he played like this.

In so many words, Self said as much following Saturday’s celebration of the 2022 Big 12 tourney title.

“From my perspective, the thing that you have to do when you play a team like Tech (is) you have to have a guy make a shot when you run bad offense,” Self said when asked about Martin’s 12-point, 26-minute effort. “He’s a guy that gives us an extra element that can kind of go get his own a little bit. That can allow you to have good possessions even though you really don't run good stuff.”

By definition, a lot of that comes off script. And while that can be tough for the KU coaches — and even Martin’s teammates and fans — to watch at times, it seems to provide some serious juice when it goes well.

For his part, Martin has not wavered during his time at Kansas.

Through the good times and the bad, the former Arizona State standout has kept his focus on helping Kansas win however he can and through whatever means necessary. On the court. From the bench. In the locker room. Away from basketball altogether.

It was the work he put in in those settings, prior to last weekend, that led to the overflow of joy and emotion during the on-court celebration after last Saturday's win over Texas Tech in the Big 12 title game. Whether through his youthful exuberance in congratulating Agbaji while he received his MVP trophy or while repeatedly slapping the cardboard logo that signified that Kansas officially had punched its ticket to the Big Dance, it was clear that Martin was having a blast.

He’s not exactly a rent-a-player because all signs point to him being a true part of this team and his teammates both liking and rooting for him. But he has never been the one to make it about him. In fact, on more than a few occasions, Martin has referenced wanting to do this or that for the guys, for the team or to help his teammates win. He said from the beginning that his No. 1 goal when he decided to come to Kansas was to win and compete for a national championship.

He said the same after Saturday’s win over Texas Tech, which, when graded on a scale, was easily his best and most important game as a Jayhawk.

“Ultimately, I just wanted to go out there and win,” he said after scoring 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting, with four rebounds, four assists and zero turnovers. “Like I’ve said all the time, if I get 5 minutes or 25 minutes, I just try my best to help this team win. It’s what I’ve wanted to do my whole life ever since I was a kid. Just being able to contribute in any type of way is awesome.”

It seems possible that his role could be growing right before our eyes.

Self said Martin’s showing at the Big 12 tournament made him feel better about riding with him in crucial moments. Martin said Self’s decision to stick with him for big minutes in a big game felt good because it showed that he had earned Self’s trust.

He also said his injured knee feels “great” and he showed signs of quickness and a speed burst — both in transition and in half-court sets — that had not been there since December.

Even Martin's defense has improved.

"He's been practicing, he's been trying and he really tried defensively in this tournament," KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend said of Martin during the on-court celebration last Saturday. "So he's getting better and we need him in the (NCAA) tournament, so I think it's great."

It’s all shaping up for Martin to enter the NCAA Tournament as a true X-Factor for top-seeded Kansas, which will open play at 8:57 p.m. Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Just the speed he brings when he's healthy is something that no team in the country has,” KU junior Christian Braun said. “He's one of the fastest players in the country (and) he kind of brings a different element to our team offensively, and then he makes great defensive plays. If he’s doing that, he brings us different elements we haven’t had in the past.”

Having Martin at all seems like a bonus right now for a Kansas team that won 28 games largely without him. And even though he has played in the NCAA Tournament three times before in his career, Martin seems to have a different perspective on the upcoming trip to his final NCAA Tournament.

Instead of playing in one of the First Four games, as he did in 2018 and 2019 as an 11 seed in both of his tourney appearances at Arizona State, Martin is emerging as a key piece for a true national title contender.

“I’m happy that I’m here,” Martin said Saturday. “I’m happy that we’re winning. I’m just happy that I get to go out there and play as hard as I can. I’m happy to be here because we get to go to the tournament and we have a chance to really go far in the tournament. I’m just happy.”

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Comments

Barry Weiss 2 months, 1 week ago

Great attitude Remy! We are lucky to have him. He can go downhill on offense better than any other guard we have.

Rodney Crain 2 months, 1 week ago

Remy just guard your man on D.

Please for the love of everything Holy, stay on your man till the ball is in the air.

Micky Baker 2 months, 1 week ago

I really like Remy's speed and quickness, but he needs to leverage that on the defensive side of the ball and force some turnovers. Stop taking so many risks. Stay in front of your man and do not get caught inside where you cannot close out on jumpers. This seems so fundamental.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

Christian Braun said. “He's one of the fastest players in the country (and) he kind of brings a different element to our team offensively, and then he makes great defensive plays.”

And then he makes great defensive plays.

3 steals.

The adjustments required to play for a head coach as demanding as Bill Self takes time. A coach that demands attention to all the little things that go unnoticed by us, and even some players never get it. Remy seems to be getting it. The players that have been with Coach Self for years are appreciating him and that’s good by me.

Rodney Crain 2 months, 1 week ago

Victory is euphoric. We tend to overlook all, all the mistakes someone makes in each game they have played in. It is common for a player, or an ordinary, emotional fan to feel this way. Very common.

It makes 3 steals in one game seem like the magic that has cured all their bad habits. He still missed numerous defense assignments in that game, and made a silly foul with a minute to go. I notice you do not mention those issues. Only 3 steals in one game.

I think playing/being around a season is more than enough time to get the "not leaving the man you are guarding" part.

William Leoni 2 months, 1 week ago

Remember when everyone on here was talking about Braun being a defensive liability his first two seasons? He’s now second team all-conference. Dirk is right about the difficult adjustments a player must make in order to play for defensive-minded Bill Self. It is no easy task. Let’s give credit where credit is due. Remy played well this weekend. Yes, he got lost at times defensively but he also brought energy and was very disruptive. Besides the three steals, the inbounds play which forced a turnover was key. Let’s hope he can continue to improve and bring this sort of effort going forward.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

The layoff could also have him more rested for the final push.

David Robinett 2 months, 1 week ago

I did notice that Remy skyed for a few rebounds. And only got beat once or so in the Tech game on D.

Rodney Crain 2 months, 1 week ago

He was running around like chicken at feeding. I will go over there, no there, hey look over here.... He is out of control, has no idea where to be half the time, and confused. Love his offense when we can get it, but he can not defend to save his soul.

Don't forget how JW bailed him out after he drove to the basket through 3 defenders, a few feet away from the lane and lost the ball. JW grabbed it and made a layup.

I get that everyone is looking at him as the savior, the missing piece. the key to our future success, but I agree with what Dirk said, he is best suited coming off the bench for us. That makes sense.

We cannot afford him being out there late in the game, unless we have at least a 2 score lead.

Garry Wright 2 months, 1 week ago

I think his defense is starting to click.

Lee Short 2 months, 1 week ago

While it might not be recognized by Remy's most ardent critics, he definitely played better defense in this last game from what I can tell.

He does need to be really careful with some of his passes, obviously, he definitely played better D with his 26-minutes of PT. If not, coach would have been harder on him. That said, some bad, inevitably, comes with the more PT minutes of involving hustle and looking for split-second opportunities that involve split-second decision making.

Hopefully, he won't follow the path of being up and down as DMac followed once he had a great game this year. Hopefully, he'll just be more consistent like Jalen has since he found his grove sometime after the sideline stint.

If Dmac and Remy continue, when combined with the other mainstay players, we could finally meet our seeding expectation!!

When we are all cylinders and have our head in the game, I would love a rematch with Kentucky in the finals, but that is a long, long way off given the 5 games ahead of that for both teams. Rock Chalk.

Scott MacWilliams 2 months, 1 week ago

I love Remy's attitude & energy! What a rocket with the ball!

I gotta admit, it bugs me when he dives into the lane moving like a squirrel on meth & draws several defenders, he mostly just keeps zipping around until he gets a shot off. Seems like Och, CB & JWil could deal with a bullet pass out of the lane for an open 3 or drive.

But overall, looks to me like all the parts are fitting together just fine.

Rock Chalk, Jayhawks!!!!

RJ King 2 months, 1 week ago

Love the "squirrel on meth." For me - "Frantic waterbug" - but I like yours better. It is annoying when he's a whirling dervish seemingly without a plan. However, his pace and movements are so opposite to the more calm and fluid motion of Harris. If the two are used interchangeably they could really throw off an opponent - kind of like a batter having to adjust from a pitcher throwing heat to one throwing junk.

As long as Remy continues to really effort on defense, limit turnovers AND not force shots, he's improved enough to truly fit in, compete for minutes, and be a much needed addition.

Tony Bandle 2 months, 1 week ago

"Squirrel on meth" may be a Top Ten post of last two decades!! LOL!!!

Stuart Swaziek 2 months, 1 week ago

Glad I read the comments for this one. I'm on the same page as Tony. . ."Squirrel on Meth" is a keeper for sure :-)

Bryce Landon 2 months, 1 week ago

Good thing I wasn't eating or drinking anything when I read this; or I'd have spewed food or drink all over my laptop with your "squirrel on meth" blast! Reminds me of Hammy the Squirrel from "Over The Hedge".

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 1 week ago

Remy got some steals by taking some gambles defensively. I watched him try to jump some passing lanes and get beat sometimes too.

Is taking a gamble for a steal a good defensive play or a bad defensive play? It depends.

With Remy... in a half court situation when the rest of the D is in position, it very well may be a good move to try to jump the passing lane. The reason is twofold. 1. He is the quickest guy on the floor and has a good opportunity to get a steal and a fast break. 2. He is a weak off-ball defender against a motion offense.

He is very likely to be beaten on defense by being out of position in an off-the-ball situation. He frequently plays too far off the offensive player, or double teams the post too early or go under the screen when he should go over or switch. But he can disrupt the offense by jumping in the passing lanes... especially going to be effective against inexperienced or weaker guard play.

Remy has defensive weaknesses, and he has strengths. He can make a great defensive play despite being a weak defensive guard.

Mario Chalmers got hundreds of steals by gambling in the passing lanes. Sometimes he got beat, but it was OK because he had an incredible defense behind him. Chalmers was a better defender than Remy, but Remy is quicker and has faster reflexes. I think that if Remy played a full year at KU and hadn't been sidelined with injury for so long that he's be having more of a Chalmersesque impact on this team.

Steve Zimmerman 2 months, 1 week ago

I know we're talking about Remy here. Harris is somewhat the opposite. He's got superior read - his wingspan helps. But... If only Harris can shoot - this can improve, not sure if our coaching staff can teach him, shooting mechanic is about repetition. If only Harris has guts to dribble drive and dunk it the way he did on a steal the other night. Not only on transition. Learn how to move to the basket from Mason, Dotson. Harris tends to just facilitate. Can't win if PG doesn't score.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 1 week ago

Harris is a very different PG than Remy. Harris a terrific facilitator but he's not a risk taker like Remy. I do like how he can drive it and score off the glass in the variety of ways, but he definitely needs to improve the jumper. The problem with him is that he learned a bad shooting form. He shoots a little like Lonzo Ball used to before he fixed it. He loads the ball a little too far to the left instead of squaring it up in front of his face he tends to not square and plant his feet and drive through his legs into his jumper so that sometimes he shoots a little bit of a leaner instead of a true jumper. I think that Coach Self and the staff tend to not like to overhaul a players' technique because everyone learns shooting a little differently, but it seems like his mechanics could be greatly improved with a few small tweaks in the offseason and after that he just needs confidence in it. Really he's not that much different from Tyshawn Taylor. Ty didn't have ideal shooting form, but he shot a high percentage by his Sr. season because of confidence, repitition and good shot selection. As much as you would like everyone to have a jumper like Ochai, Braun, Svi, McLemore, Tyrel Reed, among others with some players in order for them to be most effective you have to let them go play ball (Mason, Graham, TT)

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

“a squirrel on meth“ is classic. I’ve been trying to think of a description. To me, even his passes are much quicker.

Jonathan - The D comparison with Chalmers seems on the mark. During the CV summer, when Coach was so limited on what he could do that he spent the time giving us a glimpse into a film session of past teams, he mentioned Mario’s D weakness/propensity to gamble on steals. It seems unlikely that our a squirrel on meth is going to become a rock solid steady player on D, but maybe he’s learned some of the toughness that Coach knows is necessary and throws in just enough spastic to create chaos for the other team, it should be a net gain but still give some a reason to complain and/or instruct him on what he needs to improve.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

Rodney - 3 years wasn’t enough time for Mario, but you are absolutely correct about the euphoria. Your comment was that that a bad late foul can be overlooked (JWil) when offset by other positives.

You are also correct that I’m probably not going to emphasize the negative but then you more than make up for that. I don’t expect perfection, though I do marvel at how close to it Coach gets the teams to play over and over again.

Rodney Crain 2 months, 1 week ago

I'm Negative?

I would not use that word to describe my views.

My posts are something more akin to thoughtful, raw and unbiased perspectives. Never been the pom pom guy cheering like a Beatlemania fan. I actually like to listen to the music, not the screaming.

Reason is an uneasy way to look at things in our world today. I certainly can understand why you would see me as negative. It only motivates me to continue my posts.

Thank You Dirk.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

William - To be fair, I only tweaked Matt’s comment. That’s his observation more than mine, though I wholeheartedly agree.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

I wonder how many errors per game Mario made? Made before his euphoric shot?

Do they track epg? Probably more important given Coach’s substitutions would be errors per minute.

Rodney Crain 2 months, 1 week ago

I would take Mario every time over Remy.

Pius Waldman 2 months, 1 week ago

We all share opinions. Mine is Harris is a strong favorite for Self. He tends to pass the ball without trying to set up a scoring situation. Yes he is a good defender. I do feel that playing Harris and Martin at the same time doesn't work. It eliminates Wilson or Braun that we need. Remy needs to play point guard. Lets see how Self plays Remy during the Big Dance.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 1 week ago

This is the question that I have too. While I don't think that Self wouldn't play Remy and Harris together, I do think that it would have to be because Braun/Agbaji is in foul trouble or something.

I see Remy returning to marginal minutes in the tourney which I feel is a little like putting a governor on a lamborghini. If you opt for more Remy you run the risk of crashing out early. But if you don't run with Remy you could be limiting the overall ceiling of the team. Obviously Self knows his team better than anyone else, but how much risk is he willing to accept and when?

Now you seem to think that Harris is more just a ball mover than a facilitator, but I think that Harris is better at feeding the hot hand and getting the ball to Agbaji, Brown, McCormack in scoring position that you give him credit for. That said, he doesn't put nearly as much pressure on a defense as Remy does. Not even close. Remy can collapse a defense better than anyone we've had at KU in the Self era. The problem is he doesn't have the automatic report with his teammates as far as passing the ball out of the double/triple teams into the shooter's ready hands or dishing off to the cutter when he gets surrounded at the freethrow line. His teammates don't always know where to go and what to do once he goes into jitterbug mode

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

At this point, I would take Mario over Remy also, though realistically it’s an apples and oranges comparison.

It also dances around inconvenient questions which has become all too much of the reality played out in society. At least it doesn’t turn into character attacks, the other common response to inconvenient questions.

Pius, have you been to practices to know what they are trying to accomplish on the various plays? Coach commented during the CV summer filmfest that sometimes ball move is more about moving the defense until they don’t respond quickly enough and leave a crease to attack.

Ochai commented in the ESPN interview about Coach being amazing at seeing the entire floor and knowing exactly where everyone is supposed to be and how they’re supposed to be. Coach’s favorites aren’t some arbitrary choice. The favorites are the ones that do the most things, including all the little things, correctly. Most of us don’t have a clue about all the little things, which might make it appear arbitrary. Coach is far too competitive for that to be realistic.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

Jonathan - I would watch for Remy subbing in for Harris for a few minutes, but then staying in to give CB, JWil, and even Ochai a few minutes breather, though some is matchup related. Late in the game is another time when he tends to like having an extra ballhandler. Small ball is also a possibility with a front court of CB and JWil.

The good news is that Remy is totally bought into and setting the best possible leadership example of “Whatever it takes. Whatever I’m asked to do.”

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

If not for “squirrel on meth”, “I’m not negative” might be the funniest post yet.

Brad Watson 2 months, 1 week ago

Remy ...if you read this...you are the key that opens the door to great things for this team.... it's your opportunity to show your gifts on the biggest of stages...you came here to do something special....and you WILL!!!

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