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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Kevin McCullar Jr.’s point guard potential and defensive skills fit anywhere but make him particularly well-suited for Kansas

Texas Tech's Kevin McCullar (15) dribbles the ball down the court during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

Texas Tech's Kevin McCullar (15) dribbles the ball down the court during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

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For a decent chunk of his youth basketball career, it looked as if Kevin McCullar Jr. might be destined to be a point guard.

He played some point at Wagner High School in San Antonio, but moved off the ball because his team needed him to play other positions.

Still, his point guard skills grew and served him well, both throughout the remainder of his high school career and at Texas Tech, where he battled injuries and became a two-time honorable mention all-Big 12 performer before deciding to transfer this offseason.

With McCullar potentially on the brink of coming to Kansas for the 2022-23 season, the idea of him playing a little point guard again could be back in play.

Before we go any further, it’s important to emphasize that Bill Self’s Jayhawks do not need a primary point guard.

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Texas Tech guard Kevin McCullar (15) during an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022 in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

Throughout the past two years — and particularly last season — Dajuan Harris Jr. showed that he is this program’s point guard. Harris’ minutes and production demonstrated that he is more than capable of running the show. Beyond that, Harris, who will be a fourth-year junior, is slated to return as one of the Jayhawks’ primary leaders next season and he is the lone player on the entire roster who can be plugged into a specific position in the starting lineup at this point in the offseason.

History has shown, however, that Self loves to have more than one point guard on the floor as often as possible. And even though McCullar stands 6-foot-6 and does not look the part of a prototypical point guard, it’s possible that he could fill that secondary PG role to perfection if he winds up coming to Kansas.

McCullar already has committed to transfer to KU if he returns to college for the 2022-23 season. And he has until Wednesday night to remove his name from the NBA draft pool. If he does that, he’ll be headed to KU and the projected lineups for next season’s squad can comfortably start to plug him into the equation.

Because of his size, most will put him at the 3. Because of his rebounding ability and athleticism, some might even put him at the 4. That will be especially popular if KU’s Jalen Wilson elects to stay in the draft.

The reality of it all is that McCullar will be used wherever he is needed. But the former Red Raider has point guard skills and it could be one of the more underrated parts of his game.

“Him being taller in high school kind of put him in the position of needing to play the 3 or the 4,” Wagner High coach Rodney Clark recently told the Journal-World. “But he ran point sometimes, too, and he was really good at it.”

Clark said McCullar learned the feel of the game at an early age and came to him more prepared than most to see the entire game and the whole court.

“He has very, very good vision,” Clark said. “His court awareness and basketball IQ is real high. And just his unselfishness to get everybody involved and to just make winning plays (is solid). If you’re a point guard, those are some of the major things you have to have, and he had all those.”

Clark noted that there were some games when he asked McCullar to play the point almost exclusively. Whether it was a matchup move or to take pressure off of his other guards, Clark said McCullar was always willing to do and handle whatever was asked of him.

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Kansas' Marcus Garrett (0) lays up a shot around Texas Tech's Kevin McCullar (15) during the final minute of the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

The way Clark ran his program was similar to how Self likes to play at Kansas.

“For the most part, with how we played, I just hard guards and not any specific positions,” Clark said.

That, the high school coach said, is one of the biggest reasons he thinks Kansas and McCullar would be a perfect pairing.

“I think it’s a good fit,” Clark said. “I think with how they play, Self likes the bigger guards who can play defense and Kevin for sure can do that. I think he fits pretty good with what they do.”

The defensive aspect of McCullar’s game is what he’s best known for, and Clark said that came by necessity when he arrived at Texas Tech.

After picking the Red Raiders over Louisville, Houston, Virginia Tech and others, he quickly found that playing time was not automatic. After redshirting the 2018-19 season, he managed to average 18.6 minutes per game in 29 games and six starts during the 2019-20 season. The biggest reason for those minutes was his willingness to play defense.

Clark, who is into his third decade of high school coaching in Texas, compared McCullar’s freshman season to former KU guard Marcus Garrett’s freshman season.

“He always saw, ‘OK, I know I have to do this to play,’” Clark said. “So those first couple of years he was always the defensive guy.”

Like Garrett, who also came from a demanding prep program, committing to defense in college was not difficult for McCullar.

“When he came to me, he was playing defense,” Clark said. “He played hard already. But he didn’t have a choice either. Everybody plays defense over here. That’s our main thing.”

That, too, makes Clark believe that McCullar and Kansas will be a good fit for each other if the connection in fact happens.

“When I got him, he already had that stuff,” Clark said of McCullar’s defensive mindset and unselfish nature on the offensive end. “I think just playing a lot and others actually teaching him how to feel and play the game helped him with that. The people that were around him before me actually were teaching him how to read defenses and to understand the right plays to make instead of worrying about just one thing on offense. I think it would probably be a good decision to go back (to school for) one more (season). I think his stock will rise a little bit. And it’ll be real fun to watch how it goes.”

Comments

Matt Tait 4 months, 1 week ago

THE REPLY FUNCTION WORKS AGAIN!!!! KUsports.com commenters rejoice! And thanks for hanging in there with us...

Clarence Glasse 4 months, 1 week ago

Matt, please give those responsible for getting the reply function back us all our thanks! Thank you, too, for putting up with us.

Dirk Medema 4 months, 1 week ago

Looks the same mobily.

The idea of another Garrett is nice.

Someone was also talking about Jalen playing point at the combine. He and CB were already pushing the ball upcourt on breaks. It would seem that this could create lots of flexibility for Coach and staff. As much as he was criticized at one time for being inflexible, he really has adapted quite a bit.

It also would seem important to have another voice of experience preaching D to the younger guys.

Rodney Crain 4 months, 1 week ago

So now we are to cellabrate an IT team that takes almost 2 months to fix something?

How low is the bar on here that all the comments up to this point are for the reply button working?

McCullar is a waste of a jersey. His offense is spotty, some games he scores others he doesn't. Although he is ranked in the top 10 of transfer rankings, the list is not great this year.
I hope he gets an interesting offer for the G league.

Eliott Reeder 4 months ago

Saving this comment to toss back at you next Spring, Rodney.

Shannon Gustafson 4 months ago

Two-time honorable mention all-Big 12 performer playing for two coaches who are not good offensively is a waste of a jersey. You heard it here first folks! Some day this guy will be playing in the league.

You know who else scored some games and not others? Jalen Wilson and Big Dave. You know what both of them are just "OK" at? Defense. Were they a waste of a jersey while helping KU to win the Natty?

McCullar is big guard with great ball skills (similar to Jalen Wilson, but way more athletic and with better vision) plus he is an ELITE defender. He'll be more efficient offensively playing for a coach who knows how to get players quality shots (unlike Beard and Adams who McCullar played for previously).

If Jalen comes back and McCullar joins him, there is no reason we won't again excel in the open floor with 3-4 ball handlers and big guards who can rebound and lead the break on the floor at all times, just like last year. That's one of the most efficient offensive opportunities available. Even the bigs next year are "rim runners" who can get out and run and finish lobs on the break (except maybe Clemence).

Alex Berger 4 months, 1 week ago

I can tell Rodney has a lot of friends.

Dirk Medema 4 months, 1 week ago

Spoiler Alert!!!

He’s not perfect.

Preseason He Will/Won’t/Might

He will be at least an honorable all conference player for the third year in a row. He won’t lead the team in scoring. He might be another Big12&National DPOTY.

Matt Tait 4 months, 1 week ago

Marking these down, Dirk. Don't be surprised if I steal them ;-) Thanks!

Layne Pierce 4 months, 1 week ago

If he comes, he brings experience, defensive skills, ball handling and is a decent outside shooter and hard driver. Also a good rebounder for his size.

He would in many ways be a complete replacement for CB.

What's not to like. Especially agree with the comment that he could help reinforce defense to our young budding stars, Dyck, Rice, Ude and Ebijori.

RCJH

Dirk Medema 4 months, 1 week ago

Layne - Gradey Dick.

Just read an interesting article on Phog commenting on predictions for top 10 scorers from BartTorvik.com, which uses statistics based modeling.

Interesting predictions: 1. McCullar will score less at KU than TTU. 2. Pettiford won’t increase his scoring significantly. 3. Martin and Yesufu won’t be in the top ten.

Eliott Reeder 4 months ago

There was a nice article in The Athletic a couple weeks back about McCullar potentially coming to KU as well… that mentions other Big 12 coaches absolutely hating the idea. That’s all you need to know.

Shannon Gustafson 4 months ago

Yeah, those other coaches were VERY salty about the idea of McCullar playing at KU. It is a great article by CJ Moore.

Shannon Gustafson 4 months ago

It seems Torvik's formula over values freshman. I didn't see much in his calculation that I agreed with (including Harris scoring 12ppg or whatever it was). Also had Clemence, our likely starting big, only averaging 3ppg. Makes me want to go back and add up all of the points to see what it was for a team total. Seems like it would be very low.

Layne Pierce 4 months ago

Thanks Dirk. I'll do the same for you. I think he will score 10 points a game, just like he did at txtech, but the rest of his game will be very helpful. How about Jalen Wilson, will he increase his scoring. And anyway Gradey DICK, will pick up some of the slack.

RCJH

Edward Daub 4 months ago

This is a classic case of putting "the cart before the horse".

Kevin is currently pursuing a professional career.

Layne Pierce 4 months ago

If he does not go pro, he is coming to KU Edward, so its fun to speculate.

RCJH

Dirk Medema 4 months ago

Edward - Or checking to see if a new horse fits the existing cart.

Layne - De nada. I personally cringe a bit about misspelling names. I’m horrible at mixing up vowels.

I think Kevin and Jalen will both announce this week that they will return for another year and that both, along with Harris, will put in the time to improve their 3’s. According to another article, Kevin was at 38% before a mid season injury. The same article pointed to some advanced metrics that showed our O also produces more uncontested 3’s, which also should help. I won’t be surprised if he starts in the 40’s and finishes in the high 30’s.

I’d put Kevin, along with Wilson and Dick in the 12-15 pt range. Harris and Pettiford around 10.

It will be interesting to see who pans out for the 5 and 6-8. The freshmen almost always get minutes early, but will they show enough of the little things to continue to get extended minutes in conference and beyond. We also have a couple redshirts that everyone seems to forget about.

Zac and KJ will also be interesting. Read that Zach was shooting 40% from 3 before getting injured. He’ll be tough to keep on the bench if he can return to that form and pick up more of the little things/D. Same for Cam.

KJ is the opposite. He’s obviously already got excellent D, but can he expand his game enough to be an asset on both ends. He also could be a small ball 5, but would seem physically limited against bigs like Bacot or Oscar.

Dirk Medema 4 months ago

Matt - You and Coach; It’s an honor to have similar thoughts and I rarely disagree.

Still waiting for your postseason He Will/Won’t/Might. Score it +1, 0, -1

Sorta like when Shane was here and you tracked your bets. Could be a summer need a story, relive the NC layup. (It was fun to read that Coach has already rewatched the NC game many times. I’m loving all the games that are available to rewatch. Going through the whole season again. Way better than anything on TV.)

Some might rip you for a lack of perfection, but that could be considered an honor. Puts you in the same category of HOFers and NC.

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