KU senior Marcus Garrett's emotional ending about more than a basketball loss


Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) is comforted by staff during the second half of a men's college basketball game in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Monday, March 22, 2021. USC won 85-51. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) is comforted by staff during the second half of a men's college basketball game in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Monday, March 22, 2021. USC won 85-51. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) by Associated Press

Indianapolis — The reality of what was coming showed on Kansas senior Marcus Garrett’s face throughout Monday’s 85-51 loss to sixth-seeded USC at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

A flinch here. A grimace there, both admissions of frustration without the utterance of a single word.

But as long as there was still time on the clock, there also was still work to be done, so Garrett never let the sadness hit him.

When it did, at the end of the kind of NCAA Tournament loss not often experienced this early by teams seeded this high, the emotions overwhelmed him.

First, on the Kansas bench after he had checked out for what could be the final time in his KU career.

With his face resting in his hands, Garrett leaned forward in his chair and tried to collect himself while being consoled by KU assistant Jerrance Howard.

Later, after the teams shook hands when the game went final — one ecstatic to be moving on and the other preferring to be anywhere else — Garrett hustled his way to the KU locker room, wrapping his head and face in a towel along the way.

It remains to be seen what Garrett’s future holds. He went through Senior Night festivities back in late February and may deem that he’s ready to take a stab at a professional career, be it in the NBA or overseas.

But he also has the option of coming back to Kansas for one more run, thanks to the COVID-19 waiver that the NCAA provided all athletes who competed during the 2020-21 season.

These types of decisions are never made in the emotional moments that follow such heartbreak and disappointment. And Garrett said before Senior Night that he would talk with his family and Self after the season about what comes next.

But it sure sounded on Monday night like Garrett at least is leaning toward leaving.

“I mean, with this team next year, they’ve got a chance to do something special,” Garrett said after Monday’s loss. “Every year I feel like a Kansas team with Coach Self has a chance to do something special.”

Although he has been very open about how much he would enjoy coaching Garrett for another year, Self is not naïve and he, too, seemed well aware that Monday could have been the end of the line for the coach and player who forever will be linked as defensive-minded basketball men.

“If this is his last game — I know he's got a decision to make — I'm really proud to have been his coach,” Self said Monday night. “Jayhawk fans should be very proud of him, as well.” Because Garrett never has shied away from any moment — on or off the court — he sat there after what had to be the hardest loss of his life and answered questions about what went wrong against USC.

There were questions about the Trojans’ length, inquiries about why Kansas couldn’t make a shot and even a question about what junior guard Tyon Grant-Foster gave the Jayhawks on a night when the seldom-used reserve scored seven points in nine minutes, none of which came with the outcome in doubt.

Garrett answered them all — even the question about Tyon — demonstrating that, even in one of the most agonizing moments of his career, he was able to focus on what needed to be done and deliver.

That’s part of what always made Garrett one of Self’s favorite players. But only part of it. “I totally appreciate his abilities, what he gets out of himself each and every day,” Self explained.

Garrett, meanwhile — short and sweet, as always — summed up KU’s season-ending loss in eight simple words.

“I just feel like we fell short today,” Garrett said.

And then he elaborated, adding, “We kind of picked the wrong day to not make any shots, and the other team was making everything that they shot. We could never get the game back from them. They kept hitting shots and doing everything they wanted to offensively.”

As has been common throughout their time together, Self conveyed similar thoughts about Monday’s loss.

“Kansas deserves better,” he said. “Certainly, we didn't perform.”

After the loss, however, all of that — the missed shots, the overmatched defense, the sloppy fouls and sluggish start — seemed less important than the bigger picture of the connection between Garrett and Self.

“He gave me the opportunity,” Garrett said, with a hint of the emotion that had overcome him earlier sneaking back into his voice. “He changed my life. I’m actually going to be the first person in my family to graduate in May. I really appreciate what him and the coaching staff have done for me and my family over these past four years.

“The way he taught me how to be a man, really. Coming from where I come from, you really don't know a lot about being a man, things outside of basketball. But Coach Self taught me everything.”

Now it’s time to find out if there are any more lessons in their future together or if the student has passed all of his classes and is ready for the next chapter.


Chris Teegarden 1 year, 8 months ago

Hey Matt I have a question I haven't been able to find the answer to anywhere. How are the scholarships working next year for seniors who come back. Do we need one available or do they get an extra one?

Glen Miller 1 year, 8 months ago

From what I've read, the Seniors do not count against the scholarship total for next year.

Matt Tait 1 year, 8 months ago

I'm pretty sure this is correct but I have a call out to make sure, if possible. I believe it's the same in all sports — the seniors returning for their "super senior" seasons will not count against the scholarship limits, therein giving Kansas an "extra" scholarship for the 2021-22 season to use on Lightfoot along with the 13 regular scholarship spots.

More on that later this week. But that's the plan that I'm aware of.

Armen Kurdian 1 year, 8 months ago

I don't know the last time I felt emotional watching a final post-game interview like this, especially after reading all of the haters on Twitter, the KU Live feed, etc. Plus had just read a FB post from a friend who seems to enjoy engaging in class warfare, how successful people are somehow terrible, that the 'little guy' doesn't stand a chance, blah blah blah. And after hearing Marcus' statement I felt so proud of him, and so sad for my friend to be so dark and black inside when here is a proof positive case of someone doing something with their life, working, striving, challenging himself to be more than anyone could have imagined.

I didn't think Garrett was going to be any kind of real asset to the team when he came on the scene, and boy did he prove me wrong. I also don't think I ever remember Coach Self looking as down as he did during that interview.

Whatever decision he makes, I hope its the one that gives him the better chance at success.

I'm sorry for the guys and the team that it ended like this, they did not deserve that. For KU 'fans' to pile on the way some of them have in a hateful fashion, well, i just find it disgusting. This team gave us some great memories this year. I guess it's why I'm always a little sad during April that I know I have to wait 7 months for more KU hoops.

And the next tip-off will be a good day.

Robert Brock 1 year, 8 months ago

He gave a lot to Kansas basketball. Garrett did everything he could to help this talent-drained squad. I wish him well.

Rae Bricil 1 year, 8 months ago

regardless of how BB plays out, MG will do some great things in life. KU was fortunate to have him.

Matt Lacey 1 year, 8 months ago

If he’s got the basketball mind HCBS says he does, he’ll make the HOF as a coach.

Benjamin Shear 1 year, 8 months ago

Wow. What amazing words from Garrett about HCBS. It's not often we see this far into the coach/player relationship. Thanks for sharing.

Brian Wilson 1 year, 8 months ago

I just have to forget that game and look forward:

So Teahan, Garrett, and Ligthfoot could be back and not count against the cap. The cap is 13 for the team but does that mean they get a scholarship? I can't see a reason the team needs to ask them back except maybe Garrett....but I could see them coming back because they want another year of fun in Lawrence.

If McCormack leaves we will have another scholarship to give. Will he be back? He played well at times. But, I'm not sure it's enough to be 1st round in the draft. To me he's not ready and needs to comeback. I also don't really see Adbaji, Braun, Enaruna, Foster or any of the others ready to jump to the next level either. Maybe someone leaves to go to another school for more playing time....IDK.

So that leaves three scholarships available and we already have two commits. 6'10" Clemence and 6'6" Adams. Some have Adams at the 4 spot but imo he will have to play small forward. So what do we do with that last scholarship?

Mike Hart 1 year, 8 months ago

Brian Wilson: There is no way on God's green Earth that McCormack will leave early to be a 1st round pick in the NBA draft. He has shown big improvement, but he doesn't play as big and as strong as his body would indicate. He's not an explosive athlete. He shoots under 50% around the rim inside the paint in COLLEGE. He's not enough of an athlete to make it in the NBA. How many times did you ever see McCormack go up in traffic and dunk the ball? Only on the occasional alley-oop. He can make the short hook with either hand and has improved his 10-15 foot jumper, but an NBA prospect at this point? Highly doubt it...

Robert Brock 1 year, 8 months ago

We may have a few guys transfer out. We will have to wait and see.

Dale Rogers 1 year, 8 months ago

I really, really hope Garrett comes back for another year. That would make next season's "special" team so much, much more special.

Bryce Landon 1 year, 8 months ago

If we get banned from the postseason in 2022, there won't be anything special about next season.

Eric Dawson 1 year, 8 months ago

Matt, you are correct. Lightfoot — and Garrett, should he choose to come back — will not count against the 13 annual scholarship limit or the 18 roster limit.

Teahan is a walk-on, of course.

Brian, we have a JUCO commit Sydney Curry, 6-9/265 PF coming in with Clemence and Adams, so we have no scholarships left unless someone leaves. I don’t expect McCormack to be one of those. But I expect Robert is right and we will see someone else transfer out, especially since there’s no sitting out a year to play next season.

Bryce Landon 1 year, 8 months ago

Marcus Garrett is the only player on KU's roster I feel bad for in this loss to Southern Cal. He took pride in playing defense like few KU players I can remember in recent memory. He did get better as the years went by. If it weren't for his heroics, we would not have won that home game against Texas Tech. Like Perry Ellis and Frank Mason before him, he deserved to go out in much better fashion than he did. He represented the Jayhawk program with class and dignity; and I wish him nothing but the best in whatever he decides to do with his life going forward.

Mike Hart 1 year, 8 months ago

Bryce, Garrett is the only player you feel bad for? That's rather ignorant. You don't think McCormack, Agbaji, Braun, Lightfoot, Harris, Wilson, Thompson... WANTED to win? We were inconsistent shooters ALL SEASON. This team wanted it.. they just didn't deliver. They gave effort... and USC shot over 60% from 3 point land. The more physical, taller, better shooting team won the game. Without David McCormack's 2nd half and without the entire game out of Harris in Round 1... we don't advance to Round 2. Harris really came on the last several games for Kansas. End of story...

Blake Brown 1 year, 8 months ago

Love the guy. Remarkable progressive achievements in every aspect of the game. Great foresight on whoever recruited him to see the potential. I wish him well and although would like to see him come back, I support him in making some money should he go which would probably be to Europe.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.