Jayhawk Insider: A backcourt by committee
By Allison Thomas
LAWRENCE, Kan. – One thing decades of Kansas men’s basketball teams have been able to pride themselves on is the cohesiveness they are able to create the second they step on the court. With generations of monumental success and great leaders, it is something that Kansas fans have grown accustomed to, and perhaps sometimes even take that unity for granted. As the Jayhawks head into the 2018-19 season, this squad faces the question of who will be the glue that holds the team together when needed the most.
This season, the team looks to rebuild its squad and designating a new on-court leader, which for the last five seasons has been occupied by Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham, two players who ended their careers as First Team All-Americans and Big 12 Players of the Year.
Through the Jayhawks’ first two exhibition games, it is evident that the KU coaches have not yet circled which player will be the one to take the reins of this year’s squad. KU featured two different starting combinations in those preseason outings, with freshmen Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes starting in the Jayhawks’ win over Emporia State on Oct. 25 and sophomores Charlie Moore and Marcus Garrett getting the nod Thursday night against Washburn. Both combinations showed promise, and it’s something Kansas fans might need to get used to as each player looks for his place in the rotation early in the season.
“I thought our starters played well and when we subbed, it was about even,” head coach Bill Self said following the win over Washburn. “I think the second half our starters had the best 10 minutes they’ve had all year. The 22-0 run, that was good. There were good things that happened, obviously. Quentin and Devon weren’t getting shots in the first half, but they were obviously better in the second half.”
Despite a new team dynamic, the four Jayhawks in the backcourt have been able to catch on to a rhythm that they all seem to like and carry on to the others. Garrett knows that while it may take some time, once the backcourt begins to click, it could be one of the best in the nation.
“We’re still trying to learn (about) each other,” Garrett said. “We’re still trying to come together, find what players like to do, and what they don’t like to do, where they like catching the ball, things like that.”
The Jayhawks posted an impressive stat in Thursday’s win over the Ichabods – 23 assists on 30 field goals. The backcourt foursome of Moore, Garrett, Grimes and Dotson posted 16 of those assists. The unselfishness is something the quartet will look to emulate from the recent KU floor generals. Garrett notes that he is trying to take on the same confidence that Graham exhibited in his Kansas career.
“Just watching Devonte’ (Graham) I remember he always used to make those passes,” Garrett said. “Coming across half court, just seeing guys run the floor. I feel like I can always throw lobs.”
With an impressive starting lineup in both exhibition games, it is apparent this early on in the year that the coaching staff is unsure as to who the on-court quarterback of the team is going to be, or if it even needs to be narrowed down to just one for this season.
“I’ll wait and see how practice goes,” Self said when asked if he’d settled on a starting rotation. “I thought the starters played pretty good. We’ve got to have Devon impact some players more. There were some good things, obviously. I think we had seven turnovers in the first five minutes and after that, we got a lot better.”
There is no question that the team is looking to get off to a fast start this season and the guards will play a large part in that. It may come down to which player can step up his game on a given night, but one thing is for certain: the future is bright in the KU backcourt, and fans will have a great time watching these players’ journeys to become the next great Jayhawk floor generals.
No. 1 Kansas will begin its regular season on the road as it travels to Indianapolis, Indiana to face Michigan State Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. (CT) in the State Farm Championship Classic.
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