• First couple paragraphs were good

  • I remember Sonny Parker playing for Texas A & M. Two years, 74-75 and 75-76, POY in SW Conf both years. I would have sworn I saw him at AFH, but we didn’t play them.

    I didn’t realize he was Jabari Parker’s father.

  • @BShark Can you cut and paste the article?

  • @HighEliteMajor I’ll try not to make a regular thing of this but will do so here.

    LAWRENCE,​ Kan.​ —​ It​ was​ the fall of 2009​ when Sonny Parker got a call from​ Dana Dotson about his​​ fourth-grade son, Devon. Parker played six seasons in the NBA and is the father of Chicago Bulls forward Jabari Parker. Every Saturday morning, Sonny opened the gym at Washington Park District on the south side of Chicago and put some of the best young players in the area through drills. He also helped his brother, Mike, with his grassroots program called Chicago Select. Dana liked the way the Parkers taught the game and wanted Devon in their program.

    “Where you stay?” Sonny asked Dana, trying to get a feel if Devon would be a fit.

    “We stay in the suburbs,” Dana replied.

    “You can bring him out,” Parker told Dana. “But I don’t know. Our guys are tough. You’re talking about some serious, tough dudes.”

    Sonny’s skepticism came from an assumption that is deep-rooted in basketball circles. City guards have a different level of toughness. It’s not the only place to find guards, of course, but it’s usually a good place to start, and the Parkers had little reason to expand their reach to the suburbs.

    Dana was not worried. Devon Dotson started playing tackle football when he was 5, his parents fibbing about his age so he could play a year up. He embraced contact so much that they called him Bam Bam. His toughness was born out of being a little brother — Dalen Dotson, who plays at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss., is three years older. In their finished basement, the Dotsons built a mini full court with Fisher Price goals on both ends. They played two-on-two with a couple of neighborhood brothers and sold tickets to their parents. “Really cute,” Angie Dotson says. “I miss those days.”

    But when it was just the Dotson brothers going one-on-one, things got heated. “I kid you not, every single day someone would come up with a bloody nose,” Devon says. “Mom, he did this. Mom, he did that. It was nonsense down there.”

    Devon was advanced on the basketball floor from the time he first dribbled a ball, Dana taking both boys to a Saturday morning skills session called French Fry Basketball when Devon was just a toddler.

    At 4, he played in his first rec league. The other players were allowed to run with the ball. The officials called the game tighter for Devon, because dribbling was no issue. On the day of the championship, Devon was sick with a stomach bug. He was not going to miss that game, so his mom put him in a pull-up just to be safe.

    Dana left out most of those details when he called Sonny, other than the football part, but he assured him that his son would have no issues competing against city kids. Sonny agreed to have him out for what would essentially be a tryout. Mike Parker will never forget that day.

    “Oh, my god, what have I obtained?” Mike remembers thinking. “It was apparent at his young age that he was special. I’d never seen anything like it.”

    Kansas coach Bill Self likes his point guards ornery, tough and fast, so he and his assistants are always looking for those attributes when scouting the position. Dotson checked every box.

    The payoff has been immediate. The 6-foot-2 Dotson is off to the best start of any freshman point guard in the Self era, averaging 11.0 points, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

    KU assistant coach Norm Roberts first saw Dotson at an Under Armour camp in July 2016 between Dotson’s sophomore and junior years of high school. By that time, he and his family had moved to Charlotte. Roberts had never heard of Dotson, but he could not take his eyes off of him. Someone who knew Dotson approached Roberts in the stands. “Who you watching?” he asked him.

    “I’m watching that little guard,” Roberts replied. “Man, he’s tough.”

    “He reminds you of Frank (Mason), doesn’t he?”

    “Yeah, he does,” Roberts said. “A lot.”

    “Yeah, that’s Devon Dotson,” the man said. “He’s really, really good.”

    Roberts was sold, so he brought Self to watch Dotson later that summer. Self loves speed, and the way Dotson attacked also reminded him of Mason, who played for the Jayhawks from 2013 to ’17 and was the National Player of the Year as a senior. Then once he watched the interactions between Dotson and his grassroots coach, former NBA guard Jeff McInnis, Self knew that was the point guard he wanted. “Jeff was on his butt and he took it,” Self says. “That showed me right there, this kid is going to be fine.”

    Dana was always after the best tutelage for his boys. After the family moved to Charlotte when Devon was in seventh grade, he took Devon and Dalen to train with former Hornets point guard Muggsy Bogues twice a week. “He was a kid who saw the play before it even happened,” Bogues says. “He loved to make plays and make guys around him better at the same time. Seeing that at an early age was unique.”

    Bogues was so smitten he recruited Dotson to attend United Faith as an eighth-grader, where Bogues was the high school varsity coach. Dotson started on the high school JV team and moved up to varsity halfway through the season. “I knew he was going to be a big-time player the moment I laid eyes on him,” Bogues says. “He had the ‘it’ factor.”

    At every stage, it was the same experience for Dotson: He was fast and fearless and his coaches loved him from the start.

    It wasn’t just basketball, either. Dotson was a star on the football field in elementary school. He also played baseball and a year of hockey, and in fourth grade he spent time on the soccer pitch after his mom demanded he take a year off from football. His team won the league championship. “Every sport he excelled,” Angie says, “and they all wanted him to do the travel thing.”

    Whatever sport Dotson was playing, he would become obsessed with it. “Whenever he was playing football, my wife and I had to tell him to stop diving on things,” Dana says. “Stop trying to tackle us while we’re walking through the mall. Get up off the ground. What are you doing? He would take on that persona.”

    After moving to Charlotte, Dotson gave up football and baseball to focus on hoops exclusively, and he developed into one of the best guards in the country. During his first two years in his new home, Dotson teamed with Leaky Black, now a freshman at North Carolina, on the CB Spiders, and the team finished in the top 10 at AAU nationals both years.

    “He always wanted to stop his man and always wanted to destroy his man,” says Jason Stowe, who coached the CB Spiders. “Doesn’t matter if we were in practice or whatever, he always wanted to be the best, always worked the hardest. You knew he was going to be that guy.”

    When McInnis landed Dotson during his freshman year on Team Charlotte, which played on the Under Armour circuit, he started him on the under-17 team (the top age group in grassroots basketball).

    Playing up was nothing new. He was used to going against his big brother and his buddies in neighborhood games, and Dana got him placed on Dalen’s team when Dalen was a seventh-grader and Devon in fourth grade.

    Devon figured out his ticket to getting on the floor was his defense. Playing with and against kids three years older, he was the sixth man on the team and often closed games. “I was just trying to find a way to make an impact,” Devon says. “I figured out this is something I could be really good at. Since then, I’ve always prided myself on the defensive end.”

    In Dotson’s first year, Team Charlotte made it to the championship game of Under Armour’s end-of-summer national tournament and faced Canada Elite, which was led by Thon Maker and Maryland-bound Justin Jackson. McInnis told Dotson he was going to put him on Jackson, a 6-7 wing who was already built like a grown man. Dotson looked at McInnis sideways, but he accepted the challenge.

    “Devon is strong,” McInnis says. “They scrapped their whole game plan and tried to post Devon up. I told Devon to front the post. He had two or three steals in the first quarter. It messed their whole strategy up. They never recovered from it.”

    The following school year, Dotson transferred to Providence Day, where he joined forces with then-senior Grant Williams, the current Tennessee star. Providence Day already had a good team, as Williams was in a class with two other Division I prospects, but coach Brian Field did not hesitate giving the keys to his sophomore point guard.

    “He has one speed, and it’s faster than everyone else on the court speed,” Field says. “He can just go. It changed us. Because it gave us the ability to attack in transition unlike we had before. That kid is not afraid of anybody.”

    Providence Day won the state title that year, knocking off Highpoint Christian, which was led by Bam Adebayo, who starred at Kentucky and now plays for the Miami Heat. Providence Day also rose into the top 10 of national rankings.

    “When those guys graduated, he became the alpha dog,” Field says of Dotson. “His role changed. He had to score. That’s what he became his junior and senior year, a high-scoring point guard, but at the same time he loved to pass the ball and get his teammates involved.”

    When Self and Roberts visited the Dotsons in their home, Devon told them that he wanted to attend a school where he could start right away and win a national title.

    The path was clear at KU, which was graduating All-American Devonte’ Graham, but neither party knew exactly what it was getting.

    A few weeks ago, Self installed a new defense that Dotson was struggling to comprehend. He kept messing up, and Self was on him hard. “I swear he thought I’d been here for four years,” Dotson says. “He was saying, ‘How do you not know this defense?’ I just got here. I don’t know it.”

    Roberts and Self remind Dotson that this is what he wanted when they recruited him. “It’s hard to be good,” Roberts says. “Like, this ain’t easy, man. You don’t become a great team, and it’s easy. You don’t win at this level and it’s easy. It’s not easy to perform at this level.”

    What Self likes about Dotson is that he doesn’t cower when he is coached hard. The day after he struggled to pick up the defensive scheme, the Jayhawks started practice with it and he had it down.

    Most coaches will say that every player has to be coached differently, but Self is usually demanding, especially so with his point guards. That’s why a veteran typically holds down the spot. Dotson is the first point guard since Tyshawn Taylor a decade ago, and only the second overall, to start at point guard for Self at Kansas.

    The uncertainty of starting a freshman point guard can be a concern, but Dotson helped ease everyone’s worries on opening night against Michigan State. One of the best point guards in the country, Spartans junior Cassius Winston put up a double-double against KU (13 points and 11 assists), but Dotson’s pressure bothered him. Winston turned it over five times and had one of his worst shooting games. Plus, he could not keep Dotson in front of him. Dotson’s speed changed the game, and he scored 16 points in the Jayhawks’ victory.

    The numbers support his case as one of the best freshmen in the country. KU’s defense is six points per 100 possessions better when Dotson is on the floor, per And Self has allowed Dotson to play through mistakes, because he’s noticed that his temperament rarely changes. “His highs are a step above his normal,” Self says, “and his lows are a step below his normal.” Mostly, though, Self loves the way he attacks downhill.

    Dotson learned to play that way from watching Derrick Rose. He used to attend Rose’s camps when the family lived in Chicago, and if not for the relocation, he wanted to attend Simeon Career Academy, Rose’s alma mater. Dotson’s closet was lined with footwear from Rose’s shoe line, and he wore kneepads to mimic his look. He even adopted Rose’s free-throw routine.

    But unlike most admirers, Dotson displays a game that has some resemblance to his idol’s. The way he attacks the rim is vintage Rose. Not only can he get by his defender, but he’s also so strong in his core that it’s difficult to knock him off his spot.

    When Providence Day had its first practice this season, Dotson’s former teammates told Field they were relieved they didn’t have to guard him anymore. “I’m like, ‘What do you mean?’” Field recalls. “They said, ‘Coach, every day you get in the locker room, and your ribs hurt from every time he goes by you. He makes contact with you, and I’d be bruised up and down.’”

    McInnis occasionally scrimmages with his players and can usually dictate where he wants a guy to go with his old-man strength. Not so with Dotson.

    “His center of gravity is really low,” McInnis says. “Some guys are quick, but you can bump them off their spots. When I play against him, he’s so low to the ground and he’s so strong, it’s hard to bump him off his spot.”

    Dotson is still just an average finisher — he shoots 64.7 percent at the basket, according to — but part of the reason for his lower percentage is the degree of difficulty on some of those attempts. With his strength and concentration, he has the potential to become an elite layup maker. He never takes his eyes off the rim when he’s challenged by a defender, which is a staple for all great finishers.

    And his speed is still his greatest weapon. He leads the team in transition points (78), according to Synergy’s tracking, and he’s still learning how Self wants him to run the team.

    “That is Coach’s big thing with point guards,” Roberts says. “He wants them to think the game, think about what’s going on. Don’t just play the game, think the game, know what’s going on out there and then you’ll react better.”

    Much like Mason early in his career, Dotson defers to older players. He has the second-lowest usage rate among KU’s starters — it was the lowest when Udoka Azubuike was still healthy — and he hasn’t been as aggressive in the half court. Of the possessions he finishes, 35.2 percent come in transition, which is 11th-best among players with at least 50 transition opportunities, according to Synergy.

    Part of that is Dotson’s hesitancy to shoot from outside. Some would argue his jumper is a hole in his game that he’ll need to fix to become an elite scorer. Dotson disagrees. “I know the amount of work I put in,” he says.

    He has made a respectable 14-of-34 (41.2 percent) from 3, although the limited attempts would suggest he’s not overly confident. Here, perhaps, is another parallel. Mason was a player who went from an average shooter to an elite one. He made only 18 3s as a freshman and shot 32.7 percent from deep, but he improved each season and made 82 3s on a 47.1 percent clip as a senior.

    This could be the path for Dotson if he sticks around long enough, but his mom and his coach want more right away.

    “I feel like he’s holding back,” Angie says. “I feel like he could do more. He is a little lacking confidence right now. There’s things he could be doing and we know he could do. A little lack of confidence, which is the first time I’ve seen this.”

    Angie corrects herself. She saw a similar approach when her son started with Team Charlotte and most of his teammates were two years older. She wants to see him be more aggressive and dunk the ball like D-Rose. “He can jump,” Angie says. “He doesn’t have the vertical like Derrick Rose, but he can do a lot of that. He just won’t show it. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s holding him back. He’s just being a little timid. Hopefully, he comes out of it because they’re going to need him to.”

    Sometimes parents and coaches see things differently, but it’s safe to say this is what Self wants as well. He has encouraged Dotson to take charge and not worry about his age when it comes to leadership. And any sort of passiveness is met with immediate disdain. Last Wednesday against TCU, when Dotson turned the corner and then jumped into the air with nowhere to go and threw the ball out of bounds, his eyes met Self’s and the coach shouted, “C’mon Devon! Be a player!”

    Self is constantly pushing his buttons and has already figured out what motivates his freshman point guard. A mere mention of backup point guard Charlie Moore usually does the trick. “All I’ve gotta do is say, ‘Hey, Charlie, keep busting his ass,’ and that gets him going,” Self says. “That’s the only time he has an ego. He doesn’t like for anybody to say that somebody’s better than him.”

    Self really never knows the limits of a player until he gets him on campus. His point guards usually gain his trust and admiration with time, but he already has a sparkle in his eye when talks about Dotson.

    You know this when he mentions the freshman in the same sentence as former Jayhawks point guard Sherron Collins. Spend enough time around Self, and it’s evident that Collins is his all-time favorite and he believes the best freshman he ever coached. “Sherron was so advanced,” Self says. “I thought he was the best guard in the country. He was so physically strong and had it on a string and could get his own and was smart. Devon, obviously, has a lot of those same characteristics.”

    With Collins, Self knew right away. The day Collins stepped foot on campus he dominated a pickup game, showing a core of players who would become part of the 2008 national championship team that he belonged. “So when I watched Sherron play, it really didn’t surprise me,” Self says.

    Self wasn’t as sure about Dotson. But one day this season, McInnis got a call from one of KU’s coaches who told him, “You’ve done a good job with this kid. Coach Self is hard on him, and he doesn’t flinch.”

    And in crunch time of KU’s biggest games this season, that’s what Self has noticed. “I’m like going, ‘This little kid is getting good. He’s getting really good,’” Self says. “And the sky’s the limit for him because he’s so fast.”

  • @BShark Single most longest post ever.

  • I didn’t know Jaybate writes for the athletic!

  • @dylans PHOF!!

  • I’ve been watching Jayhawk basketball since the early 60s.

    I can’t ever recall experiencing a better freshman PG over Devon.

    Let’s hope he continues to improve at a rapid clip, too.

  • I love the stop trying to tackle us at the mall! That’s why he can take hits and has no fear.

  • Great article. Devon is a stud.

  • That’s the quality of content you get from the Athletic, if you were wondering… worth the very cheap sub

  • I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a repost of the Athletic content today …

    @BShark Thanks … great article.

  • @drgnslayr Even before reading that article, the only freshman PG I could think of that had that level of impact was Sherron. I get to the end and there’s the comparison to Sherron.

  • I hadn’t considered paying for The Athletic until that article but it makes it tempting now. Content like that is hard to find

  • BeddieKU23 said:

    I hadn’t considered paying for The Athletic until that article but it makes it tempting now. Content like that is hard to find

    CJ is a really good writer. He covers KSU and Missouri for them as well.

    Writers need to make money as it is their job, and the digital pennies ad model just doesn’t really cut it.

  • BShark said:

    BeddieKU23 said:

    I hadn’t considered paying for The Athletic until that article but it makes it tempting now. Content like that is hard to find

    CJ is a really good writer. He covers KSU and Missouri for them as well.

    Writers need to make money as it is their job, and the digital pennies ad model just doesn’t really cut it.

    Not when basically anyone can start a blog themselves and SB Nation is able to essentially get free amateur writers to provide enough content to populate a site.

    The athletic seems to be the next big thing for sports. Like what ESPN used to do before the mega cable contracts fiasco, layoffs, and turning into a garbage cable channel focused on only the coasts. I would not be shocked to see the Athletic start providing radio content on satellite and tv content on streaming devices in the future.

  • @Texas-Hawk-10

    I agree. Hard to discount his contribution in our National Championship, too.

    Devon has such an ability to execute, to stay disciplined and focused, show poise, and follow Self’s instructions. What more could we want from our PG? And to be just a freshman… unreal!

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