Who is "The Man", Newman, and Making A Choice

  • One thing that seems apparent with this Kansas squad is that we don’t have a go-to player. No one is “the man.”

    Last season, arguably, we had three. DG, Newman, and Svi. We had Mason. We’ve had TRob.

    The qualities? Willingness, ability, leadership, and an assassin’s mentality. You know it when you see it. And you when you don’t.

    We’ve seen pretenders. Guys that want to be “the man”, but simply don’t have what it takes. This year’s pretender is LeGerald Vick. He has the willingness, but the rest of the package is not there. Vick is a nice compliment. The guy standing on the three point line when “the man” drives and draws attention. But he’s not “the man” and he’s miscast in that role.

    Vinnie Johnson, for Detroit Piston, was known as the microwave because he could heat up at any minute. Vick’s much the same. But the streakiness limits his opportunity to be the man. The late air ball some minor evidence of the limits on his identity. A guy like Vick can never be “the man.” He struggles just to be “a man.”

    Unfortunately, Malik Newman had his heart set on turning pro. If he didn’t turn pro, this would be his team. He would unquestionably be “the man.” Last I heard, Newman was plying his trade with the Canton Charge in the G-league.

    The search for “the man” continues.

    I offer two candidates - Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji. The former could not get his hands on the ball in the last possession. The latter was on the bench.

    Of course, we’d like to think that Dedric could be the man. But he’s seems to lack some qualities. He doesn’t seem to have the willingness, and he doesn’t seem to have the mentality. He’s been huge in some games, but he’s oddly passive for stretches, and he’s easily bumped off his game. Not “the man.”

    Today, this team needed Dedric taking over down the stretch. We didn’t get that. This was the type of game where a team’s best player steps up and delivers.

    So the choice. It’s time to replace Grimes in the starting lineup – and in the finishing lineup.

    West Virginia’s game winning hoop was scored when Quentin Grimes inexplicably permitted a mediocre blow-by, and and easy layup. It was horrible. Further, Vick, chose not to aggressively help on the drive, choosing to shade a shooter on the three point line – with a one point lead. This is basic stuff. A two point lead? Sure, you can only lose by the three. But a one point lead you stop the attack to the hoop. It started with Grimes’ poor defense and ended with Vick just being Vick.

    So time to make a choice.

    It was quite difficult for me to watch Agbagi on the bench. The turnovers in his short time in the game were not helpful to his cause. This was Self being Self – but I get it. The turnovers, the environment, caused Self to do what he used to do regularly – go conservative and banish the outsiders. And Agbagi is the outsider, new to the rotation. So he didn’t get the time to redeem himself.

    I view Grimes as a high quality talent. Most do. But right now, he needs to sit. He needs to come off the bench. Play lower minutes, and if hot, get more minutes. Earn his time. And he probably will earn time. But his role needs to be reassessed.

    His defense today was no different than its been all year. Bad. This team can’t afford his lack of offense coupled with poor defense. We’ve discussed Garrett and his lack of offense (which seems to be turning for the better). With Grimes, we get limited offense, and poor defense. And the poor defense is a killer. Today, arguably, it lost us the game.

    Self said of Agbagi, "“It was unbelievable how that kid responded and kept balls alive and just gave us some energy,” – this after his first game. Today? Self abandoned the kid that offered hope.

    Self needs to start and play Agbaji. Self has been positive regarding his defense. He appears to be an active on ball defender. This is the kid we need to embrace. Impressive. More minutes, more impact on this team.

    And very importantly, we have a player in Agbaji that has a chance to be “the man.”

    The other possible player for that role is Devon Dotson. Of course, Dotson was outplayed by WVU’s point guard and had a pretty poor game. But the kid can shoot. He’s fast. He can finish. Today, there was no real effort to get the ball in his hands the last possession. He was denied by one player – not one KU player attempted to set a screen or get him in a position to get the ball.

    With the game on the line, we have to have an identity. I always talk about March. Right now, Dotson and Agbaji need to be groomed and prepared for their roles. We can’t flail away at the end of games as we’ve been doing quite regularly.

    Think about it. At the end of the game, we had the anti-leader Vick, a very limited Grimes (who hurts us defensively), the very limited Marcus Garrett (who can’t shoot outside but has proved other value) – and Dotson and Dedric. We need another option.

    Agbaji over Grimes is a positive on both ends of the floor. That’s what needs to happen. I sure has heck hope we didn’t pull his redshirt to play him four minutes and banish him for a few mistakes.

    My vote to get the ball late? Dotson or Agbaji. Dotson for what we’ve seen, Agbaji for what might be. And right now, “what might be” has got a lot of weight given the late game collapses we’ve become accustomed to.

  • It’ll end up being Dotson eventually. His issue though is that he doesn’t have anyone to teach him how to be a leader at this level. That was also why Mason and Graham struggled early on as well.

    When Self got here, he already had Aaron Miles who learned how to lead from Hinrich. Russell Robinson came in and learned from Miles how to be the leader. Robinson in turned showed Sherron Collins the ropes who then mentored Tyshawn Taylor. This is where the breakdown in that line happened. In 2010, KU landed Josh Selby and Royce Woolridge. Selby obviously had his issues and should’ve stayed another season at least. Woolridge was always a project player and never panned out. Woolridge was likely supposed to take the reigns from Taylor after the 2011-2012 season as either a junior or RS sophomore.

    The 2011 class was a disaster because Self for whatever reason never had a plan for the Morris twins leaving early even though it wasn’t much of a secret that was a possibility. Still Self landed Naadir Tharpe out of that class after it became apparent Woolridge was never going to develop and Tharpe was supposed to be next after Taylor at the point. The transition from Taylor to Tharpe is where the line of PG’s at KU was broken because of Tharpe’s issues.

    In 2012, KU didn’t land a PG and 2013 is when KU landed Mason who spent one year under Thapre who wasn’t a leader in any capacity and KU lost 10 games that year despite having Wiggins, Embiid, and Selden as well.

    When Mason took over as a sophomore with Graham as a freshman, that’s when KU had was really hurt because Mason and Graham were having to learn for themselves how to lead a high level college basketball because they didn’t have anyone to mentor them. Mason was under Tharpe for a season, but when the guy who’s supposed to show you how to be a leader gets kicked off the team, Mason didn’t have anyone to teach him.

    The 2015 class ended up a disaster with Diallo and Bragg not making it past year 2 (or 1 in Diallo’s case) along with Vick who might go down as the biggest disappointment among 4 players under Self along with Elijah Johnson (I don’t share you opinion on EJ and never will).

    As Mason and Graham keep learning and getting better, there should’ve been another PG in either the 2016 or 2017 class to develop and take the reigns after Graham left in 2018, but it didn’t happen so Self had to get what he could which led to bringing in Charlie Moore in 2017 as a transfer and hoping he could land PG 2018 to develop. Obviously, Self landed Dotson in 2018 who’s the highest rated PG Self has landed since Sherron Collins and looks like he’ll be a great PG one day and already is the best freshman PG KU has had since Collins.

    The problem though is Dotson doesn’t have a mentor to show him how to take control of his team. Dotson is learning on the job how to lead his team and there will be bumps along the way. KU lost 9 games in Mason’s first year as a starter. This group has 3 wins over current top 15 teams all on neutral courts so the potential is definitely there whenever the light comes on.

    Hopefully this core comes back in tact next season and gets 3 years together because I could see a lineup in 2020-2021 of Dotson, Grimes, Agbaji, Garrett, and McCormack being a serious title threat. It’s also not unreasonable or unrealistic to see that line up in a couple of seasons with 4 juniors and a senior in the starting line up.

    This group has huge upside, they just have to go through the same growing pains Mason and Graham and that group had to go through because there isn’t anyone to show this group how to lead. Hopefully Self lands another top level PG in the 2020 class that can sit behind Dotson for a tear and learn under a junior Dotson before taking over in either 2021 or 2022.

  • @HighEliteMajor It appeared that Garrett is trying to be the man. On two of the final possessions, he drove it. One problem is that he is not good from the line…like Mason or DG. I love the guy and he is doing more and more…but his offensive skills don’t equate to being the man.

  • Hawk8086 said:

    @HighEliteMajor It appeared that Garrett is trying to be the man. On two of the final possessions, he drove it. One problem is that he is not good from the line…like Mason or DG. I love the guy and he is doing more and more…but his offensive skills don’t equate to being the man.

    yep and what was that pull up shot from the FT line late by Garrett coming out of a Time Out?

    If I recall, MG began to drive, it was cut off so he pulled up and shot.

    Not much of an attempt to run any sort of offensive set other than the bad ball of several years ago and the first attempt at overcoming no high-low offense.

    It does not appear that Self’s offense has really embraced the 4 guard out game where there are sets that get guys open on the perimeter without an inside-out move. I may be missing it and it could be all just be that we were sooo bad passing the ball that the answer was, “don’t pass”, dribble to the hole. Only 6 assists. That’s what that looks like on the stat sheet.

  • Devon had a bad game. That really hurt us because we have already become accustom to his level play with few turnovers. He had 7 TOs in this game!

    But we have to cut him a break. He is a freshman… on the road for his first game in Morgantown. He is a fast learner. I bet he lost sleep after this loss. I bet he is thinking about some of the other venues and he has a deep desire to “suck it up” and get the job done.

    It would have helped if we did have some elder leadership in Morgantown… no doubt about that.

    In the long run, it probably serves are interest best to have Devon take it on the chin here. What a great chip-builder!

    So… we have probably the ability to lose two more games in B12 play… that’s it. Better take care of business with ISU first. I could easily see anything go down in AFH… from a complete blow out of ISU to dropping another big game. It is a character test for this young team.

    I’m still optimistic. They will have to pry that B12 Conference Title trophy from my cold dead hands!

  • @drgnslayr mason vs Kentucky his frosh yr, the best is yet to come for young D Dot! He could use a lil help. Marcus is a possible leader, but not all the offensive skills.

  • @Crimsonorblue22 But they are developing! The last 2 games have been encouraging.

  • In Dedric’s case its lot easier for a guard to be the “Man” in Self’s offense. We’ve seen less and less of Dedric at the high post or hovering the perimeter since Doke went down for the year. So most of Dedric’s offense has to come off a guard getting him the ball inside. Not ideal for your best player. As we saw in the closing minutes Saturday there was poor execution again to get him the ball. If he was a guard I don’t think he would have had that issue. There was poor execution to get Dotson the ball on multiple occasions as well. Growing pains for Dotson who had a rough game. This is growing pains for the coaches. Self had the chance to call timeout and choose not to. Simple as that. The crowd noise was insane after that made basket and that was an opportune moment to settle his guys and draw up a play. Situationally both the players and coaches have to do a better job.

  • @Crimsonorblue22 Maybe you’re thinking about Mason @ Florida his freshman year? Out of control, looked overmatched. Didn’t play UK his freshman year.

  • @HighEliteMajor sophomore yr then

  • @HighEliteMajor

    Nice post. I always like your analysis.

    However, Aqbaji’s sample size is a little too small for me to anoint him as a crunch time go to player.

    Dotson’s offense to me seems to be opportunistic. If there’s a path to the goal he’ll take it with pretty good results. However at crunch time those ‘easy’ drives to the hole just aren’t going to be there.

  • @Texas-Hawk-10 Great post. I like the analysis of our guard history under Self. A lot of great names there.

  • I wonder if Self was worried about letting the defense get set and having to in bounds the ball in a timely fashion? IDK what he was thinking, but the D had our guys rattled. I’m hoping for more poise tonight.

  • @wissox Thanks … Agbaji seems to have a little of the “it” factor. Dotson too. And I don’t see other options to be “the man” right now. No perfect answer.

    @dylans Don’t know if you saw, but Self said he made a mistake not calling a time out, though it would get driven to the hoop, and really took responsibility for that late game cluster. I really like it when coaches do that – even though our guys should have executed much better.

  • Vick. That is the guy that has to figure out how to be the man. Simple. Lawson apparently doesn’t have the personality … kind of perry Ellis like. Grimes may get some better, but what we see is what we will get til next season. Dotson, as astutely pointed out in this thread, is a freshman- not quite ready to be the man. Garrett really should not have to be the man, his game is not built for that, but he is an incredibly valued player. Self said he is not really comfortable unless Garrett is in there, and frankly I have felt the same way all season. He is a natural team leader in many ways, but not a shooter. He direct teammates on D, assists, and puts us in a good position, but he should not be placed in a position to win the game by scoring. It’s Vick. (Or Lawson if Vick is covered too closely.) He has to figure out how to be the guy game in and game out, , and soon.

    And if the G__damned NCAA could get off their A__s and clear de Sousa, we may just be a sneaky dangerous team.

  • Hindsight. D Lawson said they knew what they were suppose to run, but…just like asu somebody messes it up.

  • @Bosthawk Vick tried at the end. Had his 3 ptr gone in, we would have been acclaiming his taking over. All this discussion about needing someone to step up ignores that he tried to.

    Now, obviously, an air ball is more of a trip up than a successful step up, but he did not shy away from the moment.

  • @mayjay True. Let’s all hope he gets into a groove when it counts and cuts down on the turnovers.

  • @mayjay This article pretty much blames Vick for the fiasco of the last 30 seconds.


    Coach Self subtly suggested the same thing in the post game, when he blamed himself for not calling a time out.

    My interpretation of Self’s comments: I should have known my senior guard is clueless and wouldn’t know the obvious strategy in that situation, so I should have called a timeout to explain it to him, even though the defense would have time to set up.

    Vick can be great, but he is not The Man.

  • @mayjay Even if Vick makes that 3, it’s still the wrong decision in that situation. KU didn’t need a 3 in that situation, they needed a 2. In that situation, you need someone who can drive to the basket which would have dictated either Dotson or Garrett needed the ball in their hands first. If the defense collapses and Vick is open for a kick out 3, I could live with that as well.

    What Vick did was probably the last option in Self’s mind in that situation and as a senior, Vick has to be aware of the situation, but he’s shown throughout his career that he has a pretty low BB IQ, and that he doesn’t deal with criticism well.

    That second trait is why Self fell on the grenade for Vick. The blame for that last possession is in reality about 50/50 between Self and the players.

    Self screwed up because those last couple of possessions were just chaos and Self needed to call a timeout to settle them down. Vick screwed up by not calling a timeout as soon as he crossed half court so Self could set something up. Dotson screwed up because he really should’ve called a timeout as soon as WVU made that basket since Self didn’t. That’s something Dotson will learn as he gets older. Vick should’ve known better and Self should’ve known better.

    I do suspect that Self is glad this happened internally because it seemed like the players were running the show out there and not Self down the stretch. KU’s last few possessions were just as ugly as could be and now Self can show them video of what happens when you don’t do what you’ve practiced and stay disciplined on offense.

    Hopefully this turns out like the OU game last year where Self let KU try and do it themselves and KU seemed to turn the corner after that game and they started playing much better overall from that game forward. We’ll see how KU responds tonight though.

  • @tundrahok I got the airball shot 30 secs before confused with his end shot.

    I was only commenting on Vick’s desire to be the man, not whether he should be or whether his choice was smart or even acceptable.

    Do you remember Sherron Collins shooting as he fell out of bounds after dribbling into the corner during the Comeback? I thought it was an idiot move that would cost us the game–until it went in. I doubt that anyone watching thought otherwise.

  • Even if Vick tried to drive the lane, no guarantee he gets fouled or doesn’t turn it over trying to make the play. The sloppy ball handling is what set up the improbable heave which was probably aided by nerves and the crowd noise. He didn’t see Dedric wide open though which adds to the whole situation gone wrong. I still think the missed timeout is the bigger issue then Vick’s shot. Our HOF coach is well known for finding the right play to get the right shot.

  • @mayjay Making the tge wrong play and still turning out well doesn’t change it from a bad play to a good play, it means the person got lucky that he was bailed out.

    If Dedric hits that put back, it wouldn’t change that Vick made a bad play, it just would’ve meant he got bailed out be Dedric and KU would’ve had a lucky win over WVU instead of a bad loss.

  • tundrahok said:

    @mayjay This article pretty much blames Vick for the fiasco of the last 30 seconds.

    Vick can be great, but he is not The Man.

    I told my son, when Vick has the ball at the end, he was looking to take that shot no mattter what. You could see it in the way he handled the ball. He was NOT going to pass it. Hero ball. 🤬

  • I think back on this game and I sort of wonder if Self took one out of Izzo’s book… looking forward to a few bad losses so the team comes together and gets serious about playing real ball.

    We have been very fortunate to win as many games as we have so far this year. Lots of “deer in the headlights” play where we won even though we really didn’t know why or how.

    Even without Doke or Silvio… this team has plenty of potential to win another conference title and go far in March. It’s better we start making real headway into that potential now so we can continue to tweak it all the way through March.

    I have to say that I am a bit disappointed in the level of play coming off of Christmas break. I was hoping to see a higher level of play… quite a bit higher. There is plenty of blame to go around, but I’d put it most just on the fact that they really haven’t come together as any kind of team yet. I’m yet to see the players connect at a higher level with each other. It still looks like just a bunch of guys that are thrown together to play a game.

    What is really missing right now is leadership. Someone needs to stand up and say, “this is MY team!” and then go prove it. I haven’t seen a true alpha dog on this squad yet. My hope is for Devon. Somewhere deep inside himself he needs to cut the thoughts off about not being worthy to take over a team with some players who have been around longer. Also not sure just how much alpha he has inside. If there is a chink in his armor… this would be it. Time will tell.

  • @drgnslayr I just don’t see passion. I see passivity.

  • drgnslayr said:

    What is really missing right now is leadership. Someone needs to stand up and say, “this is MY team!” and then go prove it. I haven’t seen a true alpha dog on this squad yet. My hope is for Devon.

    You’re absolutely right, but that’s a lot to ask of a freshman. Next year, he’ll be that guy, no doubt.

  • Better at the end tonite!

  • @drgnslayr

    “It still looks like just a bunch of guys that are thrown together to play a game.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself… we can only hope they find that team cohesion. At least around March 🙂

  • HighEliteMajor said:

    @drgnslayr I just don’t see passion. I see passivity.

    You know I’m a Self fan… but if I see a weakness in his coaching it is his inability to express passion on through his teams. I don’t think there are many coaches that are capable cheerleaders on the sidelines. Jimmy Valvano was always one of my favorites.

  • Let’s say Garrett isn’t a flash in the pan and he continues having a respectable offensive game. His D has been consistently good this season and I would expect that to continue. So… What are his chances of becoming the Man if he so desires or is pushed a bit in that direction?

  • Speaking of passion… At around 5 minutes left in the game last night Self was screaming “five!! Five !! FIIIIVEE!!!, “ While holding out his spread hand. I mean really screaming… red faced and some spittle as well… ( check the espn replay ) not sure what that was about… and not sure I’ve ever seen him that cranked up. Wish I knew what he was referring to.

  • @Bosthawk it was the play he wanted to run on the in bounds play. I saw that as well.

  • Ok thanks … guess he thought the guys wouldn’t hear him 🙂

  • On the next play, an opponent caught his 5th foul on a Garrett drive. Coincidence?

  • @approxinfinity ha- actually I thought that THAT was what self was screaming about - either he thought that there were five fouls on the Iowa State guy, or that KU should target that guy to draw his 5th …

    no heart attacks please Bill - it’s only a game 😬

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