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.