With top scorers Dedric Lawson and Lagerald Vick gone, Kansas men’s basketball will need to look to its talented pool of underclassmen to fill the void.
Coming off a season where he put up 12.3 points per game, sophomore point guard Devon Dotson said he's ready to step up in his role as a playmaker and scoring threat.
“You know, naturally, coming back for year two, I feel more comfortable in that role and just helping the team out as much as I can,” Dotson said at men's basketball media day Wednesday.
Dotson said himself, along with the other underclassmen, will need to play an important role on the team to make a run late in March.
“It’s a lot of stuff, whether that’s off the court or helping us everyday at practice,” Dotson said.
The seniors on the roster — transfer guard Isaiah Moss, center Udoka Azubuike and forward Mitch Lightfoot — will be part of the upperclassmen contingent. But freshman guard Christian Braun believes the Jayhawks’ strength is their mix of new and returning faces.
“We have really good veteran leadership with our older guys, with Udoka and Devon even,” Braun said. “We have a good balance of older and younger guys, so it does really good for [the freshmen] for [the seniors] to teach guys how to be leaders.”
Braun, an Overland Park native, measures in as the tallest guard on the team at 6-foot-6.
“I think my size is a lot for me, being versatile, guarding a lot of positions and playing a lot of positions,” Braun said.
Another freshman looking to make an immediate impact this season is forward Jalen Wilson, who hopes to help the team anyway he can.
“I think my role is to just do what I’m supposed to do, not do anything too extra,” Wilson said. “Make shots, rebound, defend, and just be a team guy.”
Azubuike is the only upperclassman starter returning from last year's lineup. However, coach Bill Self believes this shouldn’t be a problem due the younger guards gaining plenty of experience in 2018-19.
“Marcus Garrett is a junior who has played a lot of minutes, Ochai Agbaji is poised to have a bust out year,” Self said. “But the young guys, those are guys that need some experience around them to give them the best chance.”
Garrett, Agbaji and Azubuike should all see boosts in playing time this year. Although he trusts his veterans, Self still sees great potential in Braun, Wilson, and freshman forward Tristan Enaruna.
“I think they’re beyond their years right now,” Self said. “I can see them being able to play in big moments early.”
The Jayhawks start their season at home with an exhibition game against Fort Hays State Oct. 24. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.