After posting a respectable 28-3 record before the 2019-20 season was cut short by COVID-19, Kansas men's basketball is hungry to get back out on the floor.
“Yeah I’m disappointed we didn’t get a chance to validate what the guys had accomplished during the regular season,” Kansas coach Bill Self said during a media availability Thursday. “But it's not something I’ve dwelled on at all.”
With just about a month until tip-off, and a few new additions to the squad, let's take a look at how the Kansas starting lineup might look this season.
Starting Guard: Senior Marcus Garrett
Last season, Garrett was named the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and was a huge part in Kansas’ success on both ends of the floor. Garrett averaged 9.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game during the 2019-20 season.
“To me, Marcus should make this his team,” Self said. “That’s a challenge that we’ve given Marcus, and I think he’s accepted it.”
Garrett will most likely be in the point guard role this season with former Jayhawk Devon Dotson entering the NBA draft, and with solid playmaking abilities he is more than capable. Garrett will also be a key defender for Kansas again and will look to lock down opponents' top scorers.
“I have to make sure everyone knows what they’re doing, where they’re supposed to be and just win,” Garrett said Thursday. “I’ve learned from a lot of good leaders who have come through here and I was fortunate enough to play with [them].”
Starting Guard: Freshman Bryce Thompson
Thompson was the Jayhawks' highest recruit in the class of 2020 and will make an immediate impact. The 6-foot-5 guard was the No. 4-ranked combo guard and 20th player overall, according to 247sports.
“Bryce has been absolutely terrific,” Self said. “As far as being prepared to be a freshman here, he's probably as prepared as anyone we’ve had, so I’m very excited about him.”
During Thompson’s senior season at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he averaged 19.6 points, 5.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game en route to being named the 2018-19 Oklahoma Boys Basketball Gatorade Player of the Year.
The true freshman will likely get minutes in the starting lineup, but could also play a sixth man type of role for the Jayhawks this season.
Starting Guard: Junior Ochai Agbaji
Agbaji started in every game for Kansas last season. And even though he struggled to shoot the ball throughout the year, he still contributed 10 points per game and played solid defense. Garrett said Thursday Agbaji is “shooting the ball great” during preseason workouts.
If Agbaji can become a more consistent shooter, he could possibly be a top draft pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. His length and athleticism are already outstanding, so look for him to be more of a factor this year.
Like we’ve seen from past players under Self, a year can make a big difference on a player's on-court production.
Self said both Agbaji and sophomore guard Christian Braun have been shooting the ball well and look good coming into the season. Look for Agbaji to have a breakout year and be a big factor for the Jayhawks.
Starting Forward: Redshirt freshman Jalen Wilson
Wilson’s season was cut short last year after breaking his ankle against North Carolina Greensboro, which led to him utilizing a medical redshirt. Coming out of high school, Wilson was ranked the 53rd-best recruit in the 2019 class, according to 247Sports.
At 6-foot-8, Wilson plays like a stretch-four. His size and solid shooting stroke is what made him a highly touted recruit, and this year he will look to produce. Last year, he appeared in only two minutes of Kansas' game against Duke in the Champions Classic and did not score.
Wilson’s college sample size is small, but he has the talent to make it into the starting lineup.
Starting Center: Junior David McCormack
McCormack has big shoes to fill with Udoka Azubuike entering the 2020 NBA draft, but Self believes McCormack is ready to be an All-American type player. Last year, he averaged 14.6 minutes, 6.9 points and 4.1 rebounds a game as a key role-playing big man.
“I think he’s going to get the opportunity to put up numbers and I think he will get numbers,” Self said. “He’s a much improved scorer.”
Self added it will be important for McCormack to step into that rim protector role and stay out of foul trouble as the season moves along. During the offseason, McCormack said he worked hard in quarantine to eat better, gain muscle and drop weight.
With this in mind, he could be a more dynamic player for Kansas this season.
“I push myself and push my teammates every day to make us a better team,” McCormack said. “I know that I have to do a lot of things in order for our team to be successful offensively, defensively and for the intangibles.”