NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Baylor

Jan 18, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Marcus Garrett (0) drives on Baylor Bears guard Adam Flagler (10) during the second half at Ferrell Center. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

If you just look at the box scores, you could say Kansas senior guard Marcus Garrett has had a subpar year — at least to the standards of a player on the Naismith Award’s watch list.

In the 13 games he's played in this season, Garrett is averaging 9.2 points, 3.9 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals, which are all slightly down from a year ago.  

“He’s always been kind of Robin and somebody else was Batman, and this year he’s Batman and really doesn’t have a Robin — when you talk about ball-handling out there at the same time he’s out there,” head coach Bill Self said Tuesday on his weekly "Hawk Talk" show.

“So you’re asking a guy to handle the ball and have the ball in his hands more than he should," Self continued. "You still have the exact same type of offensive player and defensive player, so defensively it's been a little harder than him.”

In layman's terms, Garrett has taken on a more expanded role this season. In his previous years, he wasn’t the primary ball handler. He wasn’t even someone who had to score for Kansas to be successful. 

But now, he may be Kansas' most important player on the court.

“It's a little bit misleading to think that he’s not doing as much, he’s probably doing more," Self said. "But I think he’s become a little more careless because of fatigue. The best thing we can do for him is to not play him as much, but that’s also hard to do.” 

Garrett has averaged 32.4 minutes per game so far this season, but against ranked opponents that figure's increased to nearly 35 minutes. In two of those games, Garrett was not completely healthy, as he was sick during the Kentucky game and was elbowed in the head late in the Texas game — which also caused Garrett to miss Kansas’ matchup against TCU on Jan. 5.

However, the Jayhawks are still trying to find an offensive identity and gain some consistency. Garrett will only get better as he becomes more comfortable in his new role and as this team progresses. 

“His role is totally different,” Self said in a media availability Thursday. “He doesn’t have as many offensive weapons around him as what we had last year that could take pressure off of him. You get Marcus in the same spots, but big guys didn’t come and try to block his shot last year."

Most recently against Baylor Monday night, Garrett posted a strong nine points and eight assists, but also had a costly five turnovers.

If Kansas is going to right the ship and finish in the top 3 of the Big 12 race, the Jayhawks will need consistent scoring contributions from redshirt freshman forward Jalen Wilson and sophomore guard Christian Braun to alleviate some of the pressure currently on Garrett. 

Redshirt freshman point guard Dajuan Harris could also help Garrett off the bench and allow the senior to play an off-ball role like he did last year. The pieces are there, and the Jayhawks just need time to work it all out and help Garrett in the best way possible. 

Next up for Kansas will be a good road test against Oklahoma. Tipoff is set for 11 a.m.