Kansas freshman guard Marcus Garrett, who started Friday’s season-opener against Tennessee State in place of highly-acclaimed Malik Newman, received some sound advice from Newman right before tip.
“He told me not to overthink it, just go relax and play,” Garrett, a 6-foot-5, 180-pounder out of Dallas Skyline High said after scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds with two steals and two assists in 29 minutes of a 92-56 victory over the Tigers.
As one might expect, some words of wisdom to an admittedly nervous Garrett also came from senior guard and team leader Devonté Graham.
“Devonté told me to stay calm, live in the moment. I felt I did a good job of that,” Garrett said.
Garrett — he was told by coach Bill Self he’d be starting right after practice on Thursday — took his teammates’ advice to heart.
“Once the ball tipped, I was OK,” Garrett said. “The way we played early made me way more relaxed.”
KU hit its first nine shots in rolling to a 56-27 halftime lead over the Ohio Valley Conference school. Overall, KU hit 21 of 30 shots the first half for 70 percent. The Jayhawks made 60 percent of its shots for the game.
“Everything was going in and going our way,” Garrett said. “The crowd makes it easier. You see the ball go in the hole, with everybody screaming it makes you feel so good on the court.”
Graham said he knows there’s room for improvement.
“I could have shot a lot better,” said Garrett. He was 4 of 6 overall and 2 of 4 from the line. Defensively I gave up a lot of middle drives today.”
“I’m not helping enough (on defense). I feel that’s a big mistake I make a lot,” Garrett said. “I’m used to fake helping and getting back lots of times. Now I figure have to help a little more. I’m starting to get way better. I’m starting to stay longer on the help instead of just lunging and running back to my man.”
KU coach Bill Self thought Garrett played well in his regular-season college debut.
“I thought Marcus getting 10 and 10 … he’s in the right place. He’s competitive. He goes after balls. He knows how to play the right way,” Self said.
Garrett said since the summer, “I’ve learned a lot of things from coach Self and the players. It’s been a really fun journey. I’m hoping to continue that.”
Self was pleased with his contingent of guards in the opener.
“Lagerald (Vick) got better numbers than he played (23 points, 8 of 12 shooting, 4 of 7 from three). I thought he played well. He got so many easy baskets in the middle of the zone the second half,” Self said. “Svi (Mykhailiuk, 15 points, 3 of 6 threes) shot well the first half.
“Still Devonté … that was definitely his game,” Self noted of Devonté Graham, who scored 10 points, dished 12 assists (to three turnovers) and had three steals and seven boards in 31 minutes.
Self said Newman, who started KU’s three exhibition games and was a top ten recruit in high school, could return to the starting lineup for Tuesday’s game against Kentucky (approximately 8:30 p.m., United Center). “I thought he played pretty well,” Self said.
Garrett said it matters not whether he opens that game or comes off the bench.
“Whatever coach decides,” Garrett said.