Kurtis Townsend, one of the three coaches in charge of Kansas basketball practice until Bill Self returns from his USA Basketball assignment, likes what he witnessed last week during the Jayhawks’ first four, one-hour sessions of the summer.
“I wouldn’t say there’s any (players) that stand out yet, but I think we’re going to have a really, really good team,” KU assistant coach Townsend, who is running the show with Norm Roberts and Jerrance Howard, said of last week’s NCAA-allotted four hours of work.
“I think Silvio (De Sousa, 6-9, 245 sophomore) is much improved and his body looks great. You know Doke’s going to be really good,” Townsend added of 7-foot, 270-pound junior Udoka Azubuike. “Dedric (Lawson, 6-foot-9, 230-pound junior) has a chance to be an all-league type guy like Doke. Our front line is going to look much different than it did last year,” Townsend added.
Memphis transfer Lawson, who could play some small forward as well as power forward, has impressed from beyond the three-point line, Townsend said.
“I would say Dedric is shooting the ball as well as anybody,” Townsend said, specifically asked about the team’s shooting from past the arc. “I heard Mitch (Lightfoot, 6-foot-8 junior) shot it well in the scrimmage the other day (six threes in last Wednesday’s camp game). As far as the guards, nobody stands out yet. Charlie (Moore, 5-foot-11 sophomore) is probably shooting the ball the best in the preseason. Marcus (Garrett, 6-foot-5 sophomore) has gotten better. Sam (Cunliffe, 6-foot-6 junior) has been shooting the ball pretty well, but nobody has done it in a game yet. That will be a point (area) where we’ll be weakest at coming back (into 2018-19 season)," Townsend added.
Point guard Devon Dotson, a 6-foot-1 freshman, arrived on campus on Thursday.
“I think his speed. He’s unbelievable. He could get wherever he wants,” Townsend said, commenting on the strengths of the No. 18-ranked player in the recruiting class of 2018 according to Rivals.com. “He’s great in the open floor. He’s a good passer and I think he’s a pretty tough kid. He needs to get a lot better shooting-wise, which most kids when they are freshmen, do. We’ll work on that all summer. He’s a jet. He’s really fast and has a high basketball IQ.
“He has fit in well. He’s trying. He doesn’t know what’s going on yet like most of them (newcomers),” Townsend added of the Charlotte, N.C., native. “He’ll get acclimated. He’ll be way better two weeks from now than he is now. He’ll be good by the end of the summer.”
KU’s point guard candidates include Dotson and Moore plus combo guard Garrett. Quentin Grimes, a 6-foot-5 freshman combo guard who is currently playing for Self’s under-18 men’s national team in Canada, could also play point if needed.
“That won’t be easy,” Townsend said of replacing point guards from KU’s last two teams — Devonté Graham and Frank Mason. “You have a guy that’s in his third year in college in Charlie Moore. He didn’t play last year (but) had a great freshman year at Cal averaging 13 (points, actually 12.2) a game. He has experience. Devon is a McDonald’s All-American, which Frank or Devonté weren’t coming in. So he’s got all the tools. I think he’s going to be really good. I think we have two guys who can take over those duties and I think Marcus Garrett can handle the ball well enough to run some point,” Townsend added.
Townsend said freshman power forward David McCormack (6-foot-10, Oak Hill Academy) has impressed.
“I think his body looks good. He plays with a high motor all the time. Sometimes he’s a little sped up, but if that’s your big guy that comes off the bench after Doke — (after) guys have been pounding on Doke — I think he’s going to be terrific. He dunks everything around the basket, has good hands, tries to block shots and he’s a really good rebounder," Townsend said.
Townsend said Azubuike will be working on his jump shot this summer. Azubuike hit a couple threes in a drill in front of several hundred Self campers on Monday.
“He’s really explosive, moves his feet really well,” Townsend said of Azubuike. “We’ll just work on his jump shot. I think that’s the only thing that he really needs to work on and rebounding a little better.”
He also has been working on his free throw shooting. Azubuike made 41.3 percent of his free throws a year ago while hitting a school record 77 percent of his floor shots.
“We really tried to change his shot (from line). It looks better, but we haven’t worked on it much since the season ends, but we will,” Townsend said.