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KU Jayhawks Q&A: Grimes, future pro decisions and an optimist’s view of 2019-20

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From early in the day until the moment of tip off for a game, Kansas basketball is steeped in tradition in Allen Fieldhouse.

We’re back for another Kansas Jayhawks Q&A.

Thanks for the questions, and a reminder that for 8 cents a day, you can avoid the paywall pop-ups while also helping to support our KU coverage for The Star.

The extended answer to this was in last week’s KU Q&A, so I’ll give everyone a minute to go back and read that.

A tl;dr version is that Grimes likely considers himself a point guard at the next level, had success there in both high school and under coach Bill Self during the summer for Team USA then didn’t get to play the position much in Lawrence because of the emergence of Devon Dotson. It all made for an awkward fit for him on the wing last season, and also a difficult situation even if he wanted to come back to Lawrence to potentially improve his stock.

The bottom line here: Grimes was a projected top-10 pick before the season and likely has been eyeing a professional career after one year of college for a long time. That all means his freshman-year production probably doesn’t factor in as much here as many might believe.

I mentioned this comparison in the previous Q&A, and I think it’s worth bringing up again: Did Wayne Selden make the right move to stay at KU for three years? I think you can argue either way. The goal obviously, at some point, was to get drafted, and he didn’t do that even after three seasons with the Jayhawks. Still, once he got to the league, one could say that his experiences at KU helped him have some staying power, so there could have been value to returning.

One other thing that’s worth mentioning: Guys can’t play this sport at a high level forever. The best basketball of Grimes’ life is likely to come in the next 5-7 years, and if he went back to college, he’s trading one season of his peak for an uncompensated year. Personally, I can’t fault anyone for choosing to try to do what’s best for themselves professionally or financially, especially with the way the NCAA is set up to restrict paying athletes because of amateurism rules.

Anyways ... it’s a long answer to say that there’s no guarantee Grimes gets drafted this year, but there also would be no guarantee of that happening next year or the next if he returned to KU, especially if he was primarily a wing player again.

Nothing’s official till it’s official, but .... let’s be honest. He’s going to turn pro. This has long been the expectation, and now, it just seems like waiting for the word instead of wondering what the decision will be.

Self, by the way, has been talking about this for awhile. From Gary Bedore’s story on March 7:

“(Udoka’s) limited in the weight room (because of his wrist injury). What you would be hoping for would be maintaining. He’ll be a better player next year than he would have been this year, not because of that, just because he’ll be a year older. He’s still real young. I doubt we’ll get a chance to witness that though.”

Like Grimes, it’s not a sure thing for Azubuike to get drafted, but the draw of starting a professional career — wherever that is — has to seem like an enticing option following an injury-filled three years at KU.

To be fair to Boyce here, he asked the Twitter question before Grimes officially announced his intentions to go pro Wednesday.

As far as the answer goes ... it’s likely what one would think, if we take out the possibility of more injuries popping up.

I haven’t heard any word of Dotson potentially going pro, and if he’s back, then the five returners seem like a projected starting lineup if Self isn’t able to land a super-talent in recruiting over the next few months.

That would make the starting five:

G Devon Dotson

G Ochai Agbaji

G Marcus Garrett

F Mitch Lightfoot

C David McCormack

This is something I addressed a bit in a blog last week, as KU’s growing pains this year might not have the benefit of some past instances simply because the roster is going to turn over quite a bit again.

Having said that, one positive for KU is that while depth makes for a great offseason discussion point with fans, there’s growing evidence it’s actually not that important when it comes to winning games, especially in March. This year continued that trend: The two national championship participants, Virginia and Texas Tech, ranked 317th and 297th in bench minutes, respectively.

KU’s current rotation is not one fans would necessarily dream on, but the last two times that happened with a KU roster when secondary options seemed thin, the Jayhawks made runs to the Final Four.

That’s obviously not a prediction, but it speaks to a greater point. Teams can win big even with short rotations.

The answer to this question, obviously, comes back to one’s thoughts on Self. How well can he recruit here late to get the team a couple more contributors? And how much improvement can he pull out of the returners?

Self’s track record has been strong to this point — even KU’s “so-so” year last season included 26 wins, an undefeated season at home and a top-4 seed in the NCAA Tournament — though this definitely looks like the kind of challenge he hasn’t faced before in his previous 16 seasons.

Not yet? De Sousa’s still on KU’s campus, which is something, and we still haven’t heard official word one way or another on KU’s appeal with the NCAA for his two-year suspension.

If that continues to drag on, the most likely scenario here seems to be this: De Sousa declares for the pros, attends workouts to gauge his stock, then makes his final decision based on whatever word comes from his appeal in the next few weeks.

If we’re being honest, De Sousa’s situation — of out everyone on KU’s roster — seems to be the most likely to not have complete clarity until some time down the road.

I know this is said somewhat in jest — and to not ever take Prison Mitch’s fun Twitter account too seriously — but it gives me a good excuse to bring up colleague Sam Mellinger’s excellent column on what’s next with the college hoops scandal.

Of particular interest in there was a veteran coach telling Sam this:

“There’s no proof. As much as you and I and anyone else might know this stuff happens there’s no definitive proof with anything on Adidas and there won’t be definitive proof that Nike did anything. I’m telling you right now: Nike is much smarter than Adidas, so there won’t be even as much proof on them as there was on Adidas.”

If you’re a KU fan, I would think those words would be more comforting than discouraging.

Basically, it seems like the onus will be on the NCAA to prove some rule violations happened. And even if reasonable people can somewhat connect dots for themselves, that might not be worth much in the NCAA investigative process unless that is backed by bulletproof evidence.

Maybe that’s out there. Likely, though, that could be tough to find.

So back to the question: Duke probably won’t be punished.

But, based on Mellinger’s column and thoughts, that could end up being the desired outcome for KU fans if the NCAA struggles to prove any school here is guilty of violations.

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.

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