Veteran combo guard Isaiah Moss’ “tweaked” hamstring has started to worry Kansas basketball coach Bill Self.
“A little bit,” Self, KU’s 17th-year coach said Wednesday, asked if he’s concerned about the physical condition of Moss, a 6-foot-5 graduate transfer from the University of Iowa who is known for his three-point shooting ability.
Moss — he did not play in last Thursday’s exhibition opener against Fort Hays State — is questionable for Thursday’s second and final exhibition — a 7 p.m. Halloween night game against Pittsburg State.
“I am not (worried) from a long-term health standpoint, but just for him being able to help us immediately because this is all new to him. He’ll be nervous and those things. Everybody would be, just to throw you out to the wolves and you haven’t had a chance to prep for it,” Self said.
In a perfect KU world, Moss would be available for Tuesday’s regular-season opener against Duke in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“He needs to play this week, I mean at least be out there some … have three or four practices strung together so that way he can at least be confident going into Tuesday,” Self said. “If he can’t do that, his chances of playing very much aren’t very real even if he does feel better.”
Self, who said Moss has pulled his hamstring twice diving for loose balls this preseason, said it’s “wait and see” on Moss’ availability for Thursday’s contest.
Moss — he averaged 9.2 points a game last season on 42.1% three-point shooting (48 of 114) — has had off and on hamstring problems the past several weeks. A tweaked hamstring prevented him from playing in the Late Night in the Phog scrimmage on Oct. 4.
Meanwhile, point guard Devon Dotson, who missed the first exhibition game because of an ankle sprain, will be in the starting lineup Thursday with guards Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji, forward David McCormack and center Udoka Azubuike, Self said. Garrett, who was effective at the point while subbing for Dotson last week, will play some point, combo guard and forward this season, Self said Wednesday.
“If you are talking about defending four positions, I think he (Garrett) is about as versatile (a player) as we’ve had,” Self said. “Travis Releford was a versatile guy. Marcus is better with the ball than Travis was. Travis wasn’t a great shooter but he thought he was, which goes a long way. Marcus has the same feeling,” Self added of junior guard Garrett, who hit 4 of 7 threes against Fort Hays.
“I think he’s probably more a point than what I’ve given him credit for the last couple years,” Self added of Dallas native Garrett. “You’ve got Devonté (Graham) then Devon last year … there weren’t many opportunities (for Garrett at point). I wish I played him more on the ball last year,” Self added.
Self is hoping to see continued progress from McCormack, who will open Thursday’s game at the four-spot. Silvio De Sousa started the exhibition opener next to center Udoka Azubuike at the four.
“I want to give David a chance to start since Silvio started last game,” Self said of the 6-10, 265-pound McCormack. “David going into fall was our most improved player. Now I’d say honestly David or maybe Marcus has been our most improved player. David is a good shooter. He made one (outside shot) the other night (against FHSU) that looked really good and he missed a three that also looked pretty good, even though that’s not a shot he needs to be taking many of.”
Self joked that McCormack could shoot threes, “when we are way, way ahead. It’s very situational. If you are up 25-plus, I think it’s an OK shot. Hopefully he understands that.”
McCormack will need to be able to show he can guard players outside of the paint if he hopes for extended minutes this season.
“That’s a big body to have to guard a guard,” Self said. “It’s what we’re going to have to do because he’s obviously going to have to if Doke is in the game. He’s probably better doing it than Silvio even if Silvio is in the game. I’ve told these guys (bigs) repeatedly unless we’re going to play three five-men these are areas you’ve got to improve on. David is a big key to that. I think his confidence level is so much higher than it was last year.”
Self said Mitch Lightfoot, who impressed at practice Monday by hitting five three pointers against KU’s bigs who tried to guard him on the perimeter, would play in Thursday’s exhibition. Senior forward Lightfoot still will likely redshirt. Self said he will finalize the decision prior to Tuesday’s Duke game.
Players can play in exhibition games and still redshirt. If Lightfoot does redshirt, the redshirt could be pulled at any time during the season. Agbaji started last season as a redshirt, then joined the playing rotation during the Big 12 season.
Wilson a confident player
KU freshman Jalen Wilson is slated to come off the bench Thursday. He started last week’s exhibition opener.
Self said Wilson is the most confident of KU’s freshman group of Wilson, Christian Braun and Tristan Enaruna.
“I am very confident,” Wilson said Wednesday. “I believe in myself. Growing up (Denton, Texas) I didn’t have a lot of people telling me this and that about my game. It was always just me and my family. I’ve always been self driven to be the best I can be. I never need anybody else to push me. I’ve always had confidence in myself. It’s something I’ll always have with me the rest of my life.”
The 6-8 Wilson hit 2 of 9 shots and scored six points against FHSU.
“I think he’s a ‘gamer’ as much as anybody we’ve had come in here in a while. I think he’ll be the one guy that jumps a lot higher on game night, shoots a higher percentage on game night,” Self said. “Based on what people have told me he’s always been that kind of guy.”
Self on World Series
Self was asked for a prediction before the start of Game 7 of the World Series.
“Got to go with the ‘Big Bulldog,’’’ Self said of Washington and former Missouri pitcher Max Scherzer. “If Scherzer is healthy, I think the Nationals are going to win it. What a series,” he added emphatically.
“It’s the best time of the year for sports if you are into all the sports,” he added. “It’s been good. It doesn’t rank with the Royals’ back-to-back series. That’s still pretty good.”