LAWRENCE — Two games into No. 2-ranked Kansas’ season, which is further along: the Jayhawks’ offense or the team’s defense?
Asked that very question Thursday, freshman guard Devon Dotson contemplated his answer aloud — though without the aid of a stat sheet or calculator.
“We scored 90, 92 against Michigan State, 84 against, uh,” said a smiling Dotson, who trailed off before recovering. ”(But) from the looks of it I would say (the) defensive end.”
The Jayhawks (2-0) have averaged 88 points in a pair of victories over then-No. 10 Michigan State and Vermont. Those opponents have averaged 77.5 points in the admittedly small sample size, though Dotson believes that number can go lower — perhaps even drastically so.
“I feel like we could hold teams to 60 or high-50s here and there,” Dotson said. “We have the bodies to do it, so I feel like we should definitely be a defensive-stopping team. It’s just improving on that.”
Individually, the work-in-progress point guard outlined several areas of potential improvement — as did his head coach.
Dotson has averaged 11.5 points in his first two collegiate games but has tallied just three assists, trailing four teammates in that statistic. Fellow freshman Quentin Grimes has a team-high 14 dimes and is coming off a 10-assist performance against Vermont.
Dotson, meanwhile, didn’t record an assist in that contest.
“The biggest thing I look at is, how can Quentin get 10 assists in a game and he get zero? But a lot of it is different. I told Devon that,” KU coach Bill Self said. “A lot of it is when you’re scoring baskets off a pass that has an unused dribble, sometimes it’s easier to get an assist. When you’re dribbling it up and you have a used dribble, sometimes it’s harder to make those types of passes.”
Getting downhill — or driving to the rim — is the most natural way the uber-quick Dotson can pad his assist totals, Self said, as it can force help and therefore get teammates open looks.
“I think he can do a better job with that,” Self said. “He’s a good player, now. He’s a good player, but he’s still figuring it out and what his role is going to be and how to best benefit the team.”
Someone Self has compared favorably to a young Frank Mason in terms of quickness, Dotson confidently said this of his own speed compared to teammates: “Nobody has challenged me.”
Still, Dotson acknowledged he needs to be “more in control and under control” of that skill going forward. Knowing when to go into that next gear and when to use discretion, he said, is key.
“It’s like a feel for the game,” said Dotson, who has just five turnovers this season. “You’ve just got to know when you can put pressure on the defense or when you need to back it out and make the right play. That’s something that as a point guard you have to know.”
Dotson has only attempted two free throws this year, a statistic he said he must improve. He said he also wants to play with a greater pace and with an attack-mode mentality on offense, while communicating better defensively on assignments and switches.
Picking Self’s brain has been a major asset, Dotson said, and the guard provided a recent exchange to highlight that claim.
Self approached Dotson while the latter was putting shots up at the gym and asked a simple question: Who does the freshman need to be an extension of on the court? Dotson said Self, who then asked this follow-up: How can Dotson be an extension of the coach on the court “if you don’t believe what I think is important?”
“I need to be just another coach out there on the floor, an extension of him just kind of running the team and getting the guys in the right spots, you know, and just controlling the game,” Dotson said. ”... (C)onfidence-wise, it’s helped me a lot.”
‘SMOOVE’ LOOKING FOR GROOVE — Self said he hasn’t considered drawing up an early play in the Jayhawks’ 7 p.m. Friday contest against Louisiana (1-1) specifically for junior forward Dedric Lawson, who missed all six of his field goal attempts against Vermont en route to his first scoreless outing as a college player.
It would, however, be nice for Lawson to “see the ball go in.”
“But I’m not worried about him in that way, not at all. I did hear that his low (scoring) game ever was six points, so yeah, he crushed it this time,” Self joked. “But I do think that’s OK. Deep down in my core, I don’t think that’s bad at all.
“He’s got to play a little bit with more explosiveness and things like that, but he probably wasn’t at that magic level where your energy and your focus and your concentration is at a crossroads to give you the best chance to be really good that night. So we’ve got to figure out a way to get guys to that magic level.”