LAWRENCE — Quentin Grimes got a taste of Bill Self’s signature coaching style during the pair’s expedition this month with USA Basketball.
“I knew Coach Self, obviously he was going to be hard on me just because I’m going to Kansas,” Grimes said Tuesday, three days after earning a gold medal and most valuable player honors at the FIBA Under-18 Americas Championship in Saint Catharines, Canada. “I had to work a little bit harder than everybody else. ... I was kind of just still trying to figure him out, see how he really wanted to implement me into the game.”
Sitting to Grimes’ left at the news conference was Self, who snickered when asked if the incoming Jayhawk guard and former five-star recruit out of The Woodlands, Texas, got the full Self experience.
“No, no,” Self said. “This is one of those deals where you didn’t want to make anybody mad, so it’s like, ‘Please Quentin, would you please come over here and do this right now? Or maybe with a little bit more effort?’ But no, he was great.”
Joking aside, Grimes put his best foot forward at the tournament — and left his Hall of Fame coach brimming with excitement about what’s to come for next year’s Jayhawks.
Take, for example, this answer from Self on what impressed him most about Grimes’ performance at the event, capped with averages of 14.7 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
“I think that I would say he’s probably as complete a guard as we’ve ever had,” Self said of Grimes, who notched 17 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in his squad’s 113-74 victory over host Canada in Sunday’s championship game. “He can shoot, he can pass, he can dribble, he can score at all three levels. He’s a really good player right now. But what I think impressed me as much as anything is that he’s bright, and as good as he is, he’s competitive enough that I think he could be really special.
“For the most valuable player, to me, to still have not scratched what he could possibly do is real exciting.”
Grimes committed to KU last November and finished his high school career as the nation’s No. 8-ranked national prospect at recruiting outlet Rivals.com. His versatility and court vision, Self said, makes him an immediate good fit — and a candidate to continue the Jayhawks’ recent legacy of out-of-this-world guard play.
“I think he’s a point guard that can play without the ball in his hands,” Self said. “That’s how we recruited him and that’s how I think he is even after recruiting him for a while. He will have arguably the best vision on our team.
“He sees it, he feels it, but he doesn’t have to have the ball to play well. A lot of guys need the ball to play well. He doesn’t have to have it. He’s a combo guard, a point that really is a combo guard, and that’s kind of what we’ve made our living on here the last several years.”
That doesn’t, however, mean the Jayhawks will resemble what they’ve looked like the past two seasons while almost exclusively sporting a four-guard lineup. Self won’t need to turn to that option as often — Dedric Lawson, Udoka Azubuike, Silvio De Sousa, David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot all fill out what should be one of the Jayhawks’ deepest frontcourts ever.
Shooting, particularly from 3-point range, may take a step backward — after losing to the NBA Draft three players who hit at least 40 percent of their 3s last season, Self said a realistic expectation next year might be three players hovering around a 33-point clip from beyond the arc.
“It doesn’t mean you’re a bad shooting team,” Self said, “but compared to what we’ve been, we’ll have to figure out some different ways to score than to rely on that so much.”
One player who could pick up the slack is Grimes, who Self said has a good stroke from deep despite a poor percentage during the recently completed tournament.
If nothing else, Grimes enters his first and potentially only collegiate season with experience in one area — how to conduct a championship-winning celebration.
“Oh, that was the most lit I’ve ever been in a locker room,” Grimes said of Sunday’s victorious postgame. “Some guys, we just came together in a matter of two or three weeks and I felt like I’d known all the guys for two or three years. We just made relationships that will last a long time.”