John Weast/Getty Images

Kansas moves on without Quentin Grimes

Leave a comment

CHICAGO — NBA Draft deadline week concluded in dramatic fashion for Kansas on Wednesday, as freshman guards Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes both withdrew from the draft’s testing process to return to school.

But, in a late twist that will split the two five-star freshmen apart, Dotson will be the lone ball-dominant guard returning to the Jayhawks next season. Grimes is still coming back to college, but instead of returning to Kansas, he opted to put his name into the transfer portal. The experiment of the two playing in the same Kansas backcourt — with only one ball — is likely over.

Although Grimes came into Lawrence as the higher rated of the two five-star guards last season, it was Dotson who clearly had the better year. Perhaps most importantly in this scenario, Dotson also had the ball in his hands the majority of the time.

Earlier this month at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, both Dotson and Grimes spoke to about the unique two-guard situation that played out last season. With the way Grimes spoke about his Kansas experience to the media, the writing was on the wall that he was likely done playing for the Jayhawks — as long as another ball-dominant guard like Dotson was coming back.

“Yeah it was definitely just a different kind of experience. I had to get adjusted to that Kansas lifestyle and that system and stuff. I feel like I only kind of showed about 50 percent of what I was capable of at Kansas,” Grimes said at the combine. “I feel like I showed a lot more in my first game here at the NBA Combine. So I feel like just getting here, getting into the flow, having the ball in my hands a lot more. I’m showing what I can really be doing out there, hopefully for an NBA team.”

We now know that Grimes will be returning to school and not turning pro. But the sentiment of having the ball in his hands is what matters most here. It was the recurring topic that Grimes kept bringing up in different answers when he was asked what he was trying to show for teams the next level.

“Just going out there and playing how I play. I didn’t really get to show my full capabilities at Kansas,” Grimes said. “So I’m out here playing point guard and trying to do everything I do. Score the ball and just trying to get my teammates involved and make plays.”

The loss of Grimes is certainly newsworthy. Highly-touted McDonald’s All-Americans rarely transfer — particularly from a blueblood like Kansas.

But this is probably the best move for all parties involved.

In college football we see situations where talented backup quarterbacks transfer after losing the quarterback battle in order to gain control of their own offense at a new school. This might be the closest thing we have to that situation in college basketball.

If Grimes is true to his combine word, he can seek a spot where a coach will put the ball in his hands so he can run his own offense. And Kansas can move on and try to erase the memories of falling short of last season’s Big 12 regular season title coupled with an early tournament exit at the hands of Auburn.

Grimes gets a fresh start after sitting out a year in order to re-boost his faltering pro stock. Kansas can solely put the ball in the hands of Dotson while playing through a deep-and-talented interior that is returning next season.

With Dotson back in the fold, Kansas has its floor general to get the ball inside to big man Udoka Azuibuke and forward Silvio de Sousa — returning from NCAA suspension after missing all of last season. On the bench, big man David McCormack and senior forward Mitch Lightfoot help form what might be the deepest frontcourt in the country.

And to replace Grimes, Kansas can turn to rapidly-emerging guard Ochai Agbaji or defensive-minded veteran Marcus Garrett. Even with the loss of Grimes, Kansas is still very much in the Big 12 and Final Four conversation — even with a lackluster recruiting class (by Bill Self standards) that doesn’t include a five-star prospect for the first time since 2011.

“I feel like the roster will be strong,” Dotson said at the combine. “Doke, Uchai back. Mitch, Marcus Garrett. Great guys. I feel like we’ll be strong.”

In an ideal world, Kansas fans would have loved the additional reinforcement of having a talented guard like Grimes back for another season. And after R.J. Hampton spurned college (and the Jayhawks) to turn pro in New Zealand, it means a lot of pressure will be on Dotson to perform as the sole point guard.

But the awkward situation and ill-fated experiment of Dotson and Grimes trying to play the same role for the same team is over.

And for both Kansas and Grimes himself, it is probably for the better.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

Getty Images

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.