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 NBCSports.com 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.