Abundant Depth: Expectations for 2018’s KU basketball rotation

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks are set to experience some heavy turnover among their key depth for the 2018-19 season.

Star seniors Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav “Svi” Mykhailiuk, along with redshirt sophomore Malik Newman and walk-on guard Clay Young, have moved on to new horizons through professional basketball. The former three making their names known in the NBA.

Guard LaGerald Vick and center Udoka Azubuike both tested the NBA’s interest via individual workouts, but ultimately decided to retract their desire to join the league, at least for another year.

Regardless of the heavy turnover to Kansas’ starting unit, Self’s squad looks to be oozing with raw talent, mixed with some home grown and developed role players as well. The Kansas coaching staff put in plenty of work over the past year or more to have options to replace key players, as seen by KU’s four top-40 commitments from the 2018 recruiting class.

In addition to highly regarded freshmen, the Jayhawks will add the services of three redshirt players in guards Charlie Moore and K.J. Lawson, and forward Dedric Lawson. The later two having come from Memphis, where they collectively totaled 31.5 points, 18 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 2.5 blocks per contest in the 2016-17 season for the Tigers.

With the returns and departures seemingly finalized, here is a glance at what Kansas’ starting lineup and bench depth chart should look like come basketball season.


Center – Udoka Azubuike, Forward – Dedric Lawson, Forward – LaGerald Vick, Guard – Charlie Moore, Guard – Quinton Grimes

Azubuike is a specimen from the gods of the hardwood, but if he wants to grow closer to collegiate dominance and future long-time NBA big-man, he has got to develop a game outside of the two-feet perimeter around the hoop where he abuses the rim like a Cherokee drum.

All jokes aside, the Nigeria-born seven-foot center will need to continue to dominate inside the post to keep pace with his current rate of development, but could really use a short range jumper to reach Joel Embiid status.

The Lawson brothers, as listed prior, look to be more than capable of scoring the basketball and contributing on the glass. However, ball-dominant forwards have not always thrived in a Bill Self offense, so here’s to hoping that Self’s U18 experience will assist him in building an offense that utilizes the multitudes of scoring options on this Jayhawk’s roster.

Moore comes to Lawrence via transfer from the University of California, where he averaged 12.2 points, 3.5 assists, and 1.1 steals per game during the 2016-17 season. He will be tasked with winning the starting role over incoming freshman Devon Dotson and sophomore Marcus Garrett this summer, but his experience mixed with his shiftiness could set him above the rest. In addition, history suggests that Self would not play Grimes and Garrett on the floor much, due to similar playing styles and height, but who knows? They say history is meant to be re-written.

Grimes, the 6-foot-5 and 200 pound five-star guard, will have plenty to work through, as most incoming Kansas freshman do. He will be tasked with replacing either Graham or Newman’s role on the court this season, a daunting task at first glance, but he will have help.

For comparison, Grimes could easily settle into a Vick/Wayne Selden role and serve as a role player in the starting lineup, but get an opportunity to shine when the Lawson’s take to the bench.

This lineup looks to be star studded again for Kansas, but Self certainly has created a difficult task to find the best rotation from a cast of varying backgrounds and abilities.

Second Unit

Forward – Silvio De Sousa, Forward – Mitch Lightfoot, Forward – K.J. Lawson, Guard – Marcus Garrett, Guard – Devon Dotson

De Sousa came onto the collegiate scene last year as a mid-season freshman and ultimately became an x-factor for last year’s Final Four squad. However, his status seems murky at the present time following a scandal involving his guardian receiving payments from sports-wear mogul Adidas. For the purpose of this exercise, we will remain optimistic and plan for the sophomore to survive this issue. In relation to De Sousa’s situation, Lawrence Journal-World columnist Tom Keegan had this to say:

"“Silvio De Sousa remains a member of the Kansas basketball program, but will he ever play another game for the Jayhawks? Probably not."

To believe otherwise would be to believe that the NCAA would ignore all the FBI-generated evidence in the federal indictment pointing to De Sousa’s guardian taking money from Adidas to attend Kansas, after he used other Adidas money to repay another unnamed shoe company (Under Armour), which had steered De Sousa to attend an unnamed university (Maryland).”

Lightfoot was a key contributor for last season’s second unit until the rise of De Sousa, later in the season. The junior has reportedly added about 12 pounds to his frame, which should place him around 222 overall, which is still fairly light for a Bill Self post player.

The underlying factor for Lightfoot’s role next season may be his versatility and ability to shoot the basketball, which may be improving according to a report that the forward scored six 3-point shots in this week’s scrimmage against current and former Jayhawks.

Marcus Garrett, known mostly for his defensive versatility, could find himself in a competition to start, with so many freshman set to debut for Kansas this season. But, his offensive limitations may set him behind the more physically gifted Grimes and Dotson, unless they struggle to grasp a feel for the collegiate game.

Garrett contributed quite a bit in the NCAA tournament for a smaller Jayhawk squad, averaging over 15 minutes per contest, but only contributing 10 points over five games.

The second five-star recruit for Self and Co. in this year’s recruiting class can be described in one word: Physical. Devin Dotson may just be the most exciting unknown for this upcoming season. He will bring a physical nature that may remind some of Frank Mason or Sherron Collins, but his talent level and ability to finish around the rim has drawn comparisons to former Memphis point guard Derrick Rose.

Those are some pretty high expectations, but Jayhawk fans have seen what Self can do with physical and tough point guards in the past.


Center – David McCormack, Forward – Ochai Agbaji

Both of these incoming freshman should get every opportunity to get a larger role for this year’s squad, but Self tends to lean on his veterans in key depth roles rather than the youngsters. McCormack, reportedly, has been battling with De Sousa and Lightfoot this offseason in an attempt to be the lead post-man off of the bench, behind Azubuike this season.

His role would increase drastically this season if De Sousa is ruled ineligible or decides to move on from Kansas.

Agbaji, a 6-foot-6 forward from Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Missouri, looks the part of a future key weapon for future Self teams, but the depth at his position may hinder his role for this season. A redshirt season would not come as a surprise and may be beneficial for Agbaji’s future.