Last week, the Kansas basketball team traveled to Honolulu to compete in the annual Maui Invitational. They defeated their first-round opponent, Chaminade, before falling to No. 4 Marquette and defeating No. 7 Tennessee in the consolation round.
During the three-day event, Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar were clearly the Jayhawks’ best players. The preseason All-American big man averaged 20.3 points and 13 rebounds, while the Texas Tech transfer recorded a triple-double and led KU in scoring against Tennessee.
However, there were others who had their stock significantly altered in Honolulu. Two players were “risers,” meaning they played above their expectations and could earn more minutes in the future. There were also two “fallers” who underperformed and could see a dip in playing time in December.
Kansas Basketball Riser No. 1: Jamari McDowell
Maui Invitational Stats: 4.0 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.3 APG, 28.6% FG, 33.3% 3PT
The first riser of the Invitational was Jamari McDowell. He’s arguably been the most effective freshman this year for Kansas despite being the least highly touted. The Houston-based combo guard displayed a combination of toughness and defensive intensity last week.
Jamari’s statistics don’t tell the full story — he was far better than what they suggest. While it might stand true that a sub-30% field goal percentage is brutal, he was active in the passing lanes and did not back down from any task while on the floor. He invigorated KU’s offense with a couple of huge 3s against Tennessee and played more minutes than any 2-guard in the final round (27).
It isn’t often that we see a first-year player who isn’t a 5-star recruit getting this much run early in the season on a Bill Self-led team. But with Arterio Morris out of the picture and a backcourt failing to produce, Coach Self could turn to this charismatic freshman far more often than we anticipated a few weeks ago.
Kansas Basketball Riser No. 2: Johnny Furphy
Maui Invitational Stats: 4.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.3 APG, 54.5% FG, 33.3% 3PT
Furphy still isn’t at 100% as he continues to battle lingering shin splints. However, he has made the most of his minutes and is very effective when he takes the floor. His stock continued to rise in Honolulu.
He made a few outside shots in the tournament and moved well off the ball. Kansas benefits from his 6-foot-9 frame when he is playing, even if his play style fits that of a guard. His athleticism and size are something the Jayhawks need to utilize more, especially if they are allowing offensive rebounds like they did to Marquette.
After failing to score a point in the Champions Classic against Kentucky, Furphy put himself right back into the starting conversation. Although he ceded minutes to McDowell, it shouldn’t be long before he consistently sees around 20 minutes per night, whether in the starting lineup or with the second unit.
Next, let’s take a look at our “fallers” who didn’t fare too well in the Maui Invitational.