Doke's absence makes KU just another team

By Steve Sell
January 09, 2019

What has been a somewhat turbulent ride for the Kansas basketball team is about to get bumpier.

The Jayhawks are hoping they won’t be a joke without Big Doke.

For the second time in three years, the Jayhawks have lost big man Udoka Azubuike for the season with a wrist injury. As a freshman, Big Doke suffered torn ligaments in his OTHER wrist.

It’s been a star-crossed career for the Nigerian Nightmare, who when healthy has been at times a dominant performer even though he lacks stamina. KU coach Bill Self was hoping to go back to his two-big, three-guard lineup this season, but an ankle injury to Azubuike early on scuttled those plans and then when he returned, it only took a couple of weeks for another injury to pop up.

The injury is just the latest setback for a KU team that despite being 12-2, has been difficult for its fans to embrace because of its wildly erratic play. Also, it doesn’t have a player that fans show big love to, like Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason of the last two seasons, two guys who left it all on the floor.

The Jayhawks could easily be 8-5 as they prevailed in some close games earlier this season, including back-to-back overtime wins.

It’s a KU team that has a lot of impressive individual pieces, but is not fitting together.

LaGerald Vick came back for his senior year, much to Self’s surprise, and appeared to be a new man early on in terms of attitude. He was as hot as any player in the country from 3-point.

But when that vanished, the rest of his game followed. He has not looked engaged and his mind has wandered. He’s not even a lockdown defender as he once was.

Dedric Lawson flourished when Azubuike went out the first time and that’s the hope again. He seems to work better when Big Doke isn’t on the floor to clog things up. But he, too, seems, to have mental lapses and sometimes struggles hanging on the the ball.

The all-freshman guard duo of Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes have played, well, like freshmen. Dotson has been the better of the two as there have been few Jayhawks faster with the basketball except maybe for Tyshawn Taylor. He also picks his spots for the 3 and has been effective.

Grimes has been the whipping post of the fans (it seems there’s always one player to earn that label). So much was made of him being a one-and-done and it’s obvious if he leaves after this year, he would forever be a basketball vagabond. He’s in no way ready for the big time as his 3-point shooting is clanky and doesn’t take advantage of his physical gifts to take defenders inside near enough.

As for the other Jayhawks, Marcus Garrett is who we think he is — great defender, a non-factor offensively. Charlie Moore can provide offense, but couldn’t guard his shadow. K.J. Lawson has his moments, but lacks strength and is a smaller version of his brother. Mitch Lightfoot, to me, doesn’t get the minutes he deserves as he always makes something happen. David McCormack is a raw athlete who has yet to polish his skills, but by the time he’s a junior he could be a beast.

The wild-card is Silvio DeSousa, but I just don’t think we’ll ever see him in a KU uniform again. And Tuesday, Self took the redshirt off of Ochai Agbaji, a highly touted freshman. But unless he can shoot the 3, I don’t see the need.

This is a KU team fans are still trying to wrap their arms around, but it doesn’t play like a typical Self team. It seems to be play like it’s entitled because it says “Kansas” on the front of the jersey.

Self somehow has to get this team to play harder and smarter, especially with Azubuike now out. If it does, then fans will start to warm up to it.