Rookie point guard Devon Dotson starting ahead of huge shoes he's being asked to fill

Red Team guard Devon Dotson soars in for a bucket during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 13, 2018, at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. (Nick Krug/Journal-World photo)

During the past two seasons, the Kansas men’s basketball program and its adoring fan base witnessed two of the best individual seasons ever turned in by KU guards.

In 2016-17, Frank Mason III rumbled his way to consensus national player of the year honors and became the first player in Big 12 history to average 20 points and five assists in a single season.

Asked to walk in those dinosaur-sized footprints, Devonte’ Graham delivered a first-team All-American season during 2017-18, averaging 17.3 points and 7.2 assists in leading the Jayhawks to the Final Four.

While it’s unfair to expect anything close to those numbers from freshman Devon Dotson during the fast-approaching 2018-19 season, it’s not quite as hard to imagine the 6-foot-2, 185-pound point guard from Charlotte getting his career off to a faster start than either of those two All-Americans who came before him.

For one, he steps into a wide-open situation with no KU veterans at the position ahead of him. For two, plenty of people close to the program have said Dotson’s talent level today is ahead of what Mason and Graham brought to the program at the start of their freshman seasons.

“I think he could be a great one,” KU coach Bill Self recently said of Dotson. “I mean, not a good one, a great one.”

The biggest reason for Self’s confidence in Dotson and the high bar he has set for him is the guard’s tenacity and elite athletic ability.

Dotson demonstrated both — along with his own dose of confidence — throughout his prep career at Charlotte’s Providence Day School, where he became a McDonald’s All-American and left as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,607 points.

While a good chunk of those points came off of jump shots and at the free throw line, the majority of them came right at the rim, with Dotson using his superior speed and strength to blow by opponents throughout his career.

“If you’re going to recruit somebody, especially in the backcourt, the first thing you probably look at is explosiveness, quickness, and he’s got probably about as much as anybody we’ve had here,” Self said of Dotson. “He’s in the same league as Frank as far as explosiveness and fast. I’m not saying he’s Frank, now. But he’s probably further along than Frank when he got here.”

And it might not be that difficult for Dotson to stay there.

As a freshman during the 2013-14 season, Mason played in 35 games and made three starts but averaged just 16.2 minutes per night.

A year later, when Graham was brought into the fold, the Raleigh, N.C., native played in 28 of 36 games, with no starts, and averaged just over 18 minutes per night during his freshman season.

Dotson, of course, is not a lock to eclipse those numbers. But he figures to get the chance to, especially if he winds up winning the job as KU’s primary point guard, which many believe he can.

Like the two legends who came before him, Dotson will be surrounded by all kinds of talent during his first season as a Jayhawk. But while names like Perry Ellis, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden carried the weight for the early Mason and Graham teams, Dotson, by virtue of his potential role as this team’s lead guard, could play as big of a role as just about anyone on the 2018-19 roster in helping the Jayhawks get where they want to go.

There still is plenty of work to do, however. And whether it’s learning how to play for Self, improving his all-around offensive game or figuring out how to fit into the pace and speed of the college game, Dotson still has a steep climb ahead of him.

But he’s starting a few rungs higher on the ladder than most Kansas point guards. And that alone could be enough to expedite his growth and progress.

“If he continues to develop — he’s got to develop a better stroke, but it is getting better — he’ll be hard to guard,” Self said.

Comments

Jesse Johnson

I keep hearing good things about both Dotson and Moore. Much has been made of which one of these will win the starting spot on the roster, but I say why not both? We used Mason and Graham in the starting lineup alongside each other for three years and I thought that worked really well. I could see a starting lineup as follows:

1 Dotson
2 Moore
3 Grimes
4 D Lawson
5 Dok

Probably Vick and KJ first off the bench at the wing and De Sousa (if he's eligible) and McCormack first off the bench for the front court. Still not sure how Garrett and Lightfoot are going to figure into the rotation. Lightfoot could be ahead of McCormack on the depth chart if he makes a monster leap from last year (and will definitely get PT if De Sousa is ineligible) and Garrett could possible jockey in front of KJ, but we'll see. Should be a fun year with this deep team!

5 days, 20 hours ago

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Shannon Gustafson

When we've got as much size available at the 2 and 3 spots this year, it's hard to justify starting two of our shortest players together instead of using that size, particularly when it appears a lot of the guards are pretty close in terms of how good they are.

Since Self tends to favor experience, I think Mitch will be ahead of DMac on the depth chart, at least for the first half of the year. Either way that's the 4th big on the depth chart and likely spot minutes unless SDS doesn't end up playing or there is foul trouble.

Self has said Moore is more of a 2 than a PG and is better with a PG on the floor with him so that seems to answer the question of who's going to start at the point (Dotson). That also means if Dotson plays around 20-25 minutes, Moore likely won't be playing all of the remaining minutes at PG and will instead play some at PG and some at the 2 with someone else playing PG (Garrett?) while Moore is getting buckets with the second unit. If Grimes, Moore, and Vick were on the floor together, we'd have dynamic scorers at all 3 positions and could offset having the second unit bigs in there (SDS, Lightfoot) who are better at second chance points than posting up and getting buckets.

IMO, it's much more likely that KJ starts at the 3 (especially if he can make 3's at a 35% or higher rate, and can stay in front of guards on the other end), Grimes at the 2, and Dotson at PG. That allows us to have a ton of size on the floor (7', 6'9, 6'8, 6'5, 6'1). Swap in Moore or Grimes or Garrett at point when the bench fills in. This allows us to put Moore and Vick in as the second unit scorers where they will get more touches/opportunities while the starters get some rest. Grimes and Garrett are basically interchangeable in their ability to play the 1-3 positions when needed.

5 days, 17 hours ago

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Allan Olson

There is so much talent this season, I foresee the sure starters being Grimes, Dedrick and Dok. Dotson, Moore, Garrett and [hopefully] De Sousa/KJ[maybe], will mix and match the starting five to be determined during pre-conference games by the various opponents' strengths & weaknesses. I don't expect any of our guys to get tired and overworked this year.

5 days, 17 hours ago

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Robert Brock

Self has plenty of options with a solid variety of players. His starters:

PG - Dotson
SG - Grimes
SF - Vick
PF - D. Lawson
C - Azubuike

5 days, 15 hours ago

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Dirk Medema

I could see Coach using lots of combinations to start the year in particular and maybe even subbing in waves like Roy used to do. The players will sort themselves out during the season and there could even be a few of those articles about "Gosh, we've got to figure out ways to get _________ on the floor."

5 days, 14 hours ago

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Dirk Medema

I also hope Dotson is in good enough shape to lead the team. There was a picture from boot camp of the team running sprints and he was the last one turning at the line. Looking pretty gassed in the process. Who knows though what twist Coach might have thrown out as a challenge. At least I don't think the managers were running.

5 days, 14 hours ago

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