Why the minutes Kansas guard Remy Martin played on Monday night vs. Texas Tech should mean more than those he didn't
In the postgame press conference following Monday’s 94-91 double-overtime thriller against Texas Tech, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self was asked why senior guard Remy Martin played just eight minutes in the second half and two overtimes.
“I don’t want to be negative, but who would he go in for,” Self replied. “We (needed) to rebound the ball, so I didn’t think it was a time that you play two little guards.”
That answer, which pegged Martin and Dajuan Harris Jr., as KU’s little guards, sparked a bit of a freak out from Kansas fans on message boards and various social media platforms.
Many fans seemed to think it was obvious that Martin could have — and many believe should have — taken Harris’ spot on the floor a little more often during the final 30 minutes of the KU victory.
Nearly half of Martin’s 8 minutes after halftime — 3:21, from the 8:25 mark of the second half to 5:04 — came with Harris on the floor with him. And Martin checked out for good at the 5:04 mark with KU leading by eight, 70-62.
The Jayhawks squandered that eight-point lead, forcing the teams to play 10 extra minutes and setting up a heck of a finish for KU senior Ochai Agbaji.
Harris, meanwhile, didn’t do a whole lot. At least not on the stat sheet. He finished with 4 points on 2-of-10 shooting and was not particularly effective in the assist department, tallying two assists and a turnover.
What’s more, he was continually picked on by the Texas Tech offense, which found ways to post Harris up and get easy baskets by shooting over him in close. Martin is not really any bigger than Harris. But he does offer more on the offensive end of the floor, both in terms of shot-making potential and his ability to bring energy.
So, I understand the frustration. But you also have to understand the situation.
Basketball is not just about offense. In fact, basketball under Bill Self is almost entirely about trust. And right now, it seems as if Self just hasn’t been around Martin long enough to fully trust him to execute what’s called in late-game settings.
Although the situation with Martin’s playing time has made this a hot-button issue, the concept is nothing new. Self has always leaned on players he trusts the most late in games. Always.
Sometimes, that meant leaving more talented players or better upside on the bench in favor of the guys he knew would do it right. It doesn’t always work out, of course. But things do tend to go in KU’s favor more often than not when assignments are carried out and instructions are executed.
Martin is still learning how to do all of that for Kansas, and no one should expect anything different. He’s been with the program for less than six months. And he’s been injured for a chunk of that time. Some guys still don’t fully get it even after being with Self for four years.
While many fans would argue that Martin didn’t play enough on Monday night, I would argue that the minutes he did play should be viewed as a good sign.
For one, it marked the second most minutes he has played in a conference game at Kansas. And, two, he now has topped the 20-minute mark in back-to-back games.
You’ll notice that Joe Yesufu hasn’t played in either one of those. So it’s clear that, though a little slow-going in the eyes of some, Self’s trust in Martin is being developed. And there’s still time for it to take some major strides forward before the season ends.
Based on some of his biggest moments on Monday night, Martin seems to get that and it appears as if he is doing all he can to earn Self’ trust. The next step is doing it with consistency so Self and Martin’s teammates get to the point where they can rely on him to be in the right spots and make the right plays.
Here’s a look back at Martin’s impact in Monday’s first half.
Perhaps no contribution was as important, if not unexpected, as Martin’s in the opening 20 minutes. Forced into a little more action than has been normal because of foul trouble to Harris, Martin delivered in just about every way imaginable.
And most of his production had nothing to do with offense.
Immediately after checking in for Harris following the sophomore guard’s second foul at the 10:16 mark, Martin drew a foul of his own on the ensuing inbounds play. A few minutes later, Martin drew another foul by going to the glass to help clean up a Texas Tech miss.
It’s been commonplace to see Martin flash his head nod and energetic bounce following big plays on offense. And there were a few of those on Monday night, as well. Most came after a pinpoint pass by Martin led to a bucket for a teammate. But the fact that Martin was feeling himself for his efforts in those back-alley battles showed perfectly where his focus was in this one.
“He brought good energy, good defense, he’s done some good things,” Self told ESPN’s Kris Budden at halftime.
Arguably his biggest sequence of the night came in the second half and featured a defensive rebound on one end and an assist to KJ Adams underneath for an and-one bucket just seconds later.
After finishing the basket through contact, Adams stood along the baseline and roared to the crowd. Facing the other way, about 45 feet from him, Martin did the same near midcourt. Adams missed the free throw, but Kansas still led 59-52 with 11 minutes to play.
Martin, who even mixed in a drawn charge with KU leading by 10 at the 6:48 mark of the second half, finished the night with four points on 2-of-7 shooting with four rebounds, five assists and one turnover.
The numbers are fine, neither stellar nor trash.
It’s the opportunities and what Martin does with them that you should keep an eye on in the coming weeks. Because that’s what will tell you if Kansas fans are ever going to see Martin truly unleashed in a KU uniform.
"I thought he did fine," Self said of Martin after Monday's game. "He made a couple bad plays, obviously, but I thought he did fine. He's having a hard time finishing, obviously, and a lot of times those plays lead to run-outs or fast breaks the other way. But I thought Remy did fine. And if you look at he and Juan's stats together, it's good. But it's 4-of-17 (shooting), and we've got to get more consistent play out of that (position)."