KU coach Bill Self still deciding whether to start Malik Newman or Marcus Garrett vs. K-State

photo by: Nick Krug

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) floats in for a bucket during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. Pictured are Iowa State guard Lindell Wigginton (5) and Iowa State guard Nick Weiler-Babb (1).

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said before Friday’s practice that he was not sure who would start at KU’s fourth guard spot during Saturday’s 11 a.m. Sunflower Showdown clash with Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse.

Recent progress shown by sophomore Malik Newman has put him back in the mix along with freshman Marcus Garrett.

“I told the team, when Malik plays well, he starts,” Self said, noting that he planned to talk to his team before making a decision. “He’s a guy who can get us 14 or 15 a game. So when he plays well, he starts. The biggest thing for him to play well is confidence, so hopefully the (27 points in the) Iowa State game will trigger that.”

Regardless of whether Newman makes it back into the starting lineup or not — after starting the 11 of KU’s first 12 games and coming off the bench for four consecutive Big 12 games, Newman started Tuesday’s second half against Iowa State — the experiment with putting Garrett in his place appears to have worked. On a lot of levels.

“To me, and of course it’s coach speak, but it’s not who starts, it’s who finishes,” Self said. “And you could look at our team and really say there’s advantages to either one of them starting. It’s nice to get some points off the bench and Malik provides us that opportunity.”

From Newman’s perspective, filling the role as first man off the bench changed the way he looked at the game and his responsibilities.

“It opened up my eyes,” Newman said. “Let me know that there were some things that I wasn’t doing that I should have been doing.”

As for how he handled the benching, Newman said he thought he took it well and focused in on remaining committed to the overall goal of whatever’s best for the team.

“It’s life, it’s basketball. That’s something that you can’t pout about and make it change the way you play,” he said. “And I think I did a great job handling it.”

Self agreed.

“I think his attitude’s been really good,” he said. “Now, would he say a week ago that he was happy about that? The answer would be no. But Malik’s a pretty realistic guy.”

Despite not starting the team’s first four Big 12 Conference game, Newman’s minutes have not suffered much. In his 11 starts this season, Newman is averaging right at 30 minutes per game. In the five games he has not started, that number dips to 25, bringing his average for the season to 28.3 minutes per game.

Both Self and Newman said they thought this thin team’s need to have Newman on the floor helped him handle the two different roles he has played thus far.

“You’d have to ask him,” Self said when asked if he thought Newman had ever been coached as hard as he has been this season. “My personal opinion is I don’t think I’m coaching him that hard. He’s playing 30 minutes a game. There’s a lot of people who would sell out for that. To me, coaching hard is, hey, you’re not doing exactly what I want you to do, come sit by me.”

Newman has yet to experience that role for a prolonged period. And more games like the one he put in against Iowa State on Tuesday night, when he produced by playing hard and with confidence, likely will keep it that way.