Kansas basketball coach Bill Self says KU guard Kevin McCullar Jr.’s recent cold stretch no reason to worry

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. (15) shoots while defended by West Virginia forward James Okonkwo (32) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Morgantown, W.Va., Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Kathleen Batten)

Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self said Thursday that senior guard Kevin McCullar Jr.’s recent struggles shooting the ball have not left Self or the Jayhawks overly concerned.

“Kevin’s playing fine,” Self said. “He’s just not playing as well shooting the basketball. And I do think, sometimes when you don’t make shots, it can affect other parts of your game, at least a little bit. For the most part, he’s done a good job with that.”

For the season, McCullar is averaging 10.2 points and 7.2 re-bounds in 30.3 minutes per game while shooting 42.5% from the floor and 30.5% from 3-point range.

After catching fire midway through the season, making 24 of 45 shots (53.3%) in wins over Seton Hall, Missouri, Indiana and Harvard, McCullar has made just 14 of 43 attempts (32.6%) in KU’s first six Big 12 games.

That includes an 0-of-2 shooting showing while fouling out in the Jayhawks’ recent loss at Kansas State, and a 0-for-8 clip from 3-point range in the Jayhawks’ last three games.

His recent struggles, however, have not affected his role. McCullar averaged 30.5 minutes per game in 11 non-conference games and has averaged exactly 30 minutes per game in Big 12 play.

Per KenPom.com’s player ratings, McCullar sits last among KU’s starting five in offensive player rating (96) but also leads the Jayhawks in defensive steal percentage, ranking 21st nationally at 4.9% and also ranks among the team’s leaders in several other defensive categories.

“I love his game,” Self said. “I love what he gives us. He’s been a terrific addition to our program and our culture. Every-thing has been a positive. He’s not in any jeopardy at all of playing less minutes. But the bottom line is he needs to be-come less of a thinker and more of a reactor.”

McCullar is not the only Jayhawk currently battling through issues or ailments.

Self said Thursday that freshman big man Ernest Udeh Jr. had his wisdom teeth removed last week, which limited him in practice, and that freshman guard MJ Rice was still not 100% recovered from the back spasms that held him out of KU’s recent road win at West Virginia.

Rice has been a healthy scratch in KU’s three games since the win at WVU, but Self classified the freshman as “just not whole.”

“That’s not the reason why we didn’t try to put him in (at Kan-sas State),” Self said of Rice. “It’d be nice if we were able to get those guys whole.”

Rice’s struggles have been well documented throughout the season. His health issues have included back spasms, kidney stones and COVID, and he also has had to battle through the regular learning curve that most freshmen seem to wrestle with during their first season of college basketball. So far, Rice has played in just 11 of KU’s 18 games, averaging 8.7 minutes per outing.

Self also said it was “amazing” that junior point guard Dajuan Harris Jr., did not suffer a concussion during a hard fall that forced him to leave the game at K-State for a couple of minutes.

“Did you guys see how hard he hit his head on the floor,” asked Self on Thursday. “I think Juan just got tired. We can talk about, well he didn’t do this and he missed some wide-open shots he’s been making, but the guy he guarded had a season low too, if I’m not mistaken. I’ll definitely go to (battle) with him each and every night.”

Fresh off of their first loss since November, the Jayhawks will return home on Saturday for a clash with No. 14 TCU at Allen Fieldhouse.

TCU enters the first of two matchups with KU this season hav-ing lost three of its last four games. The only win in that time came against Kansas State.

The game is slated for a noon tipoff on CBS.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.