Notebook: McCullar trying to help from bench as he misses time with injury

photo by: AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr., front right, goes against Oklahoma guard Milos Uzan (12) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Norman, Okla.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. missed his second straight game due to injury and fifth of the last seven on Tuesday night, but the graduate senior has still found ways to make himself useful from the bench.

“He’s kind of become an assistant coach,” KU coach Bill Self said this week, “and I think he’s done a good job helping the guys, maybe, that don’t play as many minutes, while they’re not in the game.”

Possibly too good a job: “I had to tell him to be quiet during one timeout” in the Texas game Saturday, Self said.

As fellow sixth-year senior guard Nick Timberlake, who has been starting in McCullar’s place, noted, “He’s been in college forever just like me, so he has a ton of game experience,” and McCullar uses that experience to educate his teammates when he can’t be physically out there with them.

“Me and Kev are really close, so I mean, anytime there’s a timeout I usually stop by him before I go back out,” Timberlake said.

McCullar, who was in street clothes on the bench, may have to continue in this role for a bit longer, given that Self has described his bone bruise as a “week-to-week” injury. On Monday, Self didn’t rule him out officially for the rest of this week (i.e. Saturday’s game at Baylor). He did say, “We are looking at the big picture,” but suggested that if KU is going to get McCullar back that big picture might need to require a return at some point prior to the NCAA Tournament.

“If you start playing him after the Big 12 tournament, he wouldn’t be worth a crap in the NCAA Tournament,” Self said.

In 22 games this season, McCullar is averaging 19.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists.

Self: Court storming has gone too far

The practice of court storming by home fans after significant victories has taken center stage in national college basketball discourse since Saturday, when Kyle Filipowski of Duke got injured in a collision with a hard-charging fan after Wake Forest upset the Blue Devils.

Duke is the type of program that tends to be on the receiving end of such celebrations, as is Kansas — “We’ve probably been stormed on about as much as anybody, I would think,” Self said.

And the Hall of Fame coach isn’t a fan of the practice, which he believes has gotten “way out of control.”

“I would think the leagues could certainly put stiff enough penalties down on places that do that would certainly deter those things from ever happening, at least in my standpoint,” he said.

He expressed displeasure with his sense that the responsibility has been on road teams to educate their players about moving to the sidelines and getting out of the way as a primary means of preventing incidents.

In the final seconds of an overtime loss in Manhattan on Feb. 5, Self subbed out all of his remaining starters.

“If you leave the starters out there, they don’t know to get to the side of the court,” he said that night, “so I put the other guys in so they knew to get to the side of the court.”

As it turned out, Kansas State did not end up storming the court as part of what its coach Jerome Tang characterized as setting an expectation of success.

KU had, however, already been on the receiving end of court storms at UCF, West Virginia and Iowa State. UCF was fined $25,000 by the Big 12 Conference for storming the court after its win over KU on Jan. 10.

“Ensuring a safe environment for all players, coaches, officials and support staff is paramount,” Commissioner Brett Yormark said. “Although well intended, the UCF event management policy did not provide for the protection of the visiting team and game officials to safely exit the court.”

Timberlake, a transfer from Towson, had a more charitable view of court storming than his coach. He said he doesn’t think the practice should be legislated out of the game.

“I feel like most of the time if you’re in that position you kind of expect it’s going to happen and kind of move toward the sideline,” he said.

Asked if his coaches have prepared him for what to do in the event of a court storm, Timberlake said with a smile that “Coach Self hasn’t really talked about losing. So that wasn’t one of his pitches when I was getting recruited here.”

This and that

Tuesday marked the fourth matchup for KU against a new conference foe during the 2023-24 season; the Jayhawks are now 2-2 with one more, a second matchup against Houston, to go. They could also have to face any of the four again in the Big 12 tournament.

Former KU signee Marcus Adams Jr. was not dressed to play and did not take the floor for BYU in his return to Allen Fieldhouse.


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