University of Kansas

Why KU basketball could be down to eight scholarship players in exhibition opener

Bill Self feared the worst when 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward Silvio De Sousa tumbled on point guard Devon Dotson’s right foot at Kansas basketball practice Tuesday in Allen Fieldhouse.

“Silvio is a big dude. He fell pretty hard on him yesterday. When it happened, I thought ‘Oh geez,’’’ Self, KU’s 17th-year coach said Wednesday at Big 12 basketball media day at the Sprint Center. Self was referring to his reaction to Dotson’s injury that has required the 6-foot-2 sophomore to wear a boot on his right foot.

“He couldn’t really shake it off,” Self added of Charlotte, North Carolina native Dotson, who Self said would not play in Thursday’s exhibition opener against Fort Hays State (7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse). “After a while the pain subsided. Based on X-rays and MRI, they think it’s short term. I can’t anticipate him missing more three or four days,” Self added, noting Dotson is listed “day-to-day.”

Dotson said he was more than a bit concerned when De Sousa landed on him.

“I thought it was,” Dotson said, referring to his rolling of the ankle possibly resulting in a serious injury, not one that may keep him out of just one exhibition game. KU plays Pittsburg State a week from Thursday then opens for real against Duke on Nov. 5 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

“It’s day-to-day so I’m taking it that way. It’s getting better, just an ankle roll,” added Dotson, who was joined by senior Udoka Azubuike and sophomore Ochai Agbaji as KU’s player representatives at Wednesday’s Sprint Center event.

Self said junior Marcus Garrett would replace Dotson at the point.

“He is really good with the ball,” Self said of Garrett, a 6-5 Dallas native, who has played combo guard at KU, but played point in high school. “I don’t know if he’s a point guard. He has point guard skills. If Devon can’t play, Marcus needs to be in the game. We don’t have a second ballhandler.”

Dotson said Garrett has impressed as a lead guard at practice.

“For sure he can handle it (and) get us into our offense,” Dotson said. “Ochai also. He (Agbaji) likes to to be on the ball. He can for sure bring it up court.”

Senior center Udoka Azubuike, who Self said will start along with forward De Sousa, guards Garrett and Agbaji and one of the freshman trio of 6-6 Christian Braun, 6-8 Tristan Enaruna or 6-8 Jalen Wilson, was able to joke about the team’s minor injury situation.

“I can do it. I can run point guard,” 7-footer Azubuike said while seated next to Dotson at a table on the Sprint Center court.

“Doke says he can do it so we’ll let him,” Dotson added, smiling.

Seriously folks ... freshman Braun, a 6-6 graduate of Blue Valley Northwest, may be the backup point guard on Wednesday behind Garrett.

“His ability to handle the ball and pressure on defense is impressive,” Agbaji said of Braun. ”He’s poised and smart. He feels comfortable coming into this.”

Guard Isaiah Moss, a 6-5 graduate transfer from the University of Iowa, is more of a wing than a point. Also, he’s injured.

Moss, according to Self, “re-tweaked” his hamstring at practice on Tuesday and is questionable for Thursday’s exhibition. He’s been slowed by hamstring problems all preseason.

“I think he should be our best shooter. He is the most proven shooter we have in our program,” Self said of Moss. “He’s done it three years in Iowa City. He will be a contributor, whether a starter or not I don’t know. He is hampered by his hamstring.”

There was more news regarding the roster on Wednesday.

A decision on whether senior forward Mitch Lightfoot would redshirt this season would be made “before the Duke game,” Self said.

So Lightfoot must be held out of the exhibitions. Any non-freshman who plays in an exhibition game cannot be redshirted for the season.

Thus, because of injury and the Lightfoot redshirt possibility, KU has eight scholarship players available for the initial exhibition: big men Azubuike, De Sousa and David McCormack, plus Agbaji, Garrett, Braun, Wilson and Enaruna. Dotson, Moss and Lightfoot are out, along with freshman scholarship player Dajuan Harris, who is redshirting this season for academic reasons.

“We’re looking forward to this game,” Dotson said. “We’ve got three or four young guys who have a chance to get comfortable and work out their nerves.”

Agbaji said it could be a blessing in disguise to have some others besides Dotson running point.

“It’s something we’ll have to adjust to,” Agbaji said. “Hopefully it won’t happen again in the regular season. Hopefully he’ll be healthy for Duke. It’s what Coach wants.”

Agbaji said the squad is looking forward to a practice game in front of 16,300 fans.

“We’ve been pushing each other every day. I think we are ready. It’s good to be back,” he said, smiling.

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Gary Bedore covers all aspects of Kansas basketball for The Star — the current team as well as former players and coaches and recruiting. He attended KU and was born and raised in Chicago, as well as Lisle, Ill.