Still ‘figuring out the game,’ KU’s Grimes says he’s ready for test at Iowa State

By Gary Bedore

Quentin Grimes hit six three-pointers and scored a game-high 21 points in his major-college debut — Kansas’ season-opening victory over Michigan State at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.

The 6-foot-5 McDonald’s All-American from The Woodlands, Texas, followed that by dishing 10 assists and scoring 10 points in Game Two — a home victory over Vermont.

Things inexplicably went sour for’ No. 8-rated player in the recruiting Class of 2018 after that, however. Grimes scored in single digits in eight of KU’s next nine games before re-awakening and scoring 30 points combined in the last two contests — wins over Eastern Michigan and Oklahoma.

He appears to be on an uptick heading into KU’s Big 12 road opener against Iowa State. Tipoff between the No. 5-ranked Jayhawks (12-1, 1-0) and unranked Cyclones (11-2, 1-0) is 4 p.m. Saturday at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

“I don’t think I was ever losing my confidence. I was just trying to figure things out,” said Grimes, who, after hitting six threes versus MSU and two against Vermont, missed 21 of 24 treys over the next nine games. He made 2 of 4 against Eastern Michigan, then just 1 of 6 against Oklahoma on Wednesday night.

“Lagerald (Vick) got real hot. He had two 30-point games. I wanted to get the ball in his hands. I was trying to figure out through the offense how to exert myself. I never lose confidence in myself, I’m just figuring out the game with Coach (Bill) Self,” Grimes added.

Grimes — he averages 8.5 points a game on 41.2 percent shooting (14 of 48 threes for 29.2 percent) — says his 10-for-17 shooting the last two games has energized him a bit.

“It motivates you seeing the ball go through the hoop,” said Grimes. He scored 14 points against Oklahoma on Wednesday night on 6-of-11 shooting. “It opens up my whole arsenal, my whole game for sure.”

The secret to his recent production, Grimes said, has been “staying in the gym, getting up extra shots, making sure I talk with Coach (Jerrance) Howard after the games, little things like that.”

After 13 games, Grimes said he feels “a lot more comfortable with the system. I’m kind of feeding off our players on the court — on how Marcus (Garrett) plays, how Devon (Dotson) plays. I feel a lot more confident getting back to my old self for sure.”

Grimes’ teammates have never sensed anything is wrong. After all, KU has won 12 of 13 games with Grimes in the starting lineup and logging significant minutes (25.8 per game).

“He’s a great player. I feel like when he gets going, that’s when we are at our best,” freshman point guard Dotson said. “When he knocks down shots, makes plays, it really uplifts the team.”

Sophomore guard Garrett said: “I don’t feel Quentin ever lost his confidence. He was just second-guessing. I feel he thinks it’s going in every time it leaves his hand. That’s my guy right there. We’re both from Texas. I’m very proud of him.”

Grimes scored eight points on 4-of-12 shooting (0-for-5 from three) with three assists and two turnovers in KU’s first true road game of the season — an 80-76 loss to Arizona State on Dec. 22 in Tempe, Ariz. He’s looking forward to the trip to Hilton Coliseum, where KU has won the past two seasons.

“I feel we have a good team going into the road games,” Grimes said. “Going into any building I’ve got these guys behind me cheering me on. And I’m going in cheering for Dedric (Lawson) for Devon, for everybody.”

The 6-foot-5 Garrett scored three points in 19 minutes in KU’s 83-77 victory over ISU last season in Ames.

“It’s definitely a tough place to play. It was a tough environment. The crowd was into it. I can’t wait,” Garrett said of the battle against the Cyclones, who could vault into the AP rankings next week if they defeat the Jayhawks.

“They have a very good fan base. It’s going to be tough. They have a very good team this year, a tough team up there,” Garrett added.

Iowa State opened Big 12 play by beating Oklahoma State, 69-63, on Wednesday at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.

The Cyclones, who are 7-0 at home, are led by senior guard Marial Shayok, who averages 19.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Preseason all-Big 12 selection Lindell Wigginton, a sophomore guard who recently returned from a foot injury, has averaged 15.0 points in three games. Junior forward Michael Jacobson averages 14.5 points and a team-best 6.2 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Talen Horton-Tucker averages 13.6 points per game.

“Historically it’s as hard a place as we play. We like going up there to play. We’ve not always won but played well,” said Self. His teams are 11-4 in Hilton Coliseum. “Arizona State was a good atmosphere. This will be better than Arizona State. We look forward to it. We’re playing a team that is much improved from last year. They had as good a preseason as anybody and they are back to being healthy.”

Junior forward Solomon Young missed several games because of a groin injury, while Cameron Lard and Zoran Talley missed seven games because of suspension. Everybody’s back for Saturday’s game.

KU will return home to meet TCU in an 8 p.m. tip Wednesday at Allen Fieldhouse.

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