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A closer look at freshman guard Jamari McDowell's role at Kansas

With KU down to 10 scholarship players, McDowell needs to be ready

4 min read
Kansas freshman Jamari McDowell could fill an important role for the Jayhawks during the 2023-24 season. [Chance Parker photo]

Back in August, during the Jayhawks’ exhibition trip to Puerto Rico, with a full roster in tow and Johnny Furphy still on the way, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self was kicking around the idea of finding another player to red-shirt alongside sophomore big man Zach Clemence.

Today, that’s no longer the case.

Down to 10 scholarship players after the dismissal of Arterio Morris, Self said Monday that he did not envision anyone else redshirting during the upcoming season.

He did reiterate that the plan remains to redshirt Clemence, but it appears that the other nine scholarship players will be full-go when the season gets under way next month.

The biggest winner in that scenario is freshman guard Jamari McDowell.

A 6-foot-4, 180-pound wing from Manvel, Texas, McDowell suddenly looks like a pretty important depth piece for the Jayhawks, who remain loaded and are likely to be the No. 1-ranked team in the preseason polls later this month.

I always viewed Morris as a starter, but with him no longer around, I think the Jayhawks can pretty seamlessly slide Furphy into the starting lineup and still be nasty good.

If Furphy’s not ready, then it becomes an interesting question about whether Elmarko Jackson or Nick Timberlake is the best option. Both have starter potential and both have value off the bench, as well.

Here’s the way the depth chart looks, at least in my eyes, as the team prepares for Late Night in the Phog later this week.

PG - Dajuan Harris Jr.  — Elmarko Jackson
SG - Kevin McCullar Jr. – Jamari McDowell/Nick Timberlake
3G - Johnny Furphy – Jamari McDowell/Nick Timberlake
4  - KJ Adams – Parker Braun
 5  - Hunter Dicksinson – Parker Braun/KJ Adams

That’s still a very good team, and most of those guys have retained their roles through the recent changes.

McDowell has, as well, it’s just that his importance may have gone up a little with the recent developments.

Instead of being a young guy who can sit and learn from the slew of talented veterans in front of him, now things like injuries and foul trouble could have him in a pretty critical spot in the rotation in a hurry.

In addition, if KU were to lean toward playing four guards around one big man again for any stretch of time — rather than playing Adams and Dickinson together — McDowell becomes one of six perimeter players for four spots.

“He hasn’t got a lot of hype, but I think Jamari’s gonna catch a lot of eyes this year..." — Junior forward KJ Adams

If there’s one reason to feel confident in McDowell’s ability to handle that role, it’s the fact that he’s been around from the beginning. He was the first of KU’s four heralded freshmen to report to campus — only two remain, with Chris Johnson (Texas) and Marcus Adams (Gonzaga then BYU) moving on before their KU careers even began — and he was there for every workout, every meeting, every practice and the Puerto Rico trip, as well.

He played good minutes in KU’s three exhibition games and showcased his game in a favorable manner, averaging 3.7 points, 1 rebound, 1.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 42.9% from the floor (3-for-7), 25% from 3-point range (1-for-4) and 100% at the free throw line (4-for-4).

He’s long, athletic, crafty and competitive and each of those skills becomes that much more important the closer he is to the rim.

Other than his athleticism, he doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally well. But he does well in a lot of different areas and he appears to be very coachable and a quick learner.

That’s the kind of player who can fill multiple roles on a roster, and I think we’ll see McDowell do just that for this extremely talented yet not-so-deep Kansas basketball team.

“Jamari’s a kid that hasn’t really been looked at a lot,” junior forward KJ Adams said this week, when asked if any of his teammates had stood out in his eyes so far. “He hasn’t got a lot of hype, but I think Jamari’s gonna catch a lot of eyes this year and I think he’s gonna do pretty well, just like all of the newcomers and freshmen.”

Oh, and there was also some talk about McDowell being the best dancer on this roster and that he’d be able to showcase his skills in that department at Late Night on Friday.

When asked about it by reporters on his way from the practice gym to weights, McDowell smiled and said he was going to keep that a secret for Friday night.

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