College Sports

How Quentin Grimes has improved at KU ... with help from the man beside him

KU’s Quentin Grimes on altitude, defending Northeastern

Kansas Jayhawks guard Quentin Grimes talks about dealing with altitude in Salt Lake City and also about how KU will need to be focused to defend Northeastern. He spoke to reporters on March 20, 2019, before the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
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Kansas Jayhawks guard Quentin Grimes talks about dealing with altitude in Salt Lake City and also about how KU will need to be focused to defend Northeastern. He spoke to reporters on March 20, 2019, before the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Quentin Grimes had just completed the game of his life, and now, he needed a basketball.

This was a Tuesday night in January two years ago, and Grimes had just scored 48 points for his Texas high school team in a 93-89 home victory.

There was one problem. Grimes made 20 of 30 field goals ... but only 6 of 14 free throws.

“I was pissed,” Grimes says now, “and so was my dad.”

Though it wasn’t an every-game occurrence, Grimes knew what needed to happen next. He asked high school coach Clifton McNeely for a basketball, then perched himself 15 feet away from the rim with one of his biggest supporters beside him.

Marshall Grimes often liked to work with his son right after games, believing it was best to go over things while they were fresh on the mind. Though these sessions often took place on the actual high-school court, this time, the two found a side gym where the lights had yet to be turned off.

Father talked to his son about what had gone wrong with the free throws. His shooting form was fine, but because of fatigue, Quentin wasn’t using his legs enough at the end.

“He understood it,” Marshall says, “and he corrected it.”

After 15 minutes, the two were satisfied. Quentin was ready for his Chipotle bowl with rice, cheese and hot sauce, knowing his dad would likely get his customary burrito.

This has been life for KU guard Quentin Grimes for as long as he can remember: encouragement along with tough love.

“Probably the best dad in the world,” he says, “just from the ways he’s helping me.”

That’s continued this year, with Grimes’ father continuing to be a source of support even through the toughest times.

KU’s Quentin Grimes got this acrobatic reverse to fall after getting past ISU’s Cameron Lard during the first half of Saturday’s Big 12 Tournament championship game at the Sprint Center. Rich Sugg

Marshall Grimes works in the financial industry, and he believes there are parallels between his work and the art of shooting a basketball.

In his profession, Grimes is tasked with breaking down corporations to determine if they are good investments.

“That’s what you have to do when you’re doing shooting,” he says. “You have to break it down from the top to the bottom.”

He certainly has some expertise in the area. Marshall Grimes played basketball at Santa Clara in the late 1970s, and Quentin remembered always being amazed by how accurate his dad was when watching him shoot as a kid. It hasn’t hurt that Marshall has picked up additional details on the craft by being around a lot of former pros in his life, including best friend Kurt Rambis, a 14-year NBA vet who played alongside him at Santa Clara.

From an early age, Marshall was Quentin’s de facto shooting coach, picking up pointers by also studying video of the best NBA shooters. He’s focused on the finer points with Quentin: getting arc on jumpshots, releasing off the tip of the fingers and being sure to hold the follow-through.

“If the mechanics are proper,” Marshall says, “shots will start to go in.”

It still sometimes was a tough sell for Quentin. There was one time son challenged his father, saying, “I don’t need to change my shot. Steph Curry shoots it this way.”

Marshall’s quick response: “Quentin, you’re not Steph Curry.”

Just recently, Marshall also rediscovered a video of him working with Quentin on his shot in eighth grade: “Stick with me. Keep doing what I tell you to do.” Marshall sent the video to Quentin last week, just to remind how far his hard work had taken him.

“Eventually,” Marshall says, “he started to see success.”

That came mostly from repetition and focusing on details, with Marshall preaching that it’s often millimeters that make the difference between good and great.

Quentin has drilled his way to improvement, sticking to routines that resulted in gradual gains over time. In one grueling stretch during high school, he’d go immediately from practice to a workout with a personal trainer, before following that up with additional drills while accompanied by his AAU coach.

After earning McDonald’s All-American honors last season, Quentin’s routine has remained intense since arriving in Lawrence.

Quentin likes to shoot on his own in KU’s practice gym five to six times a week, with a manager rebounding for him so he can continue the rhythms that keep him balanced.

Marshall has helped some with that when he can as well.

After the Villanova home game in December, Marshall met his son in the locker room after Quentin had only played 14 minutes. Not only did Quentin feel like he hadn’t played well, he also wanted to ensure he was getting better that day.

“Let’s go get in the gym,” Quentin said, and Marshall knew what that meant.

After changing from his jersey into practice gear, Quentin met his father in KU’s practice gym. They worked on coming off screens, keeping his handle low and ensuring that his jumpshot motion was tight and efficient.

Marshall remembers his son sweating through his shirt as he completed the 35-minute session.

“That’s the way we’ve always worked,” Marshall says.

It helped lead to better times ... and also some renewed optimism before the most important games of the season.

After hitting another three-point shot, KU’s Quentin Grimes (5) and teammate Devon Dotson head back down court past West Virginia’s Brandon Knapper during the first half of Friday night’s Big 12 Tournament semifinal game at the Sprint Center. Rich Sugg

KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend says the transition has been difficult to miss.

Just this week, assistant Jerrance Howard talked to him about how much better Grimes’ defense is. And offensively, the guard appears much more clear with his role.

“I think he’s had ups and downs like a lot of freshmen, but I think he’s really come along,” Townsend says. “I wish the season was a little bit longer, because I think he’s finally playing to what everybody thought he was.”

There also have been subtle changes lately. KU coach Bill Self’s offensive philosophy has always been to either shoot the ball or move it, and Grimes appears to have found a better way to integrate his own game into that framework.

When he catches passes, Grimes has been more decisive, shooting or passing right away. Early in the season, Townsend saw a lot of catching and jab-stepping from Grimes, which were habits built up from high school when he was asked to be a point guard and also more of a playmaker for a team that didn’t have many others besides him.

“It was like a puzzle piece that didn’t fit,” Townsend says. “But now he’s figuring out how to play like he plays in our system, and it’s really helped him.”

Grimes has scored double figures in five of his last seven games, and his recent stretch of consistency also has led to the spreading of a new hashtag on Twitter. #MarchofGrimes — a play off the famous nonprofit organization — speaks to the hope that Grimes could lead KU to a long postseason run, much like Malik Newman did last season.

For his part, Marshall believes his son is in a good spot. He believes Quentin’s defense has improved and while also noting his transition game has taken off.

“He’s playing with a really good spirit right now,” Marshall says. “It seems like he’s enjoying playing basketball again.”

If he does lead KU to a deep postseason run, Quentin Grimes no doubt will think about the grind that got him here. And also the man who helped him reach this point.

“I love my dad to death for sure,” he says. “He’s a dad that loves you as a person no matter what, but always is going to help you and critique you.”

Grimes can appreciate this relationship as much as ever now.

Encouragement — with a healthy dose of tough love — has carried him a long way.

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.