Bryce Thompson’s freshman season continues to be riddled with injuries. The latest is a broken finger suffered during the loss at Oklahoma State that required surgery and puts Thompson out a handful of weeks.
This means a significant bench rotation spot—Thompson has played double-digit minutes in all but one game this year—is in need of filling. The two players most likely to step into a greater role are Tristan Enaruna and Tyon Grant-Foster. Ideally both of them will step up and contribute for Kansas to be at its best. And they both bring different attributes to the table. But Thompson’s injury has opened the door for Enaruna specifically to prove himself and be a difference-maker for the Jayhawks.
Grant-Foster is one of the most athletic players on the team who has proven to impact the game with his defense. But he has struggled of late and right now is a non-factor from 3 (he is 1-15 on the year and 0-13 in every game since the opener against Gonzaga).
But Enaruna’s strengths better align to what Kansas needs right now. He is one of the longest players on the team, able to serve the role of Jalen Wilson in a small-ball lineup. Most importantly, the Jayhawks desperately need anyone who can take his man off the dribble and get to the basket. Enaruna’s effectiveness going left has been on display as recently as the Oklahoma State game, and he has been efficient doing it in a smaller sample size (KenPom has him at 16-25 from inside the arc, while Sports Reference has 16-27).
Again, it’s a small sample size, but Enaruna’s advanced numbers have compared fairly well to Wilson’s and are quite a bit higher than Grant-Foster’s, though he still needs to cut down the turnovers.
Wilson: 111.6 ORtg, 54.6 eFG%, 57.5 true shooting%, 57.6 2-point%, 34 3-point%
Enaruna: 94.8 ORtg, 58.6 eFG%, 58 true shooting%, 64.0 2-point%, 30 3-point%
Grant-Foster: 90 ORtg, 40.8 eFG%, 42.5 true shooting%, 58.3 2-point%, 7.1 3-point%
Wilson has been on a down stretch lately. I won’t pretend to know for sure, but from watching on TV, it looks like he may be trying to do too much and forcing production. Enaruna could help ease the stress placed on Wilson from a production and position perspective, as he can run the floor, make plays with the ball in his hands, and be a disruptor on defense.
It’s hard to remember now, given what Wilson has become, that Wilson and Enaruna were a toss-up for that fifth starter spot heading into the season. Wilson is not giving that spot up anytime soon, but this stretch provides Enaruna the opportunity to show why he deserves to be in the mix, and Kansas could add a much-needed spark and wrinkle to its offense.