LAWRENCE — During his first three years with Kansas basketball, Chris Teahan practiced against All-Americans, Big 12 players of the year, nationally recognized defenders and players skilled enough to carry the program to a Final Four.
What the walk-on senior guard didn’t observe over that star-studded stretch, however, was anyone quite like first-year Jayhawk teammate Tyon Grant-Foster.
"He brings something to the table," Teahan said, "that I haven’t seen since I’ve been with Coach (Bill) Self, honestly."
A 6-foot-7, 190-pound guard out of Kansas City, Kan., Grant-Foster transferred to KU this offseason after spending two years at Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College. Grant-Foster averaged 16.5 points across 24.1 minutes per game as a sophomore, connecting on 48.3% of his field goal attempts and 33.5% of his 3-point tries en route to becoming 247Sports’ second-ranked junior college prospect.
So yes, Grant-Foster arrived at KU with a lot of buzz. But hearing Teahan and other Jayhawks describe what they’ve seen from the junior throughout the team’s preseason, it would seem Grant-Foster is well on his way to living up to the hype.
"He’s just, like, a lanky athlete that can get his shot off no matter what," Teahan continued. "He’ll have two people draped over him and all of a sudden he’ll step back and rise up and you’ll be like, ‘No way he gets that shot off,’ and it’ll go in. It almost seems like the more contested his shots are, the better they are. So that’s something I haven’t really seen much from people during Coach Self’s era.
"It’ll be special to watch him."
After remarking last month that Grant-Foster has "as much talent as anybody in the gym," Self on Thursday said the junior is competing with sophomore Tristan Enaruna, redshirt freshman Jalen Wilson and freshman Bryce Thompson, with two of those four players candidates to emerge and earn a "lion’s share" of the remaining minutes alongside expected starters Marcus Garrett, Christian Braun, Ochai Agbaji and David McCormack.
All four of those underclassmen have had their moments throughout KU’s preseason, but it was Grant-Foster that most recently turned heads — he got "on a roll" Wednesday that was unlike anything the program has seen "in years" in a practice setting, Self said.
"He just scored the ball," Self said. "Makes hard shots, gets real baskets. ... We haven’t had somebody that can go get their own like he can when he’s good in a long time. We’ve also had guys that could go get their own better than Tyon can if Tyon’s not good. So we’ve just got to figure out good Tyon and certainly get him to be more consistent."
Conforming to how the Jayhawks operate "as opposed to the way he’s used to doing things," as Self has described it, remains perhaps the biggest hurdle for Grant-Foster to clear in that four-way competition. And regardless of which two players emerge from that battle ahead of the team's season opener against No. 1 Gonzaga at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 26 in Fort Myers, Fla., Self suspects that quartet’s playing time could "switch throughout the year."
Whether Grant-Foster starts, plays significant minutes off the bench or serves in more of a complementary role, fifth-year senior forward Mitch Lightfoot expects the junior guard to make an impact this season.
"I’ve played with a lot of really good players here and that scoring is kind of different. Guys I’ve played with here can really score the ball, but he scores in such a different way I think," Lightfoot said. "... He doesn’t get enough credit for this, but he can definitely block shots, affect shots around the rim and get in there and offensively rebound, which is something we’ve applauded him for."
The longest-tenured Jayhawk classified Grant-Foster’s talents as "pretty special."
"I think he has the ability to score the ball. I mean the guy can rise up and jumps high on his jump shot," Lightfoot said. "He’s got ... a super change of pace to his game to where he can rise up at any point in time and you won’t be ready for it, so you can think he’s getting ready to shot fake and go by you or do something like that and (he can) just rise up and really knock down shots."