After KU-Arkansas, Eric Musselman shares respect for ‘incredible shooter’ Gradey Dick

Nick Wagner/

Kansas freshman Gradey Dick might not know if he’s returning to Lawrence next season, but he’s certainly earned the respect of basketball coaches nationwide.

That respect was fully displayed in KU’s 72-71 second-round NCAA Tournament loss to No. 8 Arkansas.

The Razorbacks treated Dick as KU’s biggest threat — face-guarding him, getting into his airspace and not letting him get easy looks. It’s something teams have done throughout the season against Dick with varying levels of success. Still, it paid off on Saturday.

Dick was limited to seven points on 3-for-9 shooting, including 1-for-3 from beyond the arc. Dick also grabbed seven rebounds.

“We just wanted to give no air space obviously to No. 4 Gradey Dick,” said Arkansas coach Eric Musselman. “He’s an incredible shooter, one of the best shooters in college basketball. The general philosophy was not to allow three-(point) attempts. That was the biggest thing, is to stay attached.

“That’s also why they did a good job, I thought, of exploiting us, hugging up on him by their middle pick-and-roll and their flip screen because Adams got some easy baskets inside. We fouled him a few times off the roll, but we just did not have tag man because we didn’t want Gradey to see any daylight. We felt like if we could hold him to four or five three-ball attempts (it) would play to our advantage.”

The Razorbacks are one of the tallest and most athletic teams in the nation, so they quickly closed into the airspace of Dick whenever he got the ball.

KU coach Norm Roberts said teams have tried to prevent Dick from shooting three-pointers all season, but the Razorbacks had a team built to stop him.

“They have some long athletes that made it tough on him to get shots,” Roberts said. “I don’t think we screened as well as we wanted to for him, maybe we could have run a few more things for him, but they did nullify him a little bit.”

Added Roberts: “I thought we shared the ball pretty good and we have a lot of balance, but they did a good job of preventing him from getting open looks.”

Ultimately, Dick finished off a pretty special season, albeit in a loss. The lifelong Jayhawk fan got to don the crimson and blue while earning All-Big 12 second team honors. It was a long-time coming for the Wichita native.

“Gradey did great,” Roberts said of his season. “When you’re as talented as him with the ability to shoot as he does, people are going to crowd you and they’re going face-guard you. I think he would say he’s learned a lot from this year and what he needs to do to improve. But I thought he had a good year. A really good year.”