Kansas’ Kevin McCullar has made a leap on offense. His secret? Increased confidence

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar has a newfound swagger about him.

When McCullar has stepped on the court this season, he’s appeared cool, calm and collected. It’s a far cry from the player who appeared in his head at points last season.

After dropping a career-high 25 points with five assists in KU’s 88-69 victory over Kansas City on Tuesday night, McCullar confirmed something has changed from his first season with the Jayhawks.

“I’m just confident out there,” he said. “I trust in the work that I put in. (I’m) believing in myself. Coach (Bill) Self believes in me, my teammates believe in me, and that confidence goes a long way.”

That confidence has never been more evident than on the offensive end. McCullar is shooting a career-high from deep (35.5%) and has an offensive rating (team points per 100 possessions) of 117 — a significant increase from last season.

McCullar says he hasn’t changed his shooting form but increased his reps over the summer after withdrawing from the NBA Draft process.

Playing alongside talented newcomers, like All-America candidate Hunter Dickinson and five-star freshman Elmarko Jackson, has also played a role in McCullar’s offensive leap.

While Jackson has struggled at times this year, KU’s top three-man lineup — per’s adjusted efficiency mark — features McCullar, Jackson and Dickinson on the court.

“Playing with great players has helped me out a lot,” McCullar said. “Hunt and KJ (Adams) down low have given me a lot of great opportunities to be able to just catch and shoot and knock it down. And Dajuan (Harris) and Elmarko are finding me on the break.”

The two-man game between McCullar and Dickinson has been especially productive. Both players accentuate each other’s strengths and mitigate each other’s weaknesses.

“It’s something that I look forward to, and I feel like we can get a shot whenever we need to,” McCullar said. “Playing the two-man game with Hunter, he makes the game a lot easier. He can pick, roll, and post up off the screen. He’s got a bunch of different games.”

Self has been impressed by McCullar’s offensive improvement.

“I think offensively, he’s a different player and (more) confident,” Self said. “He’s scoring in different ways. He’s scoring in the post a lot. ... He doesn’t just rely on perimeter shots. But he’s shooting the ball at pretty good clip. ...

“Shot selection is good and he didn’t force anything. Of course, I’m sold. I think he’s a terrific player.”

How terrific? Well, Self compared him to two recent Kansas legends.

“He has taken a step very similar to Ochai’s (Agbaji) step and to Jalen’s (Wilson) step,” Self said. “Those guys were obviously not predicted to be All-Americans or whatever. Then, by Christmas, they were a favorite to be an All-Americans.

“He hasn’t quite gotten there yet, but the way he’s playing right now he’s not far off.”