Why Jayhawks’ Dickinson, McCullar were inspired by KJ Adams’ performance vs. Chaminade

Contributed photo/KU Athletics

He didn’t score a game-high 31 points. That feat was accomplished by senior Kansas Jayhawks center Hunter Dickinson.

He didn’t put up a triple-double. That honor, for the second straight game, went to senior KU guard Kevin McCullar.

What KJ Adams did, however, was score eight points on 4-of-5 shooting, dish four assists and grab a rebound with one steal while playing 26 minutes in an 83-56 first-round Maui Invitational victory over Chaminade on Monday in SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.

The 6-foot-7 Austin Texas native, who also had a pair of rim-rattling dunks off lobs from Dajuan Harris, played with remarkable energy just 2 hours and 15 minutes after arriving on Oahu, site of the Maui Invitational.

The junior forward made it to the island in time for KU’s first-round game. He had a long travel day in the air Monday after first scurrying from Lawrence to Austin on Friday in time to say goodbye to his mother, Yvonne, who passed away after meeting with KJ and other family members on Friday night.

Adams could’ve skipped the trip to Honolulu, if he so desired. Instead, he was there for teammates on Monday.

“It means a lot. For him to fly out this morning, take 11 hours to get here, hop in a plane and play a college game the way he did is amazing,” McCullar said after following up his triple-double against Kentucky with a 22-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist performance vs. NCAA Div. II Chaminade.

Just two other players have officially recorded triple-doubles at KU: Jeff Withey and Cole Aldrich. Blocks were not an official stat in the Wilt Chamberlain era. It’s believed he and B.H. Born had several-triple doubles, as well.

“KJ is a guy I look up to. He’s my brother. I can’t imagine what he’s feeling, We’re just happy to be here for him right now,” McCullar added.

Dickinson followed his 27 points and 21 rebounds vs. Kentucky in the Champions Classic with 31 points and 11 rebounds in 32 minutes against Chaminade. He hit 15 of 18 shots.

“Happiness,” 7-footer Dickinson said, when asked his emotions upon seeing Adams board the team bus at 2:30 p.m. at the team hotel on Waikiki Beach for the 4 p.m. game.

“Him being here with us … we were able to let him know he’s not alone, that a team full of brothers are here for him and happy to see him here,” Dickinson said. “You see a guy who flew 11 hours after receiving the most devastating news you can possibly have.

“Him playing 26 minutes … it’s incredible. For him to play with that energy and emotion was super-big for us. It shows what kind of person and player he is to do whatever he can for Kansas to win.”

Adams caught an inbounds pass from Dajuan Harris (eight assists, seven points in 35 minutes) for a dunk. Harris also tossed the ball off the backboard to a trailing Adams for a vicious slam. Those players were actually quite helpful in putting away pesky Chaminade (1-3), the hometown team that kept it relatively close throughout.

“It was a long day for KJ,” Self said. “I was thinking about playing him 15 minutes. (But) we were so much better with him in the game. He played very well considering the circumstances,” added Self, who indicated he was looking forward to visiting with Adams one-on-one back at the team hotel.

Dickinson’s 31-point outing was just two points off his career high against Michigan State a year ago, when he played at Michigan.

Dickinson seemed more impressed with McCullar’s second triple-double in as many games than his own effort.

“Coach calls him the best all-around player in college basketball. l think he is proving it night in and out,” Dickinson said of McCullar. “He can score, rebound, pass, defend. Coach is right. I don’t think there’s a better all-around player who can do a little bit of everything than Kevin McCullar.”

Of his triple-double, McCullar said: “It’s a blessing. It was super-fun out there today. I credit my teammates helping me out, getting assists and boxing out so I could get some rebounds. It was a team effort today.”

Said Self: “Kevin McCullar is playing at a really high level. To me, he is as good an all-around player as anyone in the country, when you include what he does on the defensive end. He can really play.”

KU will meet the winner of a later UCLA-Marquette game at 9:30 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday in Honolulu.