Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tom Keegan: Vick proves to be the perfect complement for KU’s backcourt

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) gets up for a reverse jam before Long Beach State forward Javonntie Jackson (35) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) gets up for a reverse jam before Long Beach State forward Javonntie Jackson (35) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Larry Brown has worn stylish glasses for decades, but don’t let that fool you. There never has been anything wrong with Brown’s basketball eye.

It served him well as a point guard for North Carolina, a three-time ABA All-Star, and as a coach, where he remains the only man on the planet to win titles in both Div. I college basketball and the NBA.

Brown’s basketball eye told him that Lagerald Vick, a long-limbed, springy, slender guard from the basketball hotbed of Memphis was a player who could help him at SMU.

Then a member of the Class of 2016, Vick committed to Brown two-plus years ago, then changed his mind, reclassified to 2015, and ultimately chose Kansas.

Brown looked on Tuesday night from his aisle seat in Allen Fieldhouse, two rows behind the Kansas bench, and Vick put on a show for him and the rest of the 16,300 spectators during KU’s 91-61 blowout victory against Long Beach State.

Shooting 9-for-9 from the field, four of the shots from beyond the three-point arc, Vick scored a career-high 23 points, 16 in the first half.

“That’s what makes Kansas an elite team,” Long Beach coach Don Monson said. “He’s not one that we focused on. The game plan was to pack it in and make them beat us from the perimeter, help in and make them pass out. He just opened up the game with his shooting.”

The term “complementary player” generally has the feel of a left-handed compliment in basketball. It conjures images of either a shooter who can do little else, or someone who sets good picks, keeps the ball moving and scraps his way to playing time despite falling a little short athletically.

That stereotype doesn’t fit for this year’s Kansas basketball team.

A step-slow player wouldn’t be able to keep up with the absurdly fast pace set by perimeter men Devonte Graham, Josh Jackson and Frank Mason.

Complementing that trio well demands flying up and down the court and staying alert at all times because the passes come fast and furious. It also requires a soft three-point shooting touch because the fourth wheel of Bill Self’s four-guard lineup is going to get a lot of open threes. Some will come in transition, others when one of the three jets drives hard to the hoop, still others when they move the ball so swiftly in the air because they all know unproductive dribbles give the defense a prayer it otherwise doesn’t have.

Vick complements Graham, Jackson and Mason superbly, especially when his shots are falling. And they’re falling, which also serves to set up his quick shot-fake drives.

“The difference between Kansas and Long Beach State is we’ll have players that can shoot like that, but they can’t do the other things,” Monson said. “When we looked at him in film today it was more of how aggressive he was and how he would go to the offensive boards and how aggressive he was at attacking. Now he’s able to shoot like that.”

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self talks win over Long Beach, Landen Lucas injury

After a 91-61 victory over Long Beach State, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self met with the media and discussed Lagerald Vick's career-best 23-point performance, the reason Landen Lucas didn't play and much more.

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The perfect complement’s perfect shooting night from the field would have put him in the record book, if not for a Carlton Bragg foul nearly 90 feet away.

Vick’s breakaway slam late in the game would have made him 10-for-10 and tied him with Norm Cook and Danny Manning for most made field goals in a game without a miss by Kansas player, but the dunk was nullified.

“I think Carlton must be mad at him or something because that was probably the worst foul we’ve committed since I’ve been here or Lagerald would have got the record,” Self said lightheartedly, adding he had no clue of the record until after the fact.

Self was pleased with the improvement Vick showed during the offseason and once the season arrived it was easy to see why.

“He’s improved a ton,” Self said. “He’s confident. He’s reacting instead of thinking, for the most part. He’s not always going to shoot like that, but after getting off to a really poor start shooting it, I think he’s made seven of his last eight threes. He attacks the rim well and he’s going to end up being one of our best defenders. He’s really improved a ton.”

Vick’s 7 of 8 three-point hot streak came after he started the season 1-of-13 from long distance.

Vick said that after a poor shooting night at one of the two Sprint Center games, assistant coach Kurtis Townsend told him he was drifting back on his shot. Vick added that a friend sent him video, which validated what Townsend had told him, and Vick applied the fix practicing his shot. The result: perfection.

By the Numbers: Kansas 91, Long Beach State 61

By the Numbers: Kansas 91, Long Beach State 61

— See what people were saying about the game during's live coverage.

More news and notes from Kansas vs. Long Beach State


Humpy Helsel 3 years, 5 months ago

Is anyone going to talk about the continued poor FT shooting? It is called a free throw because it is free! No one guarding you and we are not improving. Where are the days of anything less than a combined 70% is unacceptable? Poor free throw shooting eventually gets you beat. Maybe not in these types of games with these levels of teams coming in. But in January, February and March, they can many times be the difference in a win or a loss in close games. Oh, well. Who cares. I guess.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 5 months ago

I'm with you Humpy, it has me worried. I always felt like 75% was the number we should hit as a team.

Joe Joseph 3 years, 5 months ago

To me, the only thing that is surprising about Lagerald Vick is his emergence as a starter. He was a highly touted recruit (51st in the ESPN 100), showed remarkable athleticism and great touch from three last season (albeit in limited PT). He always struck me as confident and as someone who was desperate to prove he deserved more minutes.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 5 months ago

His play in Korea was a pretty good insight into just how good he could be.

Eliott Reeder 3 years, 5 months ago

Hard to believe no Kansas player has ever gone 11-11 from the field in a game.

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 5 months ago

Like the references to Larry Brown and Kurtis Townsend in this article. They both have played a big role in Lagerald's rise.

I seem to recall that, when Coach Brown learned that Lagerald had changed his mind about coming to SMU, he steered him to KU.

Also, the job that Kurtis Townsend and the other assistants have done over the years has been truly outstanding. They, along with Ms. Hudy, have sometimes been the unsung heroes of the program. Coach Self is always quick to point that out. Again, very classy.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 5 months ago

Semester break is a great time to work relentlessly on FTs. DJax improved his % a lot when he was forced to sit for the start of the one season and The last champions improved theirs by 10-20% during the break that year. It resulted in 14-15 against Memphis which was as much the difference in the game as the ones missed by the others. Would also have been the difference against 'cuse a few years earlier.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 5 months ago

Few thoughts:

Not knocking Lightfoot as I've seen what Seif has done w/Bigs who were willing to be patient but he might consider red-shirting next season.

LONG way to go but Bragg needs to find his game or prepare for a 3rd season at KU.

Wish Vick got the minutes wasted on Greene last season.

Wonder how Diallo would be on this team w/so much speed.

Mike Greer 3 years, 5 months ago

I'll add to your thoughts:

Many thought Lightfoot would red shirt this year, would have been the better year as we still have Lucas this season. Next year it's Colby and AZ.

Bragg's second half was much better, maybe a few cupcakes and he'll find his game, the breakout season hype may have put too much pressure on him in those high intensity games.

I was wishing for that all last season, but Coach knows way more than I do. Maybe Vick needed the extra time.

Diallo, good question, probably still lost and although fast as all get out, not the shooter Svi and Vick are, I think the time is better split between Vick and Svi. Wonder how he might have meshed with Jackson? Or not?

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 5 months ago

We will add Billy Preston coming in next season, #8 overall w/the potential to be an impact player.

Don't get me wrong on Bragg as I hope he achieves his goals and goes early 1st round. He seems hesitant at times but shows flashes of his potential.

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 5 months ago

Despite his size, Preston is a guard. So expect him to fill Jackson's role more than Bragg's, though those can be viewed as the same spot depending on the rotation. He's the 4th guard more than a forward though. Regardless, don't expect Preston to spend much time on the block or scoring with his back to the basket.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 5 months ago

You should tell Matt Tait and Rivals that they need to update their info.

From LJW:

The Kansas men’s basketball program finally landed its top-tier player in the Class of 2017 on Friday, when Billy Preston chose the Jayhawks on ESPNU.

Preston, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward from Oak Hill Academy, is ranked by as the No. 8 player in the 2017 class and many believe his potential might be higher than that.

If he can knock down the 3 and has good ball handling skills, that's great but he was clearly recruited to play the 4 spot.

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