After practicing patience during his first season as a Jayhawk, Kansas sophomore Lagerald Vick is determined to carve out a role for himself and his teammates have taken notice.
“He’s been putting in the unrequired work, and it really shows,” said senior Frank Mason. “He will be a huge key to our team, and I’m looking forward to getting out there and competing with him.”
Vick, a sophomore from Memphis, appeared in 19 of the Jayhawks’ 38 games last season, averaging 2.1 points per game on 47 percent shooting beyond the arc. Even so, the first thing Vick sought to improve this offseason was his jump shot, which teammate Devonte’ Graham said was “way better” than last season.
“I feel like a I made a huge step up,” Vick said. “My confidence went up, especially from last year. I took a lot of shots over the summer."
Even with the extra attention on his shot and the departures of three-point bombers Brannen Greene and Wayne Selden Jr., Vick still figures to face plenty of competition for playing time.
Mason and Graham are cemented as the starting backcourt, and standout freshman Josh Jackson is expected to join them. That leaves junior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Vick to battle for minutes off the bench.
That competition doesn’t bother Vick, who said it was great for the team to have so many different weapons. The talented backcourt has prompted Kansas coach Bill Self to ponder using more four-guard lineups this season.
Jackson is a huge reason for that. But Vick may be just as key. After saying last week that Vick had been putting pressure on everybody in practice with his strong play, the sophomore guard's development may hold equal importance in the four-guard look.
Last week, during CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein's weekly college basketball podcast, Self said Vick, along with sophomore Carlton Bragg, had made the biggest jumps from last season.
“My presence should help the team a lot,” Vick said. “[I can] get extra possessions, bring energy, and be a lockdown defender.”
Perhaps as important as his physical ability is Vick’s mental improvement from last season. He admitted that things sometimes moved a little fast for him during his freshman season. Sometimes he didn’t understand the terminology being used by the coaching staff, and sometimes his nerves got the better of him.
But with a year under his belt and plenty of time to observe the players ahead of him in the rotation, Vick has a better understanding of what’s expected of him from his teammates and coaches.
It doesn’t hurt that Graham and Mason — entering their second and third seasons as starters, respectively — have both taken Vick under their wings.
“Those guys taught me a lot,” Vick said. “From different terminology, to different positions on the floor and what coach (Self) likes and doesn’t like. They tell me to bring energy when there’s no energy.”
Both Mason and Graham say they believed Vick was ready for a bigger role this season. The reason, Graham said, is because Vick knows his role now.
“I love the energy he brings, and I’m proud of Lagerald,” Mason said. “He shows every day in practice how much hard work he put in.”