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Monday, February 18, 2019

Jayhawks say ‘it’s all coming together’ for Kansas basketball

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) and Kansas guard Garrett Luinstra (20) erupt after a three by Kansas guard Chris Teahan (12) late in the second half, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) and Kansas guard Garrett Luinstra (20) erupt after a three by Kansas guard Chris Teahan (12) late in the second half, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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From Jan. 19 to Feb. 5, the Kansas men’s basketball team, which opened the season ranked preseason No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25, looked generally lost in dropping four games in a six-game stretch, with all four losses coming on the road.

Since then, the Jayhawks have responded with a three-game winning streak that has both restored hope and brought the Jayhawks back into the thick of the Big 12 Conference race heading into the final five games of the regular season.

While strength of schedule had something to do with each of those stretches — KU’s 2-4 record in that subpar, six-game run came against teams with a combined winning percentage of .691 while the current three-game winning streak has come against teams sitting at .480 — the Jayhawks also have looked like a much different team during the past couple of weeks.

photo

Nick Krug

Kansas guard K.J. Lawson (13) and Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) celebrate a forced turnover during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Their energy is up, the passion has returned and the positive vibes and genuine joy surrounding the program these days seem to be having a serious impact on how Kansas is playing.

“All the pieces are fitting,” sophomore reserve K.J. Lawson said Saturday after scoring double figures for a second consecutive game. “Earlier in the season, we were trying to fit pieces where (they) didn’t fit, and we kept trying and kept giving it a chance. Everybody’s getting their role (now) and everybody’s coming into that mindset that’s the same on the court.”

The Jayhawks, almost to a man, have a clear way of describing what Lawson referenced and the growth that has transpired during the past two weeks.

“I just think it’s all coming together,” junior leading scorer Dedric Lawson said after KU’s home win over West Virginia last weekend. “Guys are playing more with a free mind, just playing to win and going out there and having fun. Guys are enjoying guys and (that’s) carrying over from practice. I think that’s been real big.”

The phrase “it’s all coming together” means different things to different people on this team, but to Kansas coach Bill Self, it has everything to do with the mental side of the game that can be so critical.

“I’d say as much as anything, (it’s) attitudes,” Self said Saturday. “We’ve never had bad attitudes, but there’s a difference in having a great attitude and an average attitude. And our attitudes have been so positive and upbeat and everything.”

And that’s not just with the Kansas players.

Self said the energy from the home crowd, which has seen and contributed to two of the three KU victories during the current hot streak, also has played an important role in this team maturing and regaining its confidence.

photo

Nick Krug

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) and Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) congratulate Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) after Dotson's steal and a bucket during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

“When we have struggled, I felt like the mood of our team and fan base was also down,” Self said. “And that’s normal. It doesn’t take much to sink it or to turn it in a positive way. Of course, (the fans) want to see us win, but they want to see guys play hard and give unbelievable effort and play smart and play the right way, because they’re such an educated group. They know what’s acceptable and what’s not. And I think they’re starting to feel this is getting much better.”

That connection, from improvement by the players on the floor to the enjoyment of the fans in the stands, is not uncommon at Allen Fieldhouse. But it is relatively new to so many key contributors on this year’s team, many of whom are playing key roles at Kansas for the first time.

“Ochai (Agbaji has) come into his own, Devon (Dotson) keeps getting better and we’re not having to go through Dedric every possession to score like we were earlier,” Self added when discussing this team’s recent growth. “I just think guys are just kind of coming into their own. And when you listen to the starting lineups and it’s freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman, you would think it would take some time, especially when two of those freshmen didn’t play until three weeks ago. So I think they’re doing fine.”

Their home record certainly reflects that. After all, despite already having have played six home games decided by single digits, which has kept the home crowd a little more on edge than is typical, the Jayhawks are still 14-0 at home this season, with two games still to play.

It’s nearly been three full seasons since KU last went unbeaten at Allen Fieldhouse (2015-16), and the Jayhawks have finished perfect at home just six times in Self’s first 15 seasons at Kansas.

“I just see it as being a family, just being a unit,” freshman forward David McCormack said Saturday, explaining what “it’s all coming together” meant to him. “Everybody has their own input, but once you hit adversity, you see who’s truly a team and who’s truly a family.”

Added Self of the fun extending to places beyond the players on the bench: “It’s imperative. If you’re not having fun, I mean, why would you spend so much time working at your craft if you don’t enjoy it? And what a better way to showcase your craft than to play in front of 16,000 people (who bring) energy in the building regardless of what’s going on and (with) the weather. They show up to see you. I mean, you get so spoiled playing here. So I think it’s imperative that we (have some fun).”

Comments

Layne Pierce 2 months ago

Interesting that the ball is moving a lot better now,and we are playing more like the championship Villanova team that had a six nine center who basically played all over the place. Not just in the paint. We are playing much better defense, and not allowing easy baskets, make em earn everything, and nobody drives straight to the basket.

Everyone has been playing to win, not to keep from losing. There is a difference.

RCJH

Rae Bricil 2 months ago

Agreed this team was pretty painful to watch there for a stretch. I still have high hopes for Grimes. There is just no way the kid from last summer, the kid from the beginning of the season has gone away. He will figure it out soon and be a difference maker--especially from the outside. There has been a lot of conversation about how this is a bad 3-pt shooting team, and rightfully so, but Dotson is looking good, Ochai is looking good, D Lawson is looking good, and once Grimes finds his rhythm again this will be a tough team to defend. Right now the AdjO on Ken Pom is 27th--which appears pretty low for a KU team but i think it is going to rise significantly by March.

Dale Rogers 2 months ago

I'm with you on Grimes. He's too good for this to go on much longer. I keep reading how he shoots lights out in practice, so this has to be a matter of confidence.

[''] 2 months ago

Remember, Selden was this way too - then all of a sudden the light came on.

Dirk Medema 2 months ago

Heck, a week ago the same thing or worse could have been said about KJ, and others. As much as there were really high expectations coming into the season, and we might not reach them, it still is IMO one of Coach's best seasons. Just amazing how he continues to mold the team.

[''] 2 months ago

Amazing what can happen when you cut a gangrenous cancer that has been preventing optimal health and success of a team... A successful Vicksectomy has greatly benfitted the whole body/team.

Phil Leister 2 months ago

Lagerald - addition by subtraction. With the pieces finally fitting together, do we really want him to come back at any point late in the season? Me thinks not.

Kurt Eskilson 2 months ago

We don't know what challenges Vick has been facing the last few weeks. But don't we know there were games we would have lost without him? Sure, I agree that at the moment the "addition by subtraction" concept appears to fit. But rather than pile on against the young man, I'll wait and see what Self decides if/when Vick has the opportunity to return. Regardless, I will hope the best for Vick – still a member of the Jayhawk family.

Brian Babcock 2 months ago

You said it Kurt, he is part of the family. Let's hope he can successfully deal with his personal challenges and please stop kicking him when he's down.

Phil Leister 2 months ago

I wish nothing but the best for Lagerald. I hope his personal issues are resolved and I still would love for him to experience his senior night. It's just that the timing of this can't be entirely coincidental.

“I’d say as much as anything, (it’s) attitudes,” Self said Saturday. “We’ve never had bad attitudes, but there’s a difference in having a great attitude and an average attitude. And our attitudes have been so positive and upbeat and everything.”

It's very easy to read between the lines with that statement.

Bryce Landon 2 months ago

I would hardly call Vick's departure "addition by subtraction". If it wasn't for his high-level play early in the season, we might have more than six losses on our resume.

[''] 2 months ago

Doubtful. Other teammates would have stepped up back then and did what Vick didn't: play D, rebound, NOT turn the ball over and most important, been a good teammate. But then he proved what a sh*t teammate he was when he wasn't scoring and he pouted and didn't care if we won, just that he wasn't getting his touches and pts. And then mommy pulled him and he took his ball and went home. We are an astronomically better team without him now.

Bryce Landon 2 months ago

Pretty interesting how much you seem to know about LaGerald's situation. What if there really is something going on at home, like a family member who is sick and dying, or the family is about to lose their home, or something truly terrible that required LaGerald's attention? Until we know more, I think we should give him the benefit of the doubt instead of ragging on him.

Dirk Medema 2 months ago

Exactly Bruce.

What we could know (if paying attention) is that he became a dad last year. It's the reason he was supposed to leave school and start earning a living; to support his family. It is ignorant, and in some cases typically, demeaning to throw insults at Vick and his mom. Not certain, but I'm guessing that Momma/Gramma is stepping up to help raise his child while Lagerald tries to put himself in a place where he would be able to help his entire family. Unfortunately, this isn't unique to Lagerald, either in response from "fans" or the fact that we have had several recent and beloved players in somewhat similar situations.

Tom Jones 2 months ago

OMG I totally agree with Bryce.

WHAT'S HAPPENING?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Brad Watson 2 months ago

I like Mr. Grimes also...he has a really sweet stroke...he reminds me a little of Ronnie Kellogg...and we know how unconscious Ronnie was.... when he got into the zone....Grimes is going to really start rolling...I think this weekend and then look out.....and I love Mr. McCormack...he is really going to be good...and Dotson....is looking more like past great Kansas point guards each time out...he is a leader.....and K.J. ....he continues to impress me.....love this team...we finally have found some chemistry.....keep at it.......Coach really knows what he is doing...look forward to Saturday.

Brent Holman 2 months ago

Vick a great Jayhawk or the one that broke the streak? How will he be remembered? A 1,100 point scorer, over 100 game winner, gold medal winner in Korea, 3 big 12 conference titles, 3 elite 8 appearances, a final 4 appearance, and current KU record holder of most consecutive 3's hit without a miss, has left his mark in Kansas Basketball history. That can't be denied. He is a Jayhawks and always will be. He owes me and the fan base nothing more. But, as a fan it would break my heart to not see Vick on senior night. I want nothing more than for him to finish out his career like any great Jayhawk that has ever left their mark. To a standing ovation in Allen Fieldhouse. Nothing beats a standing ovation on senior night, be it a role player or superstar senior night is something special. Come back Vick, if it is still an option and you are in a good place. Finish what you started, even if it means a reduced role or coming off the bench. Do it for the ones that came before you and do it for your team mates. Finish your career like a true Jayhawk to a standing O in Allen Fieldhouse. Family over everything.

Steve Zimmerman 2 months ago

Fan's post of the year!! You show how truly classy the Jayhawk Nation is.

Taylor Wright 2 months ago

It's amazing what removing one guy can do for the chemistry of the team. It makes me wonder how we might look if we still had Dok without Vick.

The change to having Lawson play on the perimeter more and starting McCormack may have very well saved the streak and the season and could turn out to be one of Bill Self's most iconic adjustments. This teams looks like one that has a legitimate chance to make a run in the tournament, even if we manage to drop the streak. The positive side is that's a monkey off of our back for the following years. We have a lot of very good young talent that won't be bouncing for the NBA this year, so I would expect us to again be one of the pre-season favorites next year.

Brian Wilson 2 months ago

Bill Self's most iconic adjustments!? IDTS! Don't get me wrong I am glad he did it but I've been calling for that move since Dok went down. Bill coming off a great run with four guards had him harking back and our guards are not at that level just yet. Pretty obvious, but it just took Bill longer to get around to it. Lawson will play the 4 or 3 spot in the NBA he is not a center. But McCormack for right now all he is used to is playing Center. If you watch his tape out of high school he was the big man in the middle and is used to big moves to the bucket. Dmac just needs game time to adjust to the speed and physicality of Big12 play. Kind of a no brainer really but I certainly am glad he got around to it.

On thing further.....not so fast on our offense coming around just yet. Yes the ball is moving better, but our offense will only be as good as our rebounding, and reduction in mistakes and turnovers. The WVU game was not really the game to measure improvement. WVU really shot poorly in that game and had 24 turnovers. But, KU lost in the rebound department and had 19 turnovers and if we keep that up KU won't win against better competition.

Bryce Landon 2 months ago

The fall-from-ahead loss to WVU in Morgantown, it seemed, sapped the Jayhawks of their confidence. It was obvious watching them in the games afterward, especially when they played on the road, that they were not having fun and that they didn't believe in themselves. That has changed. They now have their confidence back, and they look like they are having fun again. Mindset and confidence will be huge factors going forward in deciding the fate of The Streak.

Mike Greer 2 months ago

I'm not sure how this turned into a conversation about Vick, but he is part of the current situation, present or absent. Very much like last season, Vick was off to a good start, maybe a great start, then for some reason, "up jumps the devil", and he becomes absent in place. Last season, somehow he was able to gather himself and was an essential part of how that team finished the season. Will he return this season, and if he physically returns will he also mentally return, and more importantly, will he return to the lineup?

Vick and this entire team has lacked any kind of consistency ever since Dok went out. The totally flat play at ISU, the one point loss at Morgantown, the end of the game collapse at Texas, and even the close game in The octagon, were all team losses. Maybe one guy had a great game, but the other six or so didn't contribute much offensively. By the end of those games they figured out how to cover D. Lawson and no one other player(s) could bail out the team. In that streak of road loses the one bright spot may have been the game against Kentucky, the guys were in for a very long time, right up to the end, they just lacked having a "closer".

Now it's clear it's Dotson's team, and everyone is contributing. But look at the attrition as the season progressed and it makes it clear how it took this long. First, a maybe Silvio, redshirt Ochai, loose Dok, Dok back, loose Dok for the season, un-redshirt Ochai, loose hope of Silvio, loose Vick for?, loose Marcus: now everyone adjust your play. I'm curious to see Coach's next move.

Brian Hosfelt 2 months ago

funny everyone jumps on Vic not being here as the reason we are winning. And all the current players understand their roles now...lol...and that we have great ball movement inside/out....but Garrett's hasn't been suited up during this time either. Great kid and plays great D but is a dead spot on offence...I'll take KJ over him

Grant Hastin 2 months ago

I would take Marcus Garrett in the starting lineup over Grimes 10 times out of 10. Grimes will hit one, maybe two 3 pointers and also have 3 or 4 terrible turnovers. Marcus is one of the smartest players on the floor and I'm never worried he is going to have a bad turnover that leads to a free 2 points for whoever we're playing. His offensive #'s are better than Quentin's across the board and you can't even measure how much he brings to our defense.

Freddie Garza 2 months ago

Off topic, but...why is LeMelo Ball saying that he's spoken to people from KU about playing ball there? Why would this coaching staff even entertain the idea of jumping onboard with THAT soap opera?

Jonathan Allison 2 months ago

at least you know that Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour won't be an issue... if the kid somehow is even eligible to play in college.

Marius Rowlanski 2 months ago

Only if he re-classifies to a freshman in high school.

Dirk Medema 2 months ago

LaMelo might say that he's spoken to KU people, but that doesn't mean that we expressed any interest in him/them. People can make whatever claim they want, and sometimes it might even be true. What we do know is that his family is a PR circus; no disrespect intended toward Ringling Bros or any others.

Steve Quatrocky 2 months ago

Vick played an important role, senior leadership and 3 point production over the first 20 games and that gave the freshmen a chance to acclimate to college ball. They would have stunk even with Doke early in the season. But, that being said, if he comes back now, his role will be at the end of the bench now that the kids had to grow up without him. Swapping his up and down attitude for Ochai's made an improvement and also got the senior out of the way so that Devon had to take the leadership role now. Gotta take care of business now in Lubbock, defend all over the floor, no margin for error or another loss and winning that one on the road will show growth.

[''] 2 months ago

"senior leadership"?????? Hardly. The freshman proved to be waaaay more mature than Vick.

Noel Backwards 2 months ago

The timing of LV leaving will make it seem like he was the reason for the turn of fortunes, but that stretch of the schedule very well could’ve gone the same with him in the lineup. I think the biggest reason for the recent resurgence is the switch back to a 2 big lineup. Just my opinion though. I hope LV comes back this season, the young guys have grown up with him gone and I think his experience at this point of the season can help.

Craig Carson 2 months ago

They have been playing much better lately. Self needs to play McCormack and lightfpo

Mike Riches 2 months ago

I'm hesitant to take two home wins, convincing as they were, and an overtime road win against a mediocre team, as evidence that everything is coming together. The real test will be Saturday. If we can win in Lubbock, I love our chances against KSU next Monday, and will even feel good about everything coming together for when it counts most.

Stuart Corder 2 months ago

Brent Holman, thank you for that perfect post defending Vick.

For the fans that don’t care for Vick - rather than wish for him to never come back, how about we wish for the potential of having one of the nation’s best shooters return for Senior Night a new, refreshed man that’s solely focused on being the lone senior leader and taking KU on a deep NCAA run as his dream of an NBA career depends on it.

In regards to the article, I think Bill Self’s quote shows he’s right on point.

“Of course, (the fans) want to see us win, but they want to see guys play hard and give unbelievable effort and play smart and play the right way, because they’re such an educated group. They know what’s acceptable and what’s not. And I think they’re starting to feel this is getting much better.”

[''] 2 months ago

Yep, love this quote. "...they want to see guys play hard and give unbelievable effort and play smart and play the right way..." Sadly, that ain't Vick.

Bj Cassady 2 months ago

If Vick comes back, he is a role player, off the bench. We would have a couple more "L's" without him but right now we have jelled. Garret off the bench also. I like this starting lineup maybe swap out KJ for Grimes for more offense and board play.

Robert Robinson 2 months ago

I can't think off the top of my head what games we WOULD HAVE lost without him, but I can think of a couple games we would have had a much better chance at Winning without him. Vick plays for Vick. Also, I Highly doubt he comes back. I don't buy the "he's needed at home". I'm pretty sure he was unofficially booted and with every coach and player interview it sounds more and more like it. It sounds to me like he was the cancer of the team. I rank Vick right there with Brennen Greene on my players I won't miss list

Bryce Landon 2 months ago

Coach Self is a straight shooter. If he had dismissed Vick from the team, he wouldn't have made up a story about him needing to go home to attend to personal problems; he would have just said that Vick was off the team, plain and simple.

[''] 2 months ago

BOOOOM! Robert wins post of the year!

Mike Greer 2 months ago

I'm old but some of you must have Alzheimer's. Let me refresh your memories: Tennessee won by 6; Vick 15 w/4 assists, Marquette won by 9; Vick 16, Nova won by 3; Vick 29, OU won by 7; Vick 12, Baylor won by 5; Vick 18, Texas won by 2; Vick 21, need I continue?

I'm not saying his attitude the last few games he played didn't lack something or that he didn't adversely effect other players, none of us really have a way of knowing that. But there were definitely games we wouldn't have won if not for his offensive presence. Other than Dedric, no one else was scoring in those games.

Dirk Medema 2 months ago

Some people are just haters and it doesn't matter what the topic or circumstances are. They will create negative scenarios whether they exist or not.

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