KU senior Lagerald Vick more vocal during Kansas basketball boot camp
Quiet in the eyes of the public and seemingly content to play a supporting role during his first three years with the program, Kansas senior Lagerald Vick has stepped to the forefront this preseason.
With the Jayhawks three days into their annual conditioning test known as boot camp, it’s Vick who has emerged as one of the early leaders on a team looking to fill a leadership void as it enters the 2018-19 season with high hopes and lofty expectations.
That’s according to sophomore guard Marcus Garrett, who spoke with media members earlier this week about boot camp and said it was Vick’s voice that had been heard the loudest throughout the conditioning challenge.
“He’s definitely talking a lot more,” Garrett said of the Memphis native and second leading returning scorer. “Just him being through boot camp, knowing everything, knowing every drill we’re about to do, just telling the young guys to keep pushing, it’s great to have somebody on your side who’s been through everything and seen almost everything.”
Leading by example is nothing new for Vick. For years, the long and athletic guard often has been seen setting the pace for sprints and drills during KU’s conditioning sessions. But adding an element of vocal leadership to that lead-by-example demeanor is new, and Garrett said Vick’s willingness to embrace his role as an upperclassman has been particularly helpful for KU’s newcomers.
“He’s not that quiet to me,” Garrett said with a laugh. “But, yeah, he’s been a leader lately. He’s been talking. He’s just been helping the young guys a lot.”
This year’s boot camp features seven first-time participants, with scholarship freshmen Ochai Agbaji, Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes and David McCormack joining sophomore Silvio De Sousa and walk-ons E.J. Elliott and Garrett Luinstra in battling boot camp for the first time.
Garrett said junior Udoka Azubuike had been working harder than ever during recent weeks and fellow-junior Mitch Lightfoot, who may have the most natural leadership ability of anyone on this roster, has shown in years past that he is ready and willing to help push his teammates during boot camp.
Vick’s return to the program in late June was a surprise to many, with players, coaches and fans all believing his Kansas basketball career had come to a close when he announced he was turning pro at the end of the 2017-18 season.
Garrett said he was more shocked by Vick’s inability to catch the eye of a pro team than he was the decision for Vick to come back to Kansas.
“I was kind of surprised no teams wanted him,” Garrett said. “That was very surprising. But when (they) didn’t, I knew he wanted to come back.”
A sequence of carefully executed events that led to Vick pulling his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft while retaining his college eligibility paved the way for his return to Kansas, and the 6-foot-5, 190-pound wing with a new jersey number (24 instead of 2) enters the 2018-19 season as the lone senior on the KU roster.
Vick’s return, which was made possible in part because KU did not use its full allotment of scholarships in the 2018 recruiting class, came with a set of clearly outlined rules put in place by KU coach Bill Self.
Although none of the specifics were shared publicly, the general theme focused on Vick putting the team before himself, doing everything that’s asked of him without questioning it and setting a good example and showing the newcomers what it takes to play at Kansas.
So far so good in that department, according to Garrett and a few other Vick teammates, including sophomore point guard Charlie Moore, who told the Journal-World earlier this summer that Vick had been “a better version of himself” since returning to the team.
Whether Vick emerges as KU’s on-court leader when the season rolls around remains to be seen. But even if he doesn’t, the work he has put in this summer has gone a long way toward helping the younger players make the adjustment to college life.
With so much talent and depth on this year’s roster, Garrett said things have been incredibly competitive throughout the summer, in pick-up games and now at boot camp, as well, with Vick leading the charge in that department, too.
“Oh yeah, of course,” Garrett said. “Especially when we’re running sprints. Everybody’s really pushing to try to come across the line first.”
KU’s boot camp currently is scheduled to run through next Tuesday before The Program comes to town to cap things off Sept. 26 and 27.