What Lagerald Vick's absence could mean for Kansas basketball
It’s next to impossible to tell what the ramifications of Lagerald Vick’s leave of absence from the Kansas basketball team will be without first seeing how this team responds.
But the opportunity is there for his departure to actually help the Jayhawks.
First, the bad news.
Without Vick, the Jayhawks will be a man down, which is scary in terms of depth and severely lacking in 3-point shooting. Not only is the Memphis senior the team’s best 3-point shooter statistically speaking — 45.5 percent through 23 games — but he also has experience taking (and making) big shots and has proven that he can be absolutely deadly when he catches fire.
Replacing that won’t be easy. But the burden of doing so also shouldn’t fall on one player.
Although he’s had some unconscious nights from behind the arc, Vick still averaged just 3 3-point makes per game. That means between Charlie Moore, Ochai Agbaji, Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, K.J. Lawson, Marcus Garrett and even Dedric Lawson and Mitch Lightfoot, those 8 Jayhawks need to find a way to make 3 more 3-pointers per game to pick up the slack.
None of them quite have Vick’s pure jumper and ability to make tough, guarded 3-point shots, but they won’t all have to. One game it could be Moore, Grimes and Lawson and the next it could be Agbaji, Moore and Dotson.
Either way, filling the void left by Vick’s ability to get hot from 3-point range will be as much about philosophy and mentality as it will be about guys stepping up and becoming shot-makers.
The ball needs to move. The floor needs to stay spread. And the shots need to go up with confidence, much the way former Jayhawk great Devonte’ Graham both played and pleaded with this team to do a week ago.
And that brings us to the good news.
Whatever it is that Vick is going through clearly weighed on his mind heavily. And you can’t help but feel for him in that regard.
Remember, while Kansas basketball is life for a lot of the Jayhawks’ adoring fans, these players all have lives outside of the game. None of them are immune to family struggles, relationship issues, problems with peers or in the classroom. And all of them are susceptible to all of the stress and struggles that the real world can throw at college students from all walks of life.
With that in mind, it was quite clear that Vick’s thoughts had been elsewhere, at least at times, during the past several weeks.
KU coach Bill Self said as much on his “Hawk Talk” radio show Thursday night and reminded folks that those thoughts had kept Vick from being his best for the Jayhawks during that time.
So how is any of that a good thing? Well, for one, this team belongs to those young guys now.
Rumors of a player’s only meeting on Wednesday crossed my desk and that can only be viewed as a good thing for this group, which needs to get on the same page and start operating with a different mindset if it wants to close out the final 8 games of the regular season in strong fashion.
The absence of Vick can only help that.
Part of the reason Vick was benched for the final 16-plus minutes of the first half in Tuesday’s loss to K-State was his willingness to play the blame game and bark at his teammates.
To some degree, that’s a natural part of every team and every game. Guys yell at each other, the intensity increases and things can get hot out there on the court. That typically happens in the spirit of everyone trying to do the right thing.
That may have been the deal in Vick’s case, too, but it looked as if it had an adverse effect on his teammates.
I’m certainly not going to speak for any of them here, but we’ve all been around that person — at work, at school, in social settings, wherever — who can create a tense environment and put everyone a little more on edge than they would like to be.
If Vick’s recent issues created that kind of atmosphere for this team, it’s entirely possible that these still-young Jayhawks will play with much more freedom and much looser with Vick back home in Memphis.
Who knows which players will benefit the most — or if it will benefit any of them at all — but the opportunity is there for talented players like Dotson, Garrett, Grimes and Agbaji to step up and become more assertive without having to worry about deferring to a senior or what that senior might have to say.
Self has talked a lot — both this year and throughout his career — about there coming a point in every season when a team bonds together and truly becomes a team.
It looked as if the Silvio De Sousa ruling could be the catalyst for that type of situation with this team, but then the K-State game happened and all of the gains from that big win over Texas Tech were gone.
Beyond that, this team never had Silvio. They did have Vick. And now they don’t.
That reality, far more than trying to rally around someone who never played, could wind up being the very thing that brings these guys together and gets this group firing as one unit.