For the past seven years, after watching Missouri leave the Big 12 for the SEC, Kansas, as an unofficial athletic department policy, has been steadfastly against scheduling the rival Tigers for any regular season games in any sport.
But with recently hired athletic director Jeff Long now running things, might that stance change?
Long was asked that very question during a 30-minute phone conversation with the Journal-World on Thursday and although he did not shut the door on anything, it was clear that Long had not spent much time thinking about rekindling the rivalry with the Tigers.
“I’ll be candid,” Long began. “That’s not high on our priority list. As I walk in the door, there’s so much more to do. And I have to learn, from the Kansas perspective, the view of that rivalry. I would never make a decision about something as important and critical, in my mind, before I got to know the University of Kansas Jayhawk athletics type of perspective.”
As expected, Long, who will officially start at KU on Aug. 1, said he had not heard from anyone from Missouri regarding the rivalry but added that he imagined that people on both sides of the state line were discussing it somewhere.
“I’m sure it’s on Twitter,” he said. “But I haven’t had a chance to look at a whole lot of Twitter.”
Thursday’s phone call was not the first time Long addressed the KU-MU topic in the eight days since being named KU’s new AD. But it was the first time he offered any kind of indication about where he stood on the status of the rivalry.
It took Long less than four minutes during his introductory news conference on Wednesday to bring up the hot-button topic.
After spending nine years as the AD at Arkansas from 2008-17 — six of them while competing against Mizzou in the SEC — Long knows a thing or two about the Tigers. And he arrived in Lawrence well aware of the history of the KU-MU rivalry, even having a little fun with it while introducing his family.
After first recognizing his oldest daughter, Stephanie, who is in grad school at Arkansas, Long moved on to his other daughter, saying simply, “I’m also joined by my youngest daughter, Christina, who is an undergraduate journalism student. Now she attends a university in a bordering state and that’s where I’ll leave it.”
The room erupted in laughter and Long later was asked a little more about the dynamic of having his daughter attend a rival school.
“It started when I was at Arkansas and she was at Missouri,” Long explained. “You’ll find my youngest child has quite a personality and we get after each other pretty good, so there will be competition right here in the Long family between KU and Missouri, I guarantee you that.”
Despite now being in its seventh year of a hiatus that carries an unknown and open-ended time frame, the Border War rivalry has remained wildly popular in Lawrence and throughout the state, with Jayhawks everywhere continuing to drudge up anti-Mizzou jokes and comments at opportune times, getting particularly rowdy when the KU and MU softball and volleyball teams met in postseason play on a couple of occasions during the past seven years.
Last fall, just before the start of the 2017-18 college basketball season, KU and MU played an exhibition basketball game at Sprint Center to benefit hurricane relief charities, but even then there was no serious talk of renewing the rivalry that has been defunct since MU left the Big 12 for the SEC in July 2012.
KU basketball coach Bill Self has been a strong supporter of keeping the Tigers off of KU’s schedule and only agreed to the exhibition game because he believed it was a key factor in raising as much money as possible for the hurricane victims.
And former KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger was equally committed to the stance that the Jayhawks should not schedule the Tigers any time soon, a feeling that was universally supported throughout the KU athletic department.
It’s hard to imagine Long making any drastic moves to change that, at least initially. And it seems like a safe bet that the new KU AD will honor whatever the coaches in his department feel is best, regardless of what it might mean for the Long family rivalry.
The experiment known as Lagerald Vick’s return to Kansas evidently is off to a good start.
Talking with reporters shortly after the official introduction of new athletic director Jeff Long, KU men’s basketball coach Bill Self on Wednesday classified Vick and him as being “definitely right now on the same page,” as summer practices and team workouts move into their second month.
“Lagerald’s doing good. Lagerald’s doing fine,” Self said matter-of-factly. “Of course, he’s been here a week so he should be doing fine, just like everybody should be doing fine if they just get back to campus.”
Attitude and effort were two of the key sticking points for Self while deciding whether to take Vick back after the former KU starter pulled his name out of the NBA Draft and began examining a potential return for his senior season. So the importance of Vick getting off to a good start this summer cannot be overlooked.
Self’s willingness to say that he and Vick are on the same page is significant considering the KU coach and Memphis native were rarely in step during an up-and-down junior season for Vick, who started 35 of 39 games for KU during the 2017-18 season and finished as the team’s fifth leading scorer at 12.1 points per game.
And, at least to this point, it’s clear that Vick, who accepted a scholarship for his senior season after agreeing to an undisclosed set of rules he would have to follow in order to stay in good standing, has embraced the challenge of bringing a different mindset to the program.
In order for the experiment to work — it remains to be seen exactly what success with his return means or looks like for Vick or the Jayhawks — the 6-foot-5, 175-pound athletic guard is going to have to carry this strong start with him throughout the rest of the offseason and into the start of the 2018-19 campaign.
“Whatever the situations were with Lagerald on him exploring (his professional options), on why he would explore and why I would’ve felt, at that time, that that would probably be a wise decision, those are over,” Self explained. “The past is the past. He knows that, I know that and I’ve been real impressed with how hard he’s working.”
While no one expected Vick to return to the team and slide right into a strong leadership role, the fact that he has fit in well with a young and hungry bunch trying to prove themselves on a daily basis is a terrific sign for Vick and the team and an indication of how well the old and the new have meshed.
“Practice is actually going good,” Self said. “You know, we get four hours a week with the guys and we’ve been splitting that, two hours individual improvement and two hours team type things. And it’s actually been very good.”
As expected — and as will likely be the case for much of the 2018-19 season — it’s KU’s size that has stood out to Self thus far.
“We’ve got a lot of big bodies,” he said. “And baskets aren’t easy to come by. I’m hoping it’s because we’re challenging shots better and we’re more physical. I hope it’s not just because we’re awful shooters. But it’s been very competitive, far more competitive than it’s been in years from a competition standpoint.”
As he enters his third season with the Kansas basketball program, up a few pounds and dozens of memorable moments, KU forward Mitch Lightfoot heads out on an interesting adventure.
As arguably the most naturally gifted leader in the program — from the standpoint of energy, action and experience — Lightfoot will be leaned on a lot during the coming months to help KU’s young roster learn the way things are done at Kansas while also providing a voice of accountability and direction along the way.
Having an upperclassman in that role is key for the 2018-19 Jayhawks, who are tasked with having to replace one of the best leaders in program history in Devonte’ Graham, a fixture on the roster for the past four seasons who showed leadership tendencies even as a true freshman.
While others will be asked to carry some of the leadership load — point guards Charlie Moore and Devon Dotson come to mind because of the position they play, as does Quentin Grimes because of his status as arguably the most talented player in KU’s backcourt — few will have the advantage that Lightfoot has, carrying two full seasons and three offseasons of knowledge and wisdom from the leaders who came before him.
“I think those guys have done such a great job of showing me what it means to be a leader and what it means to care for your teammates and your coaches and organization so I'm just trying to be like them,” Lightfoot said of Graham, Frank Mason III and others like them. “I’m excited for it, just learning from the previous leaders here — Landen (Lucas), Frank, D-Tae, Svi. I just kind of feel like I’ve had some pretty cool role models to learn from and I’m excited to kind of show the younger guys what they’ve taught me.”
There are ways, of course, that, try as he might, Lightfoot simply cannot replicate what the Grahams and Masons of the world brought to the table.
For starters, they play completely different positions. Beyond that, those past leaders played huge roles and were vital to the every-night success of the team and Lightfoot figures to carry on as a key role player instead of lead dog.
That’s if he plays at all. Because KU’s roster, for the first time in a few years, is so loaded in the front court, fighting his way to playing time could be tough regardless of Lightfoot’s advantage in the experience department. And while programs of all kinds benefit from off-the-court, behind-the-scenes, in-the-weight-room types of leaders, there often is no substitute for a leader who plays a key role and is always in the thick of the action.
While he will compete for playing time and give everything he has to earn it, how many minutes Lightfoot plays is ultimately out of his control. Beyond that, if the rest of the KU big men elevate their games to a level that’s close to their ceilings, Lightfoot could face the possibility of red-shirting the 2018-19 season, which would make it even tougher for him to be the kind of leader this team needs while potentially being the best move for Lightfoot’s career longterm.
Regardless of how it all plays out over the next couple of months, Lightfoot will have a role on this team and, whether he red-shirts or not, his experience, confidence and commitment to the program will put him in a terrific position to set good examples for KU’s newcomers.
Asked recently what specifics he appreciated most about the leadership provided by guys like Graham, Mason and Mykhahiluk, Lightfoot pointed to mindset and attitude much more than anything specifically related to basketball.
“I think you have to take the role that they left for you to take,” Lightfoot said. “How they carried themselves, on and off the court, on campus, being grateful for the opportunity, being grateful to your fans, just honoring what it means to be at Kansas. It's just something special that they've done for this university and I'm going to try to replicate it. There's a lot of leadership to be had and hopefully I'll start helping these young guys out.”
Lightfoot figures to have leadership help up front in the from junior center Udoka Azubuike, who, after testing the NBA waters, is looking to expand his game in all areas, as well as from Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson, who hits the court with plenty of college experience but, to this point in his career, has been more of a lead-by-example type of player.
Last month, Lawson told the Journal-World that he liked the idea of being a veteran on a young team and thought he could step into a leadership role if needed.
“I’m a guy that might not say a lot of things to you,” Lawson said. “But I just think if I do the right things and be that good role model that guys need as an example others will follow. If coach wants me to talk more, I will, get on guys and things of that nature. I’m looking forward to it.”
Earlier this summer, after a team workout at Bill Self basketball camp, KU assistant coach Norm Roberts said the coaching staff was counting on Azubuike stepping up as a leader, as well.
“We want Udoka to be more vocal,” Roberts said. “He’s one of our veteran guys. He’s been out there in the wars and we’re going to need him to do that for us.”
To that end, Lightfoot, ever the team player, said he had been impressed by what he had seen from Azubuike so far this offseason.
“He’s been doing such a great job of being more vocal and talking throughout practice,” Lightfoot said. “I feel like Jayhawk Nation doesn’t get to see that side of him, but he helped Silvio (De Sousa) out so much last year. Same as me. He taught Silvio so much and that was great for Dok’s confidence.
“I know he loves it here. He loves the fans, he loves the community and I feel like each one of us on the team has a good connection to Dok because he’s a little bit farther away from home than most of us. We are his family out here and we’re just excited to have him back. Obviously, he’s a monster and he’s going to bring stuff to the table that most people can’t bring.”
If leadership is one of them, Azubuike could be one of the most dynamic and visible big men in a KU uniform since Thomas Robinson.
But even if it’s not, the Jayhawks know, whether he’s playing big minutes or not playing at all, they can count on Lightfoot to be their rock when it comes to leading the way.
Confident, more mature K.J. Lawson ready to find role with Kansas basketball through whatever means necessary
On a roster loaded with depth, talent and even a little experience, it remains to be seen exactly how Kansas redshirt sophomore K.J. Lawson fits in during his first season as an eligible Jayhawk.
But if the 6-foot-8, 205-pound Memphis transfer’s focus this summer is any indication of how he will perform this winter, Lawson appears to be well on his way to finding a key role within the Bill Self brand of basketball.
During a recent interview with the Journal-World at Washburn basketball camp in Topeka, the older Lawson brother — who is younger eligibility-wise because of a medical redshirt and his brother Dedric, a redshirt junior, reclassifying and leaving high school a year early — discussed the areas of his game he had been working on most this offseason. Not once did his minutes or points come up.
This from a guy who showed a smooth shooting stroke during one of the two open Bill Self Basketball camp scrimmage games last month.
“I can go out there and shoot, I can go out there and score,” K.J. said. “I don’t feel like anybody else is better than me, and I’m going to go out there and compete and try to get the best of everybody because you have to bring it every time. But I don’t look into how many points I’m going to score. I go out there and try to have fun and make sure that we’re building chemistry as a team. Scoring 30 in a scrimmage right now ain’t going to mean nothing in January.”
That message is perfectly in line with what Dedric said his brother had been focusing on throughout his redshirt season and the early portion of the offseason leading up to their return to the court. It’s his “intangibles” that Dedric said K.J. was fine-tuning and K.J. confirmed as much during his recent interview, calling himself and his game “more mature” since his arrival at KU.
“I’ve just become more of a student of the game and have started paying attention to the little details,” K.J. said. “I’m obsessed with the game and I’m obsessed with working hard. Nothing trumps hard work. I just like playing the right way and I like getting everybody else involved. I’m not a selfish player.”
Adopting that type of mindset could serve Self’s entire roster well during the 2018-19 season, given the amount of talent, athleticism and skill he has at his disposal. As has been the case throughout Self’s coaching career, the players who sacrifice themselves for the good of the team and show a willingness to do whatever is needed whenever it is asked could find themselves with a leg up in the competitive battle for playing time.
K.J. is well aware of that, but the potential for extra minutes is not what’s driving him to focus on being a good teammate and work on the aspects of the game that rarely bring the big spotlight.
Sound defense, being in the right spots, consistency on both ends of the floor and, of course, maximum effort at all times, have provided the soundtrack for K.J.’s summer. And in some ways that has come in stark contrast to what his brother has gone through this summer, with Dedric drawing a lot of national attention and people everywhere talking about his potential to deliver big numbers and be the type of player Kansas runs its offense through next season.
K.J. is both used to and OK with his brother getting more attention. The way he sees it, that just makes both of them more dangerous because their chemistry and willingness to play team basketball can be difficult for opponents to defend.
“I don’t look at it like that,” K.J. said of often being talked about as the other Lawson brother. “I don’t worry about his shadow because I’m in my own lane. I drive my own car. What’s destined for him is destined for him and I’ll be happy for him. I’m just trying to make sure I stay consistent and continue to work hard on my game.”
His transfer season of 2017-18 allowed him to really hunker down on that thought, and K.J. said he and his brother tried to use last season to their advantage in every way possible so they could hit the ground running when the 2018 offseason arrived.
“It ain’t no worries now," K.J. said. "You just play basketball. A lot of people worry about playing, but when you’ve been there a year, you’re supposed to have been a student of the game and know what’s supposed to happen and be paying attention to the guys who came before you.”
Two plus two equals four. Two times two equals four.
Perhaps that is the way former-turned-new Kansas guard Lagerald Vick made a decision about the new number he will wear for his senior season with the Jayhawks.
More likely it has something to do with a set of Bible verses his mother posted on Facebook after the KU Basketball Twitter accounted released a photo-shopped version of Vick in his new number.
LaLa Vick's post looked like this:
(22) to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires (23) and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds (24) and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
With the emphasis on verse 24
IT'S NOT FOR EVERYONE TO UNDERSTAND
The complete passage reads like this and clearly speaks to a rebirth of sorts, which, in many ways, is what Vick will be aiming for in his return to a program for which he already has played in 94 games and made 41 starts during the past three seasons.
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."
Regardless of the path Vick took to get there, we now know that Vick will wear No. 24 for the Jayhawks during the 2018-19 season, jumping up to two digits but keeping his old No. 2 as a part of his new identity.
Vick, who temporarily left the program en route to beginning his pro career, announced last week that he would return for his senior season.
Because he pulled his name out of the 2018 NBA draft by the deadline and because he did not sign with an agent, Vick retained his college eligibility and was welcomed back by KU coach Bill Self and the Jayhawks after agreeing to an undisclosed set of conditions for how he would approach his final season at Kansas.
Part of the agreement was that Vick would not be able to wear the No. 2 jersey he donned for his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons because Cal transfer Charlie Moore had taken the number when it looked as if Vick’s time at KU was done.
So now Vick will move forward with No. 24, making him the first KU player since Travis Releford (2009-13) to wear the number that also has been worn by former KU greats Sasha Kaun, Alonzo Jamison, Chris Piper, Al Kelley as well as former walk-on, Kansas native and current UNC-Wilmington head coach C.B. McGrath.
And with that, the book, so to speak, is closed on all of the 2018-19 uniform numbers for the Kansas basketball program.
In case you missed it live, here's your connection to my latest appearance on Rock Chalk Sports Talk with Nick Schwerdt.
In this week's segment, we discussed a number of KU basketball related topics, but started out touching on the big news of LeBron James headed to Los Angeles to join the Lakers.
The biggest KU topic of the segment was last week's announcement that guard Lagerald Vick was returning to the KU roster for his senior season.
Lots of reaction and feedback on all of those topics and more so be sure to give it a listen if you missed it.
Now that we know Kansas guard Lagerald Vick is returning to the program for his senior season, a move that was made official on Friday night, let’s dive a little deeper into exactly what that means and how and why it could benefit Vick and the Jayhawks.
Vick’s return, though surprising in many ways given the time of year and the circumstances surrounding his initial decision to leave KU early to start his professional career, figures to have ripple effects that will impact several aspects and players on the 2018-19 roster.
Here’s a quick overview at how those things might play out in the coming months through the prism of the five biggest advantages of Vick’s return.
5 – Experience
On Friday morning, KU’s backcourt, though talented and bursting with potential and promise, was missing legit experience. Outside of transfer point guard Charlie Moore, who started 30-plus games at Cal (but has not done so at Kansas), the Jayhawks had just a handful of spot starts sprinkled between Marcus Garrett, Sam Cunliffe and K.J. Lawson in their backcourt. Beyond that was a trio of true freshmen.
Now, with Vick and his 94 career games, 41 career starts, including 35 during last season’s run to the Final Four, backcourt experience can no longer be viewed as a potential weakness for the Jayhawks.
Many fans are content to plug Vick into the starting lineup right away, but I’m not so sure that’s a given. If he earns the spot through his hard work and good attitude, it will be hard to keep him out of the starting lineup. But I do not get the sense that Vick’s experience and veteran status alone will be enough to compel KU coach Bill Self to make him a starter automatically. Again, he’s going to have to win the job and part of him doing so will be tied directly to his attitude and commitment in practice along with how he handles himself away from basketball.
Self always says that fans and the media make too much out of who starts anyway, so, with this kind of depth and talent, you can be sure he’ll be singing that song again soon. But the bottom line is this: In getting Vick back, Self has a guy he knows better than any other player on his roster — for better or worse — who has been through the fire and helped Kansas win a lot of games during the past three seasons.
Even if that advantage comes in more of a role player setting, with Vick playing 15-20 minutes a game off the bench, few teams in the country, if any, can say they have that type of luxury.
4 – Vick gets his degree
After completing the second session of summer school later this summer, Vick will be just 12 hours shy of earning his degree. That means he’ll take a relatively light load during the first semester and could have an extremely small class commitment during the second semester, when the bulk and most important part of the KU season unfolds.
That limited class commitment should allow Vick, on his own time, to spend as much time as just about any player in the country working on his game and trying to fine-tune his skills for another run at the NBA next summer.
While his academic progress will not win KU any games or do much for the fan base, it was a factor in him coming back. It might not seem like that big of a deal to everybody, but it is a huge deal for Vick and his family. Given his background, upbringing and the path taken by most of his community, the Memphis native’s ability to collect a college degree is potentially life-changing and I think that played a big role in Self’s willingness to take him back.
3 – Opens the door for others to redshirt
According to a couple of people I talked close to the program, Vick’s return was met with open arms by every coach and player on the roster. That’s an important first step in this whole thing working out and proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the 2018-19 crew is made up of a bunch of players who value winning above everything else.
Whether he starts or not, Vick is going to play and he likely will have an opportunity to play big minutes. The days of KU’s guards having to go the distance are likely over for now and a big night might now be 25-30 minutes.
It’s hard to know exactly how the rotation will shake out at this point, but Self told the Journal-World on Friday that he figured the playing time would work itself out once practices begin and the Jayhawks start competing with one another for spots. With the kind of depth and talent KU has at every position, Self has the luxury of being able to operate in more of a carefree manner, using minutes on the floor as the carrot to inspire hard work, focus and commitment to the team.
Having said that, it seems all but inevitable that at least one or two guys will be red-shirting the 2018-19 season. Junior forward Mitch Lightfoot was one of the more popular predictions on that front this spring. And he still could go that direction, but he’s a front court player so Vick’s addition does not impact him as much as it does the guards.
Freshman Ochai Agbaji is a prime candidate to redshirt and he said recently at Washburn basketball camp that he would be open to it.
“I’d be fine with it,” Agbaji told reporters. “Anything I can do to better the program and better myself.”
Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe could be another option, although Cunilffe, a 6-foot-6 junior, already sat out a year after transferring to Kansas two winters ago.
K.J. Lawson, Marcus Garrett and even five-star freshman Quentin Grimes, all could see their minutes affected by Vick’s return. But that might not necessarily be a bad thing. As long as all of those guys can accept, embrace and execute their roles, keeping bodies fresh on game nights and throughout the season could provide another major advantage for Kansas.
2 – KU now has a legit 3-point shooter on a team that really needed one
During his first three years in the program, Vick’s outside shot improved each season. He made just eight 3-pointers — in limited minutes — as a freshman, 34 as a sophomore and 59 triples in 158 attempts for a 2017-18 mark of .373 and a career clip of .378.
The athletic wing from Memphis has taken and made plenty of big time 3-pointers during his days as a Jayhawk and should benefit from the lack of pure shooters on this roster.
With Vick, Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Malik Newman all appearing to leave the program earlier this spring, KU was facing the idea of replacing 94.4 percent of its 3-point shooting from a year ago. With Vick back, that number dips to a more manageable 79.5 percent and Vick projects as a player who easily could make a run at 150 attempts (if not more) again this season.
Self said Friday that the added 3-point shooting was far from the main reason Vick was allowed to rejoin the team, but conceded that Vick, if he’s performing at peak level, could make a major impact on KU’s offense with his 3-point shot.
1 – Vick is a stone-cold competitor who doesn’t back down from anyone or anything
This much we have seen throughout his time with the Jayhawks and while it might not always have been necessary in seasons past, it could provide KU with a huge advantage during the 2018-19 season, giving the Jayhawks that edge of a champion that is not to be messed with.
Vick likes to talk trash, he’s wired to compete to the point where he doesn’t just beat opponents but strives to take their souls and often finishes first in timed drills during practices.
Seeing that kind of example every day in the practice gym, weight room and around McCarthy Hall, and having that kind of competitor in crimson and blue, can only help this team in its quest for a national title.
Not only will it give the team the swagger of a veteran who has been there and done that, it also will be good for KU’s young players and newcomers because Vick will not go easy on any of them in practices.
It’s sort of like that Joel Embiid video that’s floating around right now, where he posts up NBA rookie and former Texas star Mo Bamba, dunks on him and then yells, “Welcome to the f** league.”
By Friday night, Vick had been added back onto KU’s official roster online but was listed without a jersey number.
Self said Friday that Vick would not get his old No. 2 back because the Jayhawks, while moving forward with the assumption that Vick was gone, had given it to Moore and were not about to ask Moore, who wore No. 2 in high school, to cough it back up.
That seems about as fitting as possible for this whole situation.
Yes, Lagerald Vick is back with Kansas, but Kansas is not exactly getting the Vick who wore No. 2 for the past three years. They’re getting a different Vick, who will have a slightly different role and will be focused on slightly different things.
They want him to shoot, defend, compete and be a valuable, veteran resource for the younger players.
Contrary to popular opinion, leadership will not necessarily be part of the equation. Vick is not a natural leader and KU is not interested in asking him to do things out of his comfort zone. The Jayhawks merely need him to fit in.
The Kansas men's basketball team no longer has an unused scholarship.
KU coach Bill Self on Friday evening told the Journal-World that Lagerald Vick will return to KU for his senior season. KU later confirmed Vick's return via a news release.
Vick, a 6-foot-5 guard from Memphis, who declared for the NBA Draft in early April but pulled his name out by the deadline and without hiring an agent, will join a loaded Kansas team and become the lone senior on the KU roster.
Self, who flew to Memphis last week to meet with Vick and his mother, LaLa Vick, talked to his veteran guard again this week and laid out a list of undisclosed rules and stipulations that would need to be met in order for Vick to return.
After a couple of discussions and some time to think, both parties agreed that rejoining the Jayhawks would be the best thing for Vick.
From the KU perspective, adding a 38 percent career 3-point shooter to a team that Self has said lacks perimeter shooting can only be viewed a good thing. But Self said bringing a high-level 3-point shooter into the fold was merely a bonus to adding a player with 94 games of experience, including 41 starts.
"Yeah, I think it helps us," Self said of Vick's 3-point shooting prowess. "But that's not why he's coming back. He's coming back because he wants to make a commitment to being a great teammate, helping his teammates improve and helping the young guys. But if Lagerald plays like he's capable of playing, we will be a better 3-point shooting team."
Vick will not wear No. 2 as a senior. That jersey number went to transfer Charlie Moore when the Jayhawks spent the past couple of months moving forward with the belief that Vick's time at Kansas was done. Self said he did not yet know what number Vick would wear.
“It was our understanding with Lagerald at the conclusion of the season that he would go pro,” Self said in the release. “After going through the process and looking at the variety of options, Lagerald felt it was in his best interest to return to Kansas for his senior year."
Although Vick has been largely a role player throughout his Kansas career, preferring to follow the lead of others and letting his play on the floor do his talking for him, Self said he thought Vick stepping into the role of upperclassman would not only help him as a basketball player but also in life.
There are no designs on Vick becoming a leader the way Devonte' Graham or Frank Mason III led before him. That's not his style nor is that who he is. But he is a competitor with crazy athleticism who knows what it takes to win at Kansas and has done it at a high level.
"It was a good talk," Self said of their interactions during the past couple of weeks. "Everything was positive. He certainly seemed to have a different mindset when I talked to him than he's had.
"From my standpoint, it will be a bonus to have an experienced player like Lagerald in the mix. He has had an opportunity to think about the direction he is going in his life, and feels confident to return and improve his status. He will join the team next week, he'll enroll like everybody else, take summer school like everybody else and we'll go from there."
After the summer session, Vick will be just 12 hours shy of graduating, Self said.
While the addition of a player of Vick's caliber certainly enhances KU's chances of returning to the Final Four and bolsters the Jayhawks' claim as the No. 1 ranked team in the preseason polls, the reality of what's ahead is still sinking in for Vick.
“I honestly thought I played my last game at Kansas after the Final Four because, with my situation and my family’s situation, I felt I needed to turn pro,” Vick said in a release. “After seeing where I stand and meeting with Coach Self, I feel it is best to return to Kansas for my senior year. Coach tells me the team is working hard and looking good. I can’t wait to get back to Lawrence and join them.”
While the Kansas men’s basketball team continues to battle through summer workouts and summer classes, the powers that be within the athletic department who update KU’s web site slapped the Jayhawks 2018-19 roster on the Internet on Thursday.
While none of the names on the list were a surprise — KU’s 2018-19 roster, which now includes 13 scholarship players and three walk-ons thanks to the recent return of Lagerald Vick — it’s always worth noting what numbers guys will be wearing.
That is particularly true this time around, with seven newcomers — four freshman and three transfers who sat out a season ago — expected to be in the rotation for the Jayhawks when next season rolls around.
There are no real strange number choices on this year's roster, which features five single-digit players and 11 double-digit Jayhawks. And pretty much every one of these players has some kind of reason for wearing the number they wear, be it the only jersey number they've ever had, a lucky number or as a way to pay homage to someone or something from their past.
In the interest of giving you a head-start on familiarizing yourself with the new players wearing a few familiar numbers for your favorite team, here’s a quick look at the entire roster in numerical order.
0 – Marcus Garrett, 6-5, 180, Soph.
The sophomore guard from Dallas is wearing the same number he wore as a freshman. Many called it a bold choice to wear the number worn by then-reigning national player of the year Frank Mason III, but Garrett handled it well. Other former Jayhawks who have worn No. 0 – Drew Gooden and Thomas Robinson.
1 – Dedric Lawson, 6-9, 235, RS-Jr.
Former Memphis standout and likely starter at the 4 has chosen to keep the number he wore at Memphis, making him the first KU player since Wayne Selden Jr., to wear numero uno. Other former Jayhawks who have worn No. 1 – Xavier Henry, Jeff Hawkins, Mario Kinsey.
2 – Charlie Moore, 5-11, 170, RS-Soph.
The former Cal point guard wore No. 13 with the Golden Bears during his freshman season in 2016-17 but wore No. 2 in high school. With former KU No. 2 Lagerald Vick temporarily away from the program, Moore switched back to his old standby. Now that Vick is back with the team for his senior season, he'll have to pick a new look. But the jersey number on his back is the least important element of the Vick situation. Other former Jayhawks who have worn No. 2 – Cliff Alexander, Conner Teahan, Omar Wilkes.
3 – Sam Cunliffe, 6-6, 200, Jr.
The former Arizona State transfer is sticking with the number he wore in high school, during his one semester at ASU and thus far during his time as a Jayhawk. What’s more, Cunliffe told me recently that he’s really been working hard on his 3-point shooting this offseason, so perhaps the number will prove prophetic on a team that could use a 3-point marksman. Other former Jayhawks who have worn No. 3 – Terry Brown, Brett Ballard, Lester Earl, Andrew White III, Russell Robinson.
5 – Quentin Grimes, 6-5, 205, Fr.
He wore No. 6 for USA Basketball during his recent run to the gold medal, but opted for No. 5 at Kansas long before that, paying homage to his roots and high school days. Other former Jayhawks who have worn No. 5 – Charlie Hoag, Keith Langford, Evan Manning, Terry Nooner, Jeff Withey.
10 – Elijah Elliott, 6-3, 185, Fr.
No word yet whether Elliott will rock the sleeves and undershirt under the jersey a la recent No. 10 Svi Mykhailiuk, but the walk-on from Southlake, Texas, will be stepping into some pretty big shoes. Other former Jayhawks who have worn No. 10 – Scooter Barry, Kirk Hinrich, Tyshawn Taylor, Jeremy Case, Brennan Bechard.
11 – Devon Dotson, 6-2, 185, Fr.
The point guard from Charlotte is wearing a very point guardy number when it comes to players from Kansas past. Both Aaron Miles and Jacque Vaughn rocked No. 11 and they’re two of the best to ever run point in the program. Dotson wore No. 1 at Providence Day High but evidently didn’t want to go to battle with a teammate with seven inches and 50 pounds on him for the rights to the number so he just added another digit. Other former Jayhawks who have worn No. 11 – Josh Jackson, Mark Turgeon, Otto Schnellbacher.
12 – Chris Teahan, 6-4, 190, Soph.
The younger brother of former KU sharpshooter Conner Teahan wore No. 12 during his freshman season a year ago and is sticking with it this season. Teahan wore No. 23 during his prep days at Rockhurst High. Other former Jayhawks who have worn No. 12 – Brady Morningstar, Kelly Oubre Jr., Patrick Richey, Billy Thomas.
13 – K.J. Lawson, 6-8, 205, RS-Soph.
Lucky 13 will be K.J.’s third different number in three seasons as a college basketball player. As a freshman at Memphis, he wore No. 14 and during his second year with the Tigers, he switched to No. 0. Now it’s back to the teens for the older Lawson. Other former Jayhawks who have worn No. 13 – Wilt Chamberlain, Jeff Boschee, Cheick Diallo, Walt Wesley, Carl Henry.
20 – Garrett Luinstra, 6-2, 155, Fr.
The walk-on from Lawrence’s Free State High said during a recent video and photo shoot featuring the newcomers in their KU jerseys that he was wearing No. 20 in honor of former KU walk-on and former Free State Firebird Tyler Self. Other former Jayhawks who have worn No. 20 – Ricky Calloway, Kenny Gregory, Stephen Vinson, Steve Woodberry, Niko Roberts.
22 – Silvio De Sousa, 6-9, 245, Soph.
The big fella from Angola, who rocked No. 22 at IMG Academy before coming to Kansas for the second semester last season, is sticking with the number that helped him get to KU and helped KU reach a Final Four. Other former Jayhawks who have worn No. 22 – Jeff Carey, Dwight Coleby, Cedric Hunter, Marcus Morris, Dean Smith, Andrew Wiggins.
24 - Lagerald Vick, 6-5, 185, Sr.
Part of the conditions of Vick's return were that he would no longer be able to wear No. 2 because Self and company were not going to ask Moore to give it back. Vick on July 6 revealed that he would wear No. 24 for his senior season, keeping his old No. 2 in the mix. Other former Jayhawks who have worn No. 24 – Sasha Kaun, Alonzo Jamison, Chris Piper, Al Kelley, Travis Releford, C.B. McGrath.
30 – Ochai Agbaji, 6-5, 205, Fr.
The Oak Park High grad from Kansas City, Mo., said recently that he had worn No. 30 almost his whole life and was thrilled to be able to wear it during his first season with the Jayhawks. Not that he had much to worry about. The most recent KU player to wear No. 30 was Julian Wright during the 2006-07 season. Other former Jayhawks who have worn No. 30 – Greg Dreiling, Adonis Jordan, Roger Morningstar.
33 – David McCormack, 6-10, 265, Fr.
The big fella with the even bigger motor is wearing the same number in Lawrence that he wore at Oak Hill Academy throughout his prep playing days. Other former Jayhawks who have worn No. 33 – Luke Axtell, Jeff Gueldner, Greg Gurley, Bryant Nash, Landen Lucas.
35 – Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, 280, Jr.
KU’s monster inside is back for his third season in the program and isn’t about to change things up from the number that led him to 120 dunks and the best field goal percentage in the nation a season ago. Other Jayhawks who have worn No. 35 – Jerod Haase, David Magley, Calvin Thompson.
44 – Mitch Lightfoot, 6-8, 225, Jr.
Lightfoot wore No. 44 during his prep days at Gilbert Christian back in Arizona and carried it through to his first two seasons at KU. Other Jayhawks who have worn No. 44 – Eric Chenowith, Ron Kellogg, Pekka Markkanen, Paul Mokeski, David Padgett, Pierre Russell.
There were times during the 2017-18 season when freshman Marcus Garrett was so overshadowed by the talent and experience on the floor around him that he almost seemed invisible.
That’s not a knock on Garrett. Far from it, in fact. See, Garrett, like a good umpire or quality football referee, learned quickly that sometimes the best way to contribute to the success of a team is by doing things that don’t get you noticed.
So Garrett did. The extra pass. Tough defense. Being smart with the ball and getting it to the right teammate in the right position. All of those contributions, and many more, were staples of Garrett’s game as a freshman. Although his role in terms of minutes played and depth was key for the Jayhawks’ run to the 2018 Final Four, Garrett was allowed to function in a way that kept the spotlight off of him and the pressure down.
He might not be so lucky during his sophomore season.
While there are still players on the Kansas roster with more talent, more pizazz and bigger names, it’s Garrett who could be looked to as one of the leaders of the 2018-19 squad.
With recent returner Lagerald Vick missing all of May and June and the only other returning talent from last year’s team coming in the front court via Mitch Lightfoot, Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa, Garrett could find himself in an important position in KU’s back court and appears to have taken to that role right away.
“Marcus has really been helping me out a lot,” five-star freshman Quentin Grimes said during a break at Washburn Basketball camp earlier this week. “Just kind of drawing up the plays and helping because I missed two or three weeks and they got a little head-start on me. He seems like he’s been here two, three years, actually. He’s really been helping me out.”
Grimes is far from the only one.
Fellow-freshman Ochai Agbaji was also at Washburn camp the other day and he, too, said Garrett had played a big role in helping him adjust to the Kansas way of doing things during his first month as a Jayhawk.
“You can tell that there are some leadership roles to fill and I think he can be one of those guys who steps to really keep us in check and all that,” Agbaji said of Garrett. “He’s definitely talking to the freshmen and all that, helping us get the speed of the game and all that stuff.”
Given that half of the players who make up KU’s back court are in the shoes Garrett stepped into just one year ago, the Dallas native’s familiarity both with the KU program and with what the younger players currently are going through makes Garrett a huge asset for KU coach Bill Self in the early stages of summer workouts.
Beyond just the basketball aspect of taking charge, Grimes said Garrett had been a huge help in other areas, as well.
“College,” Grimes said. “It’s good to have that mentorship out there to get acclimated before the season.”
The fact that Garrett was a leader on his high school team and played with one of the best leaders the KU program has ever had, in new Charlotte Hornets point guard Devonte’ Graham, only strengthens the case for those who envision Garrett becoming one of the Jayhawks’ new leaders.
Garrett’s growing confidence also appears to be helping in that regard.
“He’s not quiet at all,” said Grimes of the player who said little and let his actions speak for him a season ago. “It’s good to have that leadership out there on the court.”
There will be other Jayhawks who slide into that leadership role this season. As is the case on just about any team, it’s only natural for the point guard to take on some of it. So freshman Devon Dotson and Cal transfer Charlie Moore figure to carve out some kind of leadership role in time.
And Grimes himself, fresh off of an MVP showing at the FIBA Americas tournament with Team USA, also said he was comfortable taking on a leadership role and he believes that, after a couple more weeks on campus he could “ease into that role when the season starts.”
Rather than one unquestioned leader like the 2017-18 Jayhawks had in Graham, this season’s group may be taking its direction from a number of different leaders and in a number of different ways.
But as of today, and at least as it pertains to the KU backcourt, it sounds as if Garrett is leading as much as anybody.