Cheick Diallo wasn’t the only Kansas University freshman to deliver a crowd-pleasing dunk (or three) in Tuesday’s 94-61 nonconference basketball rout of Loyola Maryland in Allen Fieldhouse.
First-year player Lagerald Vick, a 6-foot-5 guard from Memphis, showed his freakish athletic ability by skying to retrieve a missed layup by Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, hang in the air and throw one down with 4:10 to play.
“Just running the floor and following up the play,” Vick explained of his technique on his slam in a game in which the 6-9 Diallo had three jams and 6-5 junior Wayne Selden, Jr., two.
“I saw the ball coming off, grabbed it and put it in. It just feels amazing,” Vick added of the sensation of giving KU an 85-54 lead and displaying some of the athleticism he’s known for before 16,300 onlookers.
“Always keep running and having energy,” Vick stated of his preferred style of play. “I’m trying to be a lockdown defender. I’m working on that part and letting the rest of the game come to me.”
Vick — he averaged 26.0 points and 11.0 rebounds a game his senior season at Memphis’ Douglass High — has scored 14 points while averaging 10 minutes per game in four games. He’s hit six of nine shots, including one of four three-pointers. Vick has also made one of four free throws and has four assists to five turnovers.
“I see myself getting better,” Vick said. “Becoming a defender, getting stronger, just listening to the older guys. I get along with the team very well. I like being around the guys. I would say Jamari (Traylor) has been a mentor. I’m listening to him every day at practice — him and Wayne (Selden, Jr.) But I hang out with Carlton (Bragg, freshman) a lot.”
KU coach Bill Self has been pleased with the progress of Vick, who averaged 4.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in eight games last summer for KU’s gold-medal winning World University Games team. He shot 51.6 percent from the field including 57.1 percent from three during the Games. He hit two of three treys, scored eight points and had six boards in a win over Brazil. Also, he had 11 points off 5-of-8 shooting with seven boards against Switzerland.
“He’s quick,” Self said. “The more I study him I say, ‘Gosh is he going to have an unbelievable body.’ He’s so long and sleek. He reminds me so much of a kid at Tulsa, Eric Coley, tough guy, same kind of build, big hands, long — kind of a Kawhi Leonard deal.
“He’s going to be terrific. I’m pleased with his development so far. There are not a lot of guys quicker than him. He could be a really good defender.”
As far as the other frosh dunker, Diallo, Vick said: “He was a little nervous playing in front of 16,000. I told him, ‘Defense first and offense will come.’’’
Diallo had 13 points, all in the second half. KU as a team led just 40-36 at the break before outscoring Loyola, 54-25, the final 20 minutes.
“We took a step in the locker room. Everybody checked themselves,” Vick said, no pun intended. “We came out with a different aggression to the game. We took advantage of what we can do.”
Carmelo-driven: Diallo, by the way, talked more about one of his three dunks — the one in which he put his left hand behind his head while flushing the ball through the hoop — on KU’s postgame radio show.
“It was a ‘Carmelo move,’’’ he said of Carmelo Anthony. “I used to do it in high school, Jordan Brand Classic, too. The ‘Carmelo move.’’’
New odds: KU’s current odds to win the national title: 12/1 according to Bovada. Kentucky is 5/1, Michigan State 9-1, Duke and North Carolina 10/1. Also at 12/1 is Virginia.