What Lagerald Vick's absence could mean for Kansas basketball


Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) and Devon Dotson (11) in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona State, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) and Devon Dotson (11) in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona State, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) by Associated Press

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.

Here’s how:

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.


Jason Venable 3 years, 6 months ago

Past 2 years it was too many 3's. This year it's not enough.

Layne Pierce 3 years, 6 months ago

Fact is last year's team was generally able to get a lot of wide open 3 point shots, often because they were able to drive to basket and kick it out.

Our current team simply breaks down on offense, takes too many forced shots, and turns the ball over. We do not create the shot in the middle of the clock, and so often we are desperate at the end. That contributes to turnovers.

Everyone should pass one more time, unless they are wide open and then they should take the 3pt shot, if they are not Garrett, sorry, but it is just too low a probability. When Garrett is close to the basket however, 8 to 10 feet, let him work with the ball. Same with Grimes, he can shoot the wide open 3, that's fine, we can live with that, but he should also work the 8 to 10 foot area, and take it hard to the basket when his side of the court is open, he is a very good passer, and can also lay it off.

Lawson, simply has to accept that he cannot force every shot, but if he is close to the basket, go for it.


Phil Leister 3 years, 6 months ago

Maybe Quentin will stop looking over his shoulder and just play free. When there's literally one (or none, if Marcus is still out) reserve guard, there's no other option.

Phil Leister 3 years, 6 months ago

On another note, I would sure love to see Vick back in time for the Baylor game one month from now - senior night. Would be a shame for him to not get to experience that.

Jerry Walker 3 years, 6 months ago

Other than his occasional hot shooting night...we won't miss the one-dimensional Vick. He wouldn't rebound, play defense, take care of the ball, give the extra effort and apparently not much of a teammate.

We've still got enough talent to put up a strong fight in the conference and post season play!

Tony Bandle 3 years, 6 months ago

Matt, forgive me if I missed it, but what was the feedback on the weekend Matt Hurt experienced at KU. I know the Tech game couldn't have had a better scenario with the crowd crazed and the Hawks flying around in true Jayhawk form.

Were there any comments from Matt and his family? Just asking. Thanks.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 6 months ago

I think there was an article, or a note in one of the game summaries about it being positive. Not much really.

Matt Tait 3 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, I heard that Matt and his family enjoyed the visit, but they've been pretty quiet throughout the process and haven't said much. Obviously, they saw a pretty good performance by KU and the Fieldhouse so there's no doubt that helped their experience. Sound like it's still going to be a couple of months before he decides.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 6 months ago

It seems to me to be KU, but they're waiting as long as possible to see what happens with rosters and fallout from the FBI. They really have no need to commit at this time. There are great programs and coaches that will do backflips to find a space for him if he says he wants to go there.

Jeff Coffman 3 years, 6 months ago

Don't freak out...we are 13-0 at home and 3-0 at neutral sites. This includes wins over 5 top 15 teams. On the road, we have struggled 1-6. I wouldn't count us out yet. When the team learns to finish on the road (ASU, KSU, WVU as examples), we will be fine.

KSU has one home loss already ISU has a home loss and a neutral loss Baylor has 3 home losses and 1 neutral TTU also has a home loss and neutral loss

All I'm saying is there is a lot to the team, and we just haven't steadied the course on the road yet. Once we do, watch out.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 6 months ago

No freaking, but the other stat is we're 2 behind KSU in the L column, and can only make up 1 head-head. We're not in control of our own destiny, and are at the mercy of at least 1 other team beating them.

Curtis Hedrick 3 years, 6 months ago

The issue is not talent, it's Freshman guards. They look sped up and zig when they should zag creating offensive leadership problems. They also have problems with heavy defensive pressure. But as fans we should be patient because Grimes and Dotson (and even Moore) have shown sparks of brilliance at times and will be good with time/experience under their belt. This is going to be a difficult season with out much upper class leadership. With Vick out maybe the turnovers will decrease and they will value each possession more and start playing more together. Guess we'll see tomorrow.

Pius Waldman 3 years, 6 months ago

Maybe the future will workout the problems they face. But just remembering the 2 thirty point games Vick had is hard to forget. There was no screening to allow open shots simply splashing the net. The reasons for the leave of absence are not public knowledge evidently important enough to do. I can't believe this team is better without him and I hope he will return.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 6 months ago

I remember seeing the photo from December, and thinking that doesn't look like leadership.

I've also wondered all season about Grimes not clicking when Vick does and vice-versa. Maybe Grimes starts to show his ability again. There's so much unrealized potential/expectations on the team.

It's a shame that Dedric hasn't taken ownership of the team.

Robert Brock 3 years, 6 months ago

Stop throwing the ball away for no apparent reason. Unforced turnovers (plus rebounding problems) are painful and hard to overcome.

Steve Quatrocky 3 years, 6 months ago

New Team, New Attitude and the Senior Leadership wasn't consistent, much like LGs play, distracted. So, there are no more seniors to defer to, its time for the young guys to step up and play to their ratings now that they've had more than a half season to adjust and be disgruntled with their PT thus far.

We've lost in the Tourney to far less talented teams that didn't have any more players than we have now. Attitude and energy on D makes the O come a lot easier, pattern KState given that experience is fresh. Play for the name on the front of the jersey and everything will be fine, being the underdog isn't familiar but can also have its advantages as a motivator. It won't be easy, but the regular season title is still possible if we don't mope and use the adversity to toughen up, especially on the road.

Even though he has already been great so far, I see Devon becoming more like Devonte in terms of taking at least two to three more open threes per game, and I like his shot selection to make at least one or two more per game. Playing with two bigs/forwards, we should see much better rebounding and a couple of easy putbacks per game we haven't been getting. I also think we will get some synergy from the Lawson's playing together. With more minutes, the game will start to slow down for McCormick, giving us a rim protector again by the Big 12 Tourney. And the big IF, Quentin, if he steps up and plays to his talent level now, the first half of the season will be forgotten and he becomes a hero too. Agbaji's energy is great and the game is starting to slow down a little for him too, so I think burning his red shirt looks pretty brilliant at this point as he is the first candidate to "replace" LG.

Trust in Coach, really listen to him, eliminate distractions, and play your butts off on D and everything will be fine. In the end, I think we might even be better off given the distractions and inconsistency from the guy they were looking to for leadership. More PT will be an opportunity for the younger guys to play with a free mind, without deferring or trying to follow, or worrying about getting back in the game if they do make a mistake. After this many games, nobody is a freshman anymore! No excuses. You are KU Jayhawks, coached by a Hall of Fame Coach and all thought you were good enough to play here when you accepted the scholarship.

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