Off night and all, Lagerald Vick's outing in Tuesday's win over Wofford was the latest, loudest sign of the senior's maturity
A year ago, what went down with Kansas guard Lagerald Vick on Tuesday night might have created a much different situation for the entire Kansas basketball team.
A year ago, Vick might not have reacted as well to Self’s punishment for being late to Tuesday’s shootaround. A year ago, Self might not have been willing to give Vick the benefit of the doubt.
A year ago, those eight minutes that Vick sat on the bench to open KU's victory over Wofford at Allen Fieldhouse instead of taking his normal spot in the starting lineup could have created a domino effect that impacted the rest of the game, the rest of the week and potentially even the rest of the season.
But this is not a year ago. And Lagerald Vick, the senior, appears to be a much different player than Lagerald Vick the junior.
Self, and anybody else who’s been paying any kind of attention, has seen that since Vick decided to return to KU for his senior year this summer instead of leaving early, and it’s been smooth sailing for Vick and the Jayhawks since then.
As a leader, Vick has stepped up in ways many never knew he could, talking to teammates whenever necessary, encouraging them through the tough times, teaching them through mistakes and celebrating with them whenever possible.
As a player, Vick has been a major catalyst in so many early-season victories, games that Kansas might have lost had the senior from Memphis not been so aggressive, so hot, so experienced and so fearless.
All of that led to Tuesday, when Vick showed up late for shootaround and both Self and the KU senior had a decision to make.
For Self, the decision was easy. Rules are rules, Vick broke one and he would have to pay the price by sitting on the bench to open KU’s 72-47 win over Wofford.
For Vick, settling on a reaction could have been tougher. But from the looks of it, he never blinked. Instead of pouting or snapping back into that me-against-the-world mindset, Vick thought first of the team.
“There was no message except, ‘We’ll see how you react,’” Self said after Tuesday’s victory. “When I told him Marcus (Garrett) was starting and I said, ‘Scout team go get a shirt on,’ he went to get a shirt on because he didn’t think he would even play. It didn’t warrant that, just him being late. But I think it’s a pretty good lesson, though.”
That reaction, and so many others like it during the actual game, may very well have been the direct result of the conditions put on Vick’s return.
When Self and Vick discussed him coming back this summer, the KU coach made it crystal clear what Vick would have to do to be welcomed back. And being a good teammate and putting the team first was at the top of the list.
Vick has done that throughout the early portion of the 2018-19 season and he did it in the most visible way yet on Tuesday night.
There was not so much as a hint of pouting on a night when his stat line featured more zeroes than any other number. If anything, Vick at times still looked to be down on himself for being late. But his vibe was not that of a player who felt he was being screwed over by the coaches or that of a player pressing to make up for the mistake. Instead, it simply looked like Vick wanted to make things right and get back to helping his team win.
It never really played out that way. In fact, the Jayhawks were at their best, ripping off that ridiculous, 27-0, second-half run, with Vick back on the bench.
But before that, as he waited by the scorer’s table to check into the game for the first time, Vick was actively engaged in the action, eyes up, eager to go, cheering on his teammates and watching intently as things unfolded in front of him.
He took a couple of bad shots, gave away a couple of careless turnovers and missed everything when he was out there. But he didn’t let that have a negative impact either. Instead of pressing further or forcing the action, he pulled back and allowed Dedric Lawson, Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson to carry the load on the offensive end.
In some ways, what went down Tuesday — the performances not the tardiness — may have been exactly what the second-ranked Jayhawks (7-0) needed because they won’t achieve all of their goals or win at the level they want to win if they spend the season waiting for Vick to take games over. He’s done that a few times this season already, but carrying that kind of burden can get heavy if the walk is too long.
“He’s been on a roll,” Self said. “And when your head’s not quite right, you’re probably thinking about some other things and you kind of have a hard game. But I thought it was great. When things are right and thoughts are pure and that kind of stuff, you play lights out. And when it gets a little bit congested up there, you know, you don’t maybe play quite as well.
“So I think that’s not an awful thing for anyone to see. But he was a good teammate and his attitude was great.”