Kansas basketball coach Bill Self recently offered some words of wisdom to struggling frontcourt players Landen Lucas and Carlton Bragg.
“It’s matter of fact: ‘You can do this. You have shown you can do this. Now, what do we need to do to get you doing this as opposed to a pep talk about doing it?’ ” Self said Monday, indicating the two former starters would come off the bench for a second straight game Tuesday against Long Beach State at 7 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse.
“They know. They’re smart. They know what they need to do,” added Self, who will open with Lagerald Vick and Udoka Azubuike next to Devonté Graham, Frank Mason and Josh Jackson. Vick and Azubuike made their first career starts in Friday night’s 95-57 victory over UNC Asheville.
“Right now, I think I’ve done plenty of talking. I think it’s time for them … they’ve just got to get through it. They will,” Self stated, noting Bragg’s practice on Sunday was “unbelievable … a big positive.”
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Self has long stated his position that media and fans think a lot more about starting lineups than coaches and players, and he stressed that the 6-foot-10 Lucas and Bragg remain an integral part of the rotation.
“Landen is going to be fine,” Self said of senior forward Lucas, who played just 12 minutes against Asheville and 10 against Georgia last Tuesday. For the year, Lucas averages 4.5 points and 4.2 boards in 17.8 minutes per contest.
“He just hasn’t played as well as he’s capable of playing yet, but he will,” Self said. “That’s what I told our guys yesterday. When he does, our team is going to get a lot better fast. I say the same about Carlton (sophomore Bragg, also 12 minutes vs. Asheville, 10 against Georgia and 17.5 per game). We’re not going to be able to go through a year where you play four guards all the time. We need to be able to play two bigs and count on those two bigs.
“We’ll get there. Guards will go through a funk, too at some point in time this year. Hopefully not, but I”m sure it will happen. Right now our bigs are in a little funk scoring and rebounding the ball.”
Vick, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, has earned 26.0 minutes of playing time per game in large part because he’s been rebounding like a big man. He had nine boards against Asheville in 30 minutes and averages 5.5 rebounds a game on the season, second on the team to Josh Jackson’s 5.8.
“We did think (during recruiting process) he could be a guy who could steal us extra possessions because he’s so quick and he’s so athletic, and if he does go to the glass he’s hard to block out because he’s a moving target all the time and moving targets are harder to hit,” Self said of Memphis native Vick. “He’s been a pleasant surprise but not a shock. We knew he could do these things.”
Vick made three three-pointers in four tries against Asheville after starting the season 1 of 13. He averages 8.7 points per game.
“He’s really plugged in because he’s done well, but in large part some guys haven’t played very well and I don’t know that that’s our perfect lineup moving forward,” Self said of Vick and Azubuike opening in place of Bragg and Lucas. “It may be, but I don’t know yet. I think he (Vick) is prepared to have a good year and it doesn’t surprise me how well he’s done, but I will say this, and you can even ask him: He’s still inconsistent. But he’s going to be a really good player. When he gets a little bit more comfortable offensively he’s going to be good.”
Asked what makes him a good rebounder, Vick said: “Probably my athletic ability, being able to have quick feet.”
Vick said Self instructs him to “work on hitting the man every time, every possession, going up, being above the rim, getting the rebound.”
Tuesday night’s foe, Long Beach State, enters with a 1-7 record. The team that was picked to win the Big West Conference has played seven straight on the road, including losses at Wichita State (92-55), North Carolina (93-67), Louisville (88-56), UCLA (114-77) and Washington (94-88). Long Beach State dropped a pair of mainland games in the Battle4Atlantis tournament on Thursday and Friday, falling to Binghamton (72-64) and Florida Gulf Coast (68-67 in overtime) in Fort Myers, Fla. The only win so far was the opener against Cal State Los Angeles (95-59) in Long Beach.
“I’m going to talk to (coach Dan) Monson about that when he gets here. I don’t know what he’s doing,” Self said of the tough schedule. “You watch. He doesn’t have a good nonconference record but it’s probably the third-most talented team we played, or possibly the third-most talented. I don’t know about Georgia, but right in there. And they’ll be the team that’s favored to go to the NCAA Tournament because they’re favored to win their league.”