Minutes after her Jayhawks lost Friday night, KU sophomore McKenzie Calvert said she felt shocked that she was suspended from her team this season and that she felt her school had treated her unfairly in recent weeks.
Calvert, who came highly recruited to the Kansas women’s basketball program in 2015, said it has been hard to focus on the sport since her car was vandalized in the early morning hours of Dec. 9 outside a Lawrence bar. Josh Jackson, a star freshman on the KU men’s basketball team, was charged last month with misdemeanor criminal property damage to her 2016 Ford. Witnesses told police they saw him kick her car.
In a story published Friday evening, The Star revealed that Calvert’s father, Tim, said his daughter had been suspended from the women’s team hours after she reported the vandalism to police. He said he and his family waited weeks to hear how Jackson was punished, and they are still waiting. KU men’s coach Bill Self has said Jackson was disciplined in-house but did not disclose how. Jackson has not missed any games this season.
“I mean, I was kinda shocked that I got suspended,” McKenzie Calvert told reporters, including a correspondent for The Star, on Friday night. “And he (Jackson) didn’t get anything, but I mean, that’s Coach Self’s decision, and he said he suspended him or did whatever he did in-house. Coach Brandon (Schneider) suspended me and did what he wanted to do in public, and that’s fine.
“Two different coaches, but I definitely would like to play.”
Calvert, a guard from Texas, spoke for nearly 15 minutes after KU’s 79-75 loss to Oklahoma State in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Before answering questions in the locker room, she hadn’t spoken publicly about the vandalism case or her treatment by KU since December.
In her interview, Calvert confirmed what The Star learned in recent days, that her suspension for a Dec. 11 game was rescinded after Tim Calvert contacted Schneider hours after his daughter had been suspended — which included a ban from Allen Fieldhouse, practicing with the team and watching game film.
McKenzie Calvert said Friday she was told before the KU men’s game on the 10th that she wouldn’t be suspended for the next women’s game.
According to Calvert’s family, the reason for the suspension was her actions before her car was vandalized. Calvert was leaving the Yacht Club with friends when she threw a drink on Jackson’s teammate, Lagerald Vick, whom she had dated more than a year ago. In January 2016, a KU investigation found that Vick likely hit Calvert several times in the arm and kicked her in the face. Jackson reportedly ran after Calvert outside the Yacht Club and began to argue with her.
On Friday night, Calvert didn’t play. A reporter asked her when she knew she wouldn’t be playing.
“I don’t ever know,” she said. “I mean, I got my whole uniform on,” she said. “Got my shoes tied. My ankles were taped. I come to every game mentally ready to play.”
It was the seventh time since the Dec. 9 vandalism that she didn’t play in a game. A standout transfer from the University of Southern California and a top-20 player out of high school, Calvert led KU in scoring in five of eight games before she reported the vandalism.
After missing the Dec. 11 game, Calvert’s time on the court decreased significantly.
“Once my minutes started decreasing, I kind of just lost love for the game a little bit,” Calvert said Friday night. And having to look at her car everyday, with the dented door, busted taillight and smashed windshield, “you know, it just got to me.”
Calvert said she didn’t think Schneider had much say in her suspension or how she was ultimately treated.
“I feel like it was a lot of, you know, upper people, because I know Coach Brandon,” Calvert said. “He wants to win, and he recruited me to come here to play for him, so I can’t imagine him not wanting me to play.”
Now, she’s looking forward to Spring Break. Calvert says she wants to stay at Kansas.
“I like KU, I do. I’m really cool with a lot athletes, and my professors are really cool. I like it. I mean, I’m from a small town in Texas, so it’s not like Lawrence is a culture shock. Coming from LA, it was, but I like the town, I love my team. All their personalities, I really genuinely love my team, so they’ve made this experience positive at the end of the day.”
“Because I love my team. I just have a good feeling. I’m going to go in the gym, and I’m going to work on everything he gives me at my end of — because we do these speeches. Everybody gets their little meetings at the end of the season with their head coach, so I’m going to take everything he says and I’m just going to do the best I can in the summer and show him that I’m here to play for him and KU and to get on the floor and win for my team.”
“Now that the season’s over, I’m going to be in the gym even more and working on anything I can to get back on the court.”