Kansas, for the first time this season, is about to find out what it’s like to play a game without first-team all-conference selection Josh Jackson.
The 6-foot-8 freshman guard from Detroit will sit out the Jayhawks’ Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal against TCU around 2 p.m. Thursday because of a one-game suspension assessed Wednesday by coach Bill Self. The discipline came in response to a Feb. 2 traffic incident that Jackson first revealed to Self on Monday.
“It’s disappointing. It’s not an earth-ender or anything like that,” Self said Wednesday afternoon after his team’s short workout at the Sprint Center.
“Josh has been on such a roll. He’s played so well — to an All-American level the last month or six weeks. We need to have a lot of guys, Frank (Mason), Devonté (Graham), Svi (Mykhailiuk) step up and give us some production.”
Self also will be counting on Lagerald Vick, a 6-5 sophomore from Memphis who will start in place of Jackson. Vick — he’s opened five games this season — has produced 7.4 points and 3.4 rebounds a game compared to Jackson’s 16.4 points and 7.2 boards.
“He needs to play well,” Self said. “I’d think Carlton (Bragg), Dwight (Coleby) and Mitch (Lightfoot, all forwards) would probably play much more of a prominent role. We’ll probably play big more than we have maybe in a game this year.”
Self spent as much time answering questions about Jackson’s suspension after Wednesday’s workout as he did about his team and the Big 12 Tournament.
According to Self, Jackson backed into a parked car on the KU campus and left without leaving his contact information. According to the Lawrence Municipal Court, Jackson was cited Feb. 7 for “duty upon striking an unattended vehicle, inattentive driving and improper backing” and is scheduled to appear in court at 9:30 a.m. March 27.
In another matter, Jackson, 20, was charged last month in Douglas County District Court with one misdemeanor count of criminal property damage stemming from a Dec. 9 car vandalism outside a Lawrence bar that was reported by KU women’s basketball player McKenzie Calvert. Jackson has an April 12 arraignment date in that case.
“The thing about it is with kids, you don’t ever want to minimize. You never want to maximize either,” Self said. “I don’t think it’s fair when you maximize. He made a mistake by backing into someone’s car. I think that’s probably been done many times in a parking lot before. He compounded it by not being responsible at that moment and leaving his information.
“He knew that was wrong or he wouldn’t have handled it the way he handled it after that (not telling anybody). Even if you make a mistake if he had notified us about it then maybe he could have been educated on how to handle the situation. That never did occur.”
Jackson is with the team in Kansas City and will play in Friday’s 6 p.m. semifinal game if the Jayhawks win Thursday. Self stressed the suspension was for one game only.
“To me it was a pretty easy decision,” Self said. “If it was a singular event I obviously would not have (suspended him) for something that he did. I don’t want to get into a lot of things because you guys (media) don’t know a lot of things that I know.
“The thing about it is you never want distractions and distractions can become quite annoying. I was certainly not pleased to find out about this, but I also know that this would not be an issue at all if we didn’t have an issue prior. One issue prior. So that was why this was handled the way it was.”
Self was displeased Jackson waited until Monday to tell Self about a Feb. 2 incident.
“He brought it up,” Self said of Jackson. “We were having a conversation about it. We were having a conversation.”
There will be a lot of talk before Thursday’s game from fans wondering how KU will play without Jackson, who has started all 31 games for the No. 1-ranked Jayhawks (28-3, 16-2 Big 12).
“We need the bigs to really do their part. It’s always next man up. That’s how we’ve always done it,” KU senior forward Landen Lucas said. “It’s everybody else stepping up.”
That’s the same sentiment of junior Graham.
“It’s going to make everybody have to step up and play a bigger role — me, Frank, Lagerald, Svi, Landen (Lucas), Mitch, Dwight, Carlton, everybody. It’s going to take a big, big team effort,” Graham said.”
Of distractions popping up on a few occasions this season, Graham said: “I think it’s frustration as a team, yeah.”
Lucas said Jackson was sorry for putting his team in a bind in the Big 12 quarterfinal.
“We understand he wants to be out there with us,” Lucas said, noting Jackson spoke to his teammates following the suspension. “He’s gonna serve his time and come back ready to go. We’ll be just fine.”
Lucas noted that at powerhouse Kansas, “there’s already a big enough spotlight on us. There’s already eyes on us. It’s kind of like a glass house with everything. We kind of already have that understanding and we know it’s amplified with everything that’s been going on.”
Lucas said the Jayhawks will not let Jackson’s absence affect the No. 1-ranked team’s play.
“That’s what Coach has been harping on,” Lucas said. “There’s no reason to let it carry onto the court because when you are on it, it’s a whole different world. We’ve been looking at it like that. It’s a nice little escape for us.”
Self would like his team to record its ninth straight victory Thursday and as early as Friday continue on with Jackson.
“If a guy sprained his ankle in mid-December would we be having the same conversation if he missed one game?” Self said. “This game is obviously an important game. They all are this time of year. I think our guys will react pretty favorably.”