Stuck behind starters Frank Mason, Devonté Graham and Wayne Selden, as well as experienced substitutes Brannen Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Lagerald Vick was odd-man-out on the perimeter last season at Kansas.
Vick, a 6-foot-5 combo guard from Memphis, Tenn., was never completely forgotten, however, evidenced by his seven-point, 10-minute performance against Austin Peay in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
That effort, which included a three-pointer, showed fans that Vick may yet play significant minutes at KU.
“For me, I take it my time will come,” said Vick, roommate of Carlton Bragg, who played more than Vick but still had difficulty compiling regular minutes as a freshman.
“We both look at it the same. Carlton … when his opportunity came up he stepped up and made big plays when we needed them,” Vick added.
Vick entered the NCAA Tournament game against Austin Peay, a 105-79 victory, having not played at all in seven of KU’s prior 11 games, netting a combined 10 minutes in the four other contests.
“I was excited,” Vick said of his emotions when coach Bill Self called upon him with 14:15 to play against Austin Peay and KU up 61-44. “It was amazing, just getting a chance to play with my team, doing what coach asked me to do.”
Self, who told Vick before that game to “be ready when your name is called,” said he always had confidence in Vick.
It just happened to be a numbers game keeping the rookie out of the lineup. Greene’s back flared up down the stretch, effectively moving Vick into the fifth guard slot.
“A lot of times our sixth perimeter guy is odd man out because we play five,” Self said. “The important thing is to always be ready. Lagerald is a kid who can make his shots, without question,” Self added of Vick, who hit 14 of 25 shots for 56 percent in 2015-16, including eight of 17 threes for 47.1 percent.
“But he is a slasher, an athlete, quick-twitch kid. He’s going to be really good. He can be a great defender, as good a defender as we have.”
Vick scored 29 points in one of Self’s campers games and 23 in the other this past June. He was the team’s leading scorer in those contests.
“He didn’t get a chance to play a lot last year,” Self said. “He is freakishly athletic. He looks like a greyhound out on the court. He really does. He moves gracefully, moves well, has improved his stroke. He has a chance to impact our team in a big, big way this year. He is probably as improved as anybody on our team.”
Vick took to heart some orders from KU’s coaching staff entering the summer.
“Coach T (Kurtis Townsend) told me to get in the gym every day, make 150 shots,” Vick said. You can’t shoot over 300. I’ve been working on my defense. Last year I guarded mainly Svi, Wayne, Devonté, BG, sometimes Frank. Being able to stay in front of those guys was tough. Working on defense every day helped me.”
Vick’s teammates are believers. They’ve seen his effort and production at practice.
“Lagerald is an athlete. He has a quick first step. He shoots the ball well. He can get in the lane and finish,” Graham said. “He’s a good on-the-ball defender especially guarding me and Frank. He’s really quick.”
Noted Mykhailiuk: “I think he’s going to be a really good player. He’s young. He’s good in practice, always tries hard, is very athletic, can pass and shoot the ball.”
Vick hopes he’s able to play in more than 19 of 38 contests during his sophomore year.
“At first it was kind of hard,” he said of not getting in many games. “As the season went on we were winning. I didn’t have a problem because I like winning. It’s been wonderful here. There are a lot of great people here. I love the atmosphere.”