Bill Self says he believes, at some point, senior guard Lagerald Vick will return from his indefinite leave of absence and rejoin Kansas’ basketball team.
“It’s not going to be tomorrow by any stretch, or Monday, or probably soon after that. So we need to make sure that we support him, but on the flip side coach the guys we’ve got,” Self, KU’s 16th-year coach, said Friday at a media session held in advance of Saturday’s 11 a.m. home contest against Oklahoma State.
Self, in announcing Vick’s leave of absence Thursday night, said Vick needed to address “some personal matters that require his immediate attention.” Vick’s mom, La La Vick, told The Star her son would be returning home to Memphis, Tenn., for at least a couple weeks to help out with family matters.
The thing is … just eight games (covering five weeks) remain in the regular season.
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“We are moving on like we’re not going to have him obviously. The reality is there’s a great chance we will (have him back). He just needs to take care of some business,” Self said. “I don’t think we approach it like we did Doke in December (when Udoka Azubuike missed four games because of an ankle injury) where every week you try to prepare he’s going to be back that week. You don’t do that, not this time of year.”
The news on Vick came a week after it was announced Silvio De Sousa would remain sidelined the rest of the season because of an NCAA eligibility issue.
“To be honest with you, last Saturday was a bigger blow, just from the build-up,” Self said of the De Sousa news. KU responded by beating Texas Tech 79-63 on Saturday at home, then lost to Kansas State on Tuesday in Manhattan.
“This situation with Lagerald did not come as a shock to me. I know he’d been dealing with some stuff. For me personally, even though it was obviously instant with everybody on the outside it wasn’t necessarily instant with me,” Self added.
Self — he said one of KU’s bigs, Mitch Lightfoot, K.J. Lawson or David McCormack would join Dedric Lawson, Ochai Agbaji, Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson in the starting lineup against OSU — did not necessarily agree with a reporter’s assertion it might be “easy” to insert fourth-year player Vick back in the lineup after some time off.
“Easier (not easy),” Self stressed. “I don’t think you take somebody away from your team for however long it’s going to be and all of a sudden plug him in and it’s like that. Hopefully we’ll have some other guys develop and play at a high level and maybe roles will be a little different by then (unknown return date). I don’t know.”
Dedric Lawson, who like Vick hails from Memphis, also believes Vick will return to the squad at some point.
“I don’t know his deal, his situation,” Lawson said, “I definitely expect Lagerald to be back and to help us out.”
Vick, who was burned playing defense on a couple of outside shots, played just four minutes in the first half of Tuesday’s loss at Kansas State and didn’t start the second half. Self had mentioned after the game an unnamed player (ostensibly Vick) assessed blame to others for his own mistakes.
“We had a little team meeting between the guys. He was there,” Dedric Lawson said of Vick being at a meeting with all the players sometime after the K-State game. “He was talking how much he cared and how much he wanted to win, that sometimes his demeanor comes off wrong to people.
“I understand Lagerald, just where he comes from and some of the things in his background. That’s why I try my best to talk to him a lot. I understand him more than probably anybody on the team as far as his concept and mental state. Sometimes in the game or in practice when he gets mad or frustrated with coach (Self) and others … I try to be that guy to talk to him.”
KU will lose Vick’s 14.2 points a game during the guard’s absence. He has been by far KU’s most effective three-point shooter, cashing 66 threes. Grimes is second on the team with 30 makes.
“We are going to obviously play big, different than what we have been playing,” Self said. “We have to. I also think it gives us the best chance.”
One of the bigs — Lightfoot — is coming off a solid game at Kansas State. He had six points and five boards in 14 minutes.
“It’s a rough situation,” Lightfoot said. “You never know what’s going to happen. Obviously it sucks but you’ve got to be ready for it.
“We’ve got to be able to handle the adversity. We’ve got to find a way to use it as motivation or some kind of way to bring the team closer together. We are going to find a way. It’s helping us get better and become closer so I think we’ll be better off.”
Lightfoot was speaking to freshman point guard Dotson about adversity on Friday.
“I said you’ve got to go through some adversity if you want to have something worthwhile,” Lightfoot said. “You’ve got to go through some stuff. Every good team has been through some stuff. Last year people were counting us out for a while. It took some stuff for us to go through to be the team we can be.”
Last year’s Jayhawks won a 14th straight Big 12 title and reached the Final Four. This year’s squad (17-6, 6-4) enters the game against OSU (9-13, 2-7) tied for fourth place with Texas Tech at 6-4 in the league.
“It’s not right to talk about the league race because right now we’re not even in the league race, at least the way I see it … at least until we start doing some things to create some positive energy and wins moving forward,” Self said, “because there’s so little margin of error.”
He pointed out that, “we’re not the same team we were when we were preseason No. 1 in the country. We’re not. We’ve got four of our top seven players, most talented players that are not going to be in uniform tomorrow (De Sousa, Vick, Azubuike, Marcus Garrett). Naturally that’s not the same team.”
Self said Garrett, who has missed two games because of a high left ankle sprain, would not play Saturday and did not figure to play Monday at TCU, his target date for return a week from Saturday versus West Virginia.
Oklahoma State, by the way, travels to Lawrence with nine players on the roster. Three OSU players were removed from the team in January and another left the program.
“Our teams are pretty similar. Maybe Mike (Boynton, OSU coach) and I should get together and just have the officials stay on one end and play 3-on-3. At least we’d have enough guys to sub for,” Self said, forcing a smile.