LAWRENCE — Maybe it’s time to start pondering nicknames for Lagerald Vick.
The Kansas basketball senior guard is on a career-best tear over his last four outings, averaging 24 points across the stretch for the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks (5-0). Vick has been particularly lethal from 3-point range, where he’s notched 21 makes from 3-point range.
Only one other Jayhawk — “Downtown” Terry Brown, who suited up for KU from 1989-91 — has more made 3s across four games in program history, connecting on a school-best 23 in a stretch that began Jan. 5, 1991, and concluded seven days later. Vick, though, has Brown bested in one area — the Memphis, Tenn., native has done his damage on only 32 attempts, while it took Brown 40 tries to reach his 23 (and 42 attempts to reach his second-best mark, 22 makes from Jan. 2-10, 1991).
Indeed, Vick’s 65.6-percent clip on a minimum of 25 attempts is the highest ever for a Jayhawk in a four-game stretch, besting 64-percent benchmarks previously posted in recent years by guards Wayne Selden and Malik Newman. And for a cherry on top of it all, consider this: Vick’s 19.6 points per game is tops in the Big 12.
It’s a sensational start few could’ve predicted for the inconsistent Vick, who has had moments of brilliance but never sustained excellence. While the season is only five games old, Vick’s ability to shake his two-points-in-32-minutes performance in the team’s season opener against Michigan State appears a noteworthy sign of growth.
What’s changed for Vick? KU coach Bill Self credited a revamped focus and “total redirection of what his mindset was to what it is now.”
“I just see somebody that always had talent,” Self said Thursday ahead of his team’s 4:30 p.m. Saturday contest against Stanford (4-3) at Allen Fieldhouse. “You guys have seen it. He’s had some games in the past, even going back to his sophomore year, where you think he’s the best player on the floor. Last year he was the best player on our team for almost the first month of the season, and the consistent and the best. So you know what he’s got inside of him. But maybe the intangibles that I was refereeing to earlier are more prevalent now than they were last year — voice, talking.”
Vick averaged 12.1 points on 48.8-percent shooting from the field and a 37.3-percent mark from 3-point range last season but fell off in the 18-game conference slate, averaging nine points on 41.4-percent shooting and a 29.9-percent clip from beyond the arc.
Vick’s ability to sustain his current torrid pace seems unlikely — few, if anyone, could — but there is at least one reason to believe the team’s lone senior can at least be a consistent option.
“He knows that it’s his team now,” Self said, “compared to the past where he knew it was Devonte' (Graham)’s, Svi (Mykhailiuk)’s, or Malik’s, or even going the year before that, Josh (Jackson)’s or Landen (Lucas)’s or Frank (Mason)’s. He knows now that this is more his deal, and I think there’s an energized focus he has, maybe in large part due to that.”
That “energized focus” had shown itself this season in a number of ways that would’ve been previously considered out-of-character for the reserved guard. He sticks his tongue out after makes. He stays frozen in his post-shot stance for an extra second. He trots, skips and hops back on defense.
Vick’s offensive successes have also delivered fresh energy on the defensive end, said Self, who agreed playing with self-assurance has been an “imperative” part of the senior guard’s game.
“Who doesn’t play better if they have confidence and swagger, in any sport, at any time?” Self said. “I like that. I like that a lot.”