LAWRENCE — The hits keep on coming for Kansas basketball.
The program on Thursday night announced an indefinite leave of absence for starting guard Lagerald Vick, the team’s lone senior and second-leading scorer at 14.1 points per game. Without the Memphis, Tenn., native, the No. 13-ranked Jayhawks are now down four expected contributors entering the season — sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa (ineligible), junior center Udoka Azubuike (season-ending hand injury), sophomore guard Marcus Garrett (ankle sprain) and Vick.
"Lagerald has some personal matters that require his immediate attention and he will be taking a leave of absence from our team," KU coach Bill Self said in a news release. "During this time, we will respect Lagerald's privacy. There is no timetable for his return."
Far and away the team’s most lethal threat from beyond the arc — he is hitting 45.5 percent of his 3-point attempts this season, with the rest of the Jayhawks (17-6, 6-4 Big 12) combining for a 31.8-percent clip — Vick has endured an up-and-down campaign.
Vick has scored 20-plus points in five games this season, including a 32-point outburst on 8-for-8 shooting from 3-point range in an 84-68 victory over Vermont on Nov. 12; a 33-point, nine-rebound showing in an 89-76 victory over Louisiana on Nov. 16; and a 29-point, seven-board effort in a 74-71 victory over Villanova on Dec. 15. Vick’s 3-point make in the final seconds of regulation sent the Jayhawks’ eventual 90-84 overtime win over Stanford on Dec. 1 to its extra session, with the senior contributing 27 points and seven made 3s.
All of those heroics, however, came in the season’s first nine contests, with the time since proving to be a mixed bag at best.
Vick has three times been removed from the team’s starting lineup — once for a Dec. 4 contest against Wofford as punishment for being late to a shootaround, once for a Dec. 8 clash against New Mexico State for a poor practice leading up to the game, and again for a Jan. 29 tilt at Texas as Self attempted to shake up the team’s stagnant offense. In the Jayhawks’ most recent contest, a 74-67 defeat Tuesday night at Kansas State, Vick started but played just four first-half minutes, finishing with seven points in 19 minutes and a team-worst plus-minus of minus-23. No other KU player finished with a mark lower than minus-11.
Vick didn’t start the second half of the setback to the Wildcats, and when Self was asked whether that was a reflection of wanting to see more from the sharp-shooter, he simply responded there were “other reasons why” he made the switch.
During Thursday morning’s Big 12 coaches teleconference, Self was asked a follow-up on whether “everything’s good” with Vick. While the KU coach didn’t answer that question directly, he did point to the team’s improved performance without Vick in the opening period.
“We made a decision to not play him in the first half obviously, but when we did that we were actually better,” Self said. “... So obviously that was not anything that hurt us in that particular situation.”
When Vick made his unexpected return to the program in late June, Self told The Topeka Capital-Journal that he would’ve never envisioned the situation, though he labeled it a “win-win” for both team and player.
“When we played our last game, it was very evident that he had played his last game at Kansas,” said Self, referencing the team's Final Four defeat to Villanova. “Certainly I think in his mind he was 100-percent sure he had, and in my mind I was 100-percent sure he had. But things change and certainly the process he’s gone through I think has been very eye-opening to him, and he’s realized that maybe he’s still got a ways to go to get to where he wants to be. I think that kind of helped change his perspective.”
Discussing what he expected of Vick as terms of the return, Self said he wanted the team’s lone senior to do “everything he can to help these young guys transition into college ball.”
“I think it could be important (to have a senior), and I mean this sincerely: The best thing about most good teams is basically (accomplished) through their senior leadership," Self said. "We’ve had unbelievable groups over the past recent years with that, and next year with Lagerald being the only senior, I expect him to be a positive leader.”
KU, which has dropped six of its last 11 games, will return to action at 11 a.m. Saturday against Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse.