LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas guard Lagerald Vick is taking a leave of absence from the basketball program, leaving the No. 13 Jayhawks even more short-handed as they face an uphill climb to a 15th straight Big 12 title.
Jayhawks coach Bill Self said in a statement Thursday night that Vick has “some personal matters that require his immediate attention.” Self said there is no timetable for his return.
The Jayhawks are 17-6 and 6-4 in the Big 12, leaving them 1 1/2 games behind Kansas State.
“He has some things going on that (aren’t) public things,” Self said during his weekly radio show Thursday night, “so I think that he hasn’t been his best because of those things.”
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Kansas, the nation’s preseason No. 1, is already playing without three players that Self expected to be key pieces of a march to a second consecutive Final Four. Star center Udoka Azubuike was lost for the season to wrist surgery, power forward Silvio De Sousa was declared ineligible by the NCAA and top defensive stopper Marcus Garrett is out with a sprained ankle.
The depth problems, even before Garrett’s injury and Vick’s departure, led Self to lift freshman guard Ochai Agbaji’s redshirt midway through the season. He’s been one of their best players since.
The mercurial Vick, who has appeared in 117 games for the Jayhawks, went undrafted before returning to Kansas for his senior year. He’s started 20 of 23 games this season, averaging 14.1 points and four rebounds while providing a young backcourt with veteran leadership.
But he’s been at odds with Self throughout his career, his on-and-off performance often mirroring his leadership and teamwork. At his best, Vick is a high-energy 3-point threat who poured in 29 points in a win over Villanova this year. At his worst, he is a defensive liability.
That was the case Tuesday night at Kansas State.
Vick got the start but was caught up in issues with switching on defense that led to a pair of easy 3-pointers for the Wildcats. After one by Kamau Stokes, Vick and freshman guard Devon Dotson got into a pointing contest trying to assign blame, and it soon became clear who Self placed it upon.
Vick was benched for the rest of the first half. Dotson played nearly the entire game.
“You could tell right when the game started, there were two easy switches that we’ve practiced the whole time that they get wide-open shots, then guys want to blame other people,” Self said after their 74-67 defeat in Manhattan. “That’s not how you win.”
The Jayhawks return to the floor against Oklahoma State on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, while Vick is expected to be with family in Memphis. When he’ll return to the Jayhawks is unclear.
“I don’t think it’s anything you go into, some of the things he’s had going on,” Self said. “But it’d be nice to have our full complement. That’s not the case.”
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