'He got that from Landen Lucas:' How one KU player earned Bill Self's sideline praise
By Jesse Newell firstname.lastname@example.org
Sit close to Kansas' bench, and you learn quickly that Bill Self does not give out praise often during games.
The Kansas basketball coach always seems to be barking at someone. Sometimes it's an official. Other times, he's grumbling under his breath to assistant coaches on the bench.
Most of the time, though, he's yelling at players. Motivating them. Prodding them. Demanding more.
"You have to screen!" Self yelled at one player in the first half.
"Trap it!" he said to another.
"Fill the corners!" was heard clearly at another moment.
And on it goes. This is how Self operates on gamedays: intense, focused — and frequently growling.
So midway through the second half, one moment was worth noting. Let's start at the end. Svi Mykhailiuk makes a three, Self fist pumps, then is emphatic with a final motion on the sideline.
Did you see it? Self is clearly pointing at one of his players.
And it took me a few rewatches to understand who it was.
Was it Mitch Lightfoot? Nope, the first replay showed he wasn't part of the play.
Maybe Marcus Garrett? While he threw the pass to Mykhailiuk in the corner, that wasn't the right answer either.
Self, it turns out, was singling out Lagerald Vick, who had created an opportunity without touching the ball.
Watch the backside of this play. Vick says he noticed his defender — Lindy Waters — had centered himself in the lane while perhaps confused by which man he was supposed to guard.
Vick saw it right away. He motioned to Garrett with his left arm while pointing his thumb toward Mykhailiuk in the corner.
"I was just like, 'Yo, he's wide open. You've got to get him this shot,'" Vick said. "He just read it and got Svi a shot."
With Vick's help, though.
Once Garrett's pass went over the top, Vick screened Oklahoma State's Tavarius Shine, who bounced off him because he had no idea it was coming. That left Mykhailiuk with a rare open attempt from the corner.
It was a sequence reminiscent of last year's team, which Graham pointed out immediately while watching it on a iPhone replay in the locker room.
"He got that from Landen Lucas," Graham said. "Lando used to do that all the time."
Graham remembered correctly. There were many times last season when the big man Lucas made important plays outside the box score that were vital in KU wins.
Those haven't always been this team's strength. Self has talked openly about how Graham sometimes doesn't get much help offensively from teammates. He's also frequently pushed players like Malik Newman and Vick to do more to alleviate some of that pressure.
So yes, this might have just been one tiny example of unselfishness in an eventual 14-point victory. But it also could be the start of a thought process KU's players will need to succeed in the most important weeks ahead.
"(Coach) is always like, 'It's not what you can do for yourself. It's what you can do for others,'" Vick said. "He always emphasizes that."
Self did that again Thursday too. The coach gestured from the bench, reiterating to Vick that he was the reason for the successful possession.
"He basically made me a shot," Mykhailiuk said of Vick.
"That's a great play," Garrett said. "If you had to grade it, it's an A-plus."
"He's sacrificing," Graham said. "That's a huge play ... just the little things to help us win."
Will it be a springboard for both Vick and KU? It's too early to know that for sure.
For a day, though, this was a positive step. Vick came through with a selfless act. KU won its Big 12 Tournament opener.
And Self delivered praise he doesn't often give.