The most captivating part of Lagerald Vick’s game-tying three against Stanford

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By Jesse Newell jnewell@kcstar.com

About twice a month, while waiting for Bill Self, my eyes always are drawn to one picture on the wall at Allen Fieldhouse: Mario Chalmers’ shot from the 2008 national championship game.

The mural is just outside the KU locker room door, and about a step from where Self usually sets up when doing his media interview the day before games.

Self has talked about this particular snapshot before. In the photo, future NBA players Chalmers and Derrick Rose are competing as hard as they can, the biggest possession of their collegiate lives.

The result is impressive on second look. With video, it’s easy for most fans’ eyes to turn toward the shot going in — the result over the process.

Here, the camera lens is shot from the opposite side, highlighting the athleticism of the play.

The thing that stands out most: Chalmers feet are at least 3 feet off the ground when putting up his final attempt in regulation.

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My mind went to the same place while watching a replay of Lagerald Vick’s game-tying shot in KU’s 90-84 overtime victory over Stanford on Saturday.

The shooting accuracy, by itself, was notable. But Vick’s feet — in his 38th minute of the game — ended up being the most mesmerizing part.

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I replayed it over and over on my laptop while waiting for KU’s players to arrive at the postgame press conference. Vick’s defender, KZ Okpala, is 6-9. Vick is 6-5. The help defender, Trevor Stanback, is 6-11.

Both challenged the shot, yet Vick was still able to elevate over the top of them.

I wasn’t the only one interested in the replay. While waiting for KU’s players to enter the room, KU athletic director Jeff Long’s head poked over my shoulder to stare at the screen.

“Unbelievable,” he said, keeping his gaze on the monitor through a few rewinds.

Here’s the thing: Vick wasn’t even supposed to shoot it on this play. Self admitted after the game that the set was designed to get the ball to Dedric Lawson; it’s why Self’s eyes were looking toward the top of the key where he thought the ball would be going.

Lawson, meanwhile, was focused on Vick.

“I saw three people jump as high as they could, and Lagerald jumped even higher when he jumped,” Lawson said. “I just ran to the goal, and it went through the goal. I was happy.”

He was awed a bit as well.

“He jumped really high on that shot,” Lawson said. “I kind of thought he double-clutched and shot it, but he knocked it down.”

This has always been the tantalizing part of Lagerald Vick. Self told NBA scouts for the first two months last season that Vick was his team’s best NBA prospect, and it’s not difficult to see why that was the truth at the time.

When Vick is aggressive — focused in and engaged — he can be the best player on the floor. He’s KU’s top athlete and highest jumper. He’s the team’s best-conditioned player and also the best shooter.

Each of those assets, in their own way, combined to make Vick’s late three possible at the end of regulation.

“It was just a great shooting performance,” teammate Devon Dotson said. “That man ... that man is really clutch.”

Before Vick left the media room, Long shook his hand and offered a few words: “Congrats. That was awesome.”

A few minutes earlier, Self gave Vick the ultimate respect when entering the locker room, waving his arms up and down like Wayne and Garth in the movie, “Wayne’s World.”

So how high did Vick get on that three-point attempt? Or perhaps the better question: What is his vertical now after what we just saw?

Vick smiled when I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It gets higher every week.”

The Jayhawks needed every bit of that lift Saturday. A gifted guard made the most of his skills at the perfect time, rising up when his team was on the verge of defeat.

There aren’t many Jayhawks who could’ve come through with that type of athleticism needed to accomplish what Vick did Saturday.

In fact, over the last decade, I can only think of one.

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