Rock Chalk Weekly: He's Got Shoes
Written by James Saat, Kansas Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Every morning, University of Kansas freshman guard Lagerald Vick wakes up to the same challenge — he must decide which shoes to wear. For someone sporting the twitter handle @Vicklovekicks, this is a tough decision.
“He has about 80 pairs of shoes that he doesn’t even wear, he just has them,” Vick’s roommate, Kansas freshman forward Carlton Bragg Jr. claimed. “I tell him he’s a hoarder of shoes.”
If none of the shoes in his dorm fit his taste, then perhaps the closet full of shoes in his childhood home in Memphis, Tennessee could satisfy his quest.
“Lagerald and his sister have a shoe fetish. Even with Lagerald not being home, we went to clean his room and we found over 40 boxes of shoes,” said Vick’s mother, Lauressa “LaLa” Vick. “Then when I visited him (at KU), I saw he went and bought more shoes.”
Shoes are such an integral part of Vick’s life that it behooves one to compare him to his beloved footwear. Just as each shoe in Vick’s collection is more than just an assortment of fibers woven into an aesthetic design, Vick is more than the six-foot, five-inch guard Kansas fans see on the television. A deconstruction of shoe and man reveal a lot about both.
The first thing one notices about a shoe is the exterior, just as most coaches first noticed Vick’s height, long wingspan and potential to become an elite defender. Off the court, Vick hopes the first thing people notice about him is the same thing he first looks for in his shoes, that he looks good. Vick’s favorite activity is shopping, as evidenced by his plethora of shoes. He frequents websites that release breaking news on when the next big thing in shoes will come out to plan his purchases in advance.
Vick’s shopping exploits are not limited to just shoes. He also actively updates his repertoire of jeans and shirts to satiate his need to maintain a consistently fresh look. Though preppy and classy are his favorite styles, Vick is proud that his wardrobe has the versatility to change it up whenever he wants to. He certainly has enough shoes to give his feet a different look every day of the month. Vick has been focusing on his look for most of his life, something he attributes to his sister.
“My sister is a fan of fashion. I think that’s where I get it,” Vick said. “When I was younger, (I remember) going shopping with her and picking out different things. (She helped me in) seeing the colors in the shirt complement the pants in ways I could barely see before. It really helped me out.”
Though Vick makes a great effort to be seen, the same cannot be said for his effort to be heard. He talks about as much as the tongue of a sneaker. The people in his life admit that Vick has a hard time opening up to those he is unfamiliar with.
“He was different. He was delightful, but he was different,” LaLa said. “If you compared him to my other two children, all of them different in their own way, sometimes people couldn’t believe Lagerald was in our family because he was always kind of off to himself.”
When he does reach a high level of comfort with someone, the real Lagerald Vick proves to be pretty different from the quiet, reserved person most talk to. A notorious prankster, Vick keeps his close friends on their feet.
“He opens up a lot, with the laughter, the jokes and the pranks,” said Bragg. “He’s a pretty cool kid.”
Despite his introverted nature, Vick has had plenty of people in his life he can call family. Like laces on a pair of sneakers, it is the tightest bonds that have supported Vick through his journey to Kansas.
A close-family friend started Vick on his path through athletics by introducing him to competitive dancing at the age of six through the dance group Mtown Image. Dancing was Vick’s first foray into sport, and it developed the coordination of a boy who would grow to 6-foot-5.
“When I was younger I used to be in a hip-hop group,” Vick remembered. “Dancing was definitely one of my passions.”
Vick’s coordination and natural athletic ability caught the eye of his elementary physical education teacher, who suggested Vick try out for the football team. He was named a starter at wide receiver immediately.
After a couple of years, Vick’s football coach decided to switch to coaching basketball. Vick followed him and got his first taste of competitive basketball. Thankfully for Jayhawk fans, he was hooked on the sport
“I liked basketball because you play more games, which gave me more chances to compete,” he explained.
The tall, stringy kid from Memphis needed a place to elevate his game. Enter in his second family, Team Thad. Coached by Norton Hurd, who happens to share a birthday with Vick, Team Thad provided Vick with a core group of friends to grow up with and around. Joining at the age of 12, Vick spent his formative years traveling the country playing a sport he loves with people he stills talks to everyday.
Not only did Team Thad play all over the country, but the team consistently “played up” against older competition. Highlights of his time with Team Thad include winning a U17 tournament in Pittsburgh at age 17 and playing in New York City with the opportunity to do some shopping in America’s largest city.
Though the travel made it impossible for LaLa to attend all of her son’s games, she did everything she could to support Team Thad.
“She was a huge supporter of me,” Vick remembered. “She came to all my (local) games and was involved in fundraisers for my team.”
His Team Thad family consisted of teammates Terence Davis and Nick Marshall, who now play for Memphis and Ole Miss, respectively. The trio knew college would test their relationship.
“We knew we couldn’t go to the same college because it would be tough,
(we) play the same position,” Vick said.
Despite the distance between schools, the former AAU teammates make sure to keep up with each other. Through basketball, Vick was able to find another family in Team Thad. Now, he believes he found an additional family in Kansas, though KU was not always the clear choice for him.
Vick set out on his college search with one goal in mind, to find a place where he could not only develop his basketball skills, but also grow into a man. His family believed that looking at out-of-state schools was the best place to start.
“I did not want him to stay in Memphis at all. I wanted him to make his own life as a young man. I don’t think you can grow up around here when you see momma’s face all the time,” LaLa said. “I wanted him to go out and then grow up and be a man.”
Vick, initially a member of the class of 2016, first verbally committed to Southern Methodist University. Staff turnover at SMU caused him to reconsider his commitment and open it back up. Kansas was among a bevy of schools that pined for the athletic guard. Head coach Bill Self and assistant Jerrance Howard’s honesty and connection to Vick helped seal the deal for Kansas. It only helped that Kansas had a tremendous basketball tradition and some of the nicest people around.
“I liked the history. I was really cool with Jerrance (Howard) and when I came on my visit they made me feel like I was home,” Vick said.
When he committed to Kansas, Vick had no idea that he would be gaining a valuable friend in his roommate and fellow freshman Bragg. All shoes must come in pairs.
“We didn’t know each other. When I committed, he committed a couple of weeks after,” Bragg said. “He then DM’d me and we’ve been friends ever since.”
The pair has become inseparable in their short time together. As roommates, they provide critiques on each other’s wardrobes so that they can look their best when leaving McCarthy Hall. Sometimes they even match. Living together, attending the same classes and facing the same challenges adjusting to Division I basketball have forged an extremely strong bond between the two.
Residents of Topeka can see a pair of their favorite Jayhawks in Vick and Bragg at the roller-skating rink on Sunday nights. The two have made it a weekly tradition and enjoy the fun activity that helps them stay in shape. Though the two disagree on who is the better skater, the weekly trip to Topeka has helped forged a brotherly bond between the duo.
The addition of the two buddies to a roster already filled with talent and experience has Jayhawks’ expectations high for this year. Like a scuffmark on Naismith Court, Vick hopes to leave a mark on Kansas basketball history by leaving a piece of his soul on the court every time he plays.
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