STILLWATER, Oklahoma — That 3-pointer at halftime Tuesday started Gradey Dick.
Up until that point Dick had had a quiet night offensively for Kansas basketball. The Jayhawks had kept pace on the road against Oklahoma State, but not because the freshman guard knocked down 3s. But then Dick was able to hit that bucket just before he blew the halftime buzzer, putting Kansas up 39-37, as he started a shooting streak that allowed the Jayhawks to win 87-76 against the Jayhawks. Cowboys.
And after the game, Kansas head coach Bill Self’s praise of the young star fit the moment and the season as a whole. Dick’s comedy is putting him into an argument that isn’t often done. I recognized it myself.
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“He’s the best freshman shooter I’ve ever had, so, hands down,” Self said. “So, we just need to get him more injections. But he’s the best freshman shooter he ever had, and we had some pretty good freshmen if you go back to (Joel) Embiid and (Andrew) Wiggins and those cats. So, I won’t tell.
“But as far as a freshman year goes, I’d put his freshman year up with pretty much anyone, any freshman we’ve ever had here, when you’re just talking about the year.”
Opposing fans again criticized Dick on Tuesday, occasionally pointing out what Self would describe as a unique surname. But Self said he thinks Dick has been hearing those songs since Dick was probably in the third, fourth or fifth grade. Self doesn’t think he bothers Dick, that Dick really likes it when it happens.
Dick, speaking moments earlier, shared a similar view. Dick even went so far as to say that he loves it. He explained that he likes to go to visiting arenas as “the hated one”.
Against Oklahoma State, Dick finished with 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field, 4-of-9 from behind the arc, and 2-of-3 from the free throw line. The career-high in points surpassed his 24 points on the road to Baylor, where he shot 8-of-13 from the field, 2-of-5 from behind the arc, and 6-of-6 from the free throw line, for his best mark in the Big 12 conferences.
He had an up-and-down time scoring throughout the conference, but after that game he was still averaging 14.7 points per game and shooting 42.7% on 3 for the entire season as his team’s second leading scorer.
“Keep trying to be consistent,” Dick said, speaking of the mindset he had coming out of halftime on Tuesday. “When I have an open shot, take it. So, I think that’s really the case. And I always say that, but only that short-term memory. I missed a couple of shots early on but I try not to let that affect me and it hasn’t.
Redshirt junior forward Jalen Wilson, who also praised Dick’s defense, added: “He did great. You guys have all seen all year that he has no conscience when it comes to shooting the ball, and that’s what makes a great shooter. He is confident. Every time he shoots the ball we think he’s going in, just like he thinks he’s going in. So having a freshman do that just shows confidence in him.
On Saturday, Dick will have another opportunity to rack up points against Baylor and potentially win this time. The Bears No. 9 (20-6, 9-4 in Big 12) are coming to Allen Fieldhouse with the goal of completing a regular season sweep of the Jayhawks. No. 7 Kansas (21-5, 9-4 in Big 12 play) will look to protect home field and pass Baylor in the bid for the Big 12 regular season championship.
Last year, the Jayhawks and the Bears shared the Big 12 regular season crown. Regardless of how Saturday’s game plays out, given the strength of the conference this year could certainly repeat itself. But Dick and his teammates aren’t preparing to fight to a tie, and Saturday is the first chance in these past five regular season games to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas athletics at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He is the National Sports Media Association Sportswriter of the Year for the state of Kansas for 2022. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.