LAWRENCE — There were two moments that came to mind Friday, as Gradey Dick reflected on the trip he’d taken to California that week.
Dick, who’ll be a freshman for the Kansas Jayhawks this college basketball season, pointed first to getting his outfit fitted by Dolce & Gabbana after he arrived last Saturday. He’d flown out to attend an award show recognizing the Gatorade high school athletes of the year, which he was for boys basketball, and the ESPYs. There was just something about seeing all the designer items around him.
The second, and ultimately most impactful, was when he got seated for the ESPYs and watched the preview video that was shown prior to the event starting at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. Among the celebrities he saw that night was Stephen Curry, who plays basketball in the NBA for the Golden State Warriors and hosted the event. Dick spoke with Grant Williams, who plays in the NBA for the Boston Celtics, too.
RELATED:NBA summer league: Here’s how former Kansas basketball players performed in Las Vegas
For Dick, who returned Thursday, the two moments together exemplified just how special that week was for him. Once more, ahead of his first season at Kansas, he was able to celebrate what he accomplished during his high school career. And it’s something he’ll doubt enjoy looking back on in the future.
“I’ve told my parents, a bunch of just different people, that this week’s been one I’ll never forget,” Dick said. “Obviously, this is my first ever ESPYs and first time ever walking the red carpet. … Everything was just so, like, professionally done.”
Dick added: “Yeah, definitely just one of the best weeks of my life in the sports award-wise.”
Dick would have thought he was crazy, had he told himself a few years ago he’d have the opportunity he just experienced. It’s not that he’s surprised that all the work he’s put in has paid off. It’s that it’s surreal to actually have been there in the moment.
Other than Kiki Rice, Gatorade’s girls basketball player of the year, Dick didn’t really know the other high school stars all that well. He was able to spend time with them over the course of the trip there. At times, the experience led him to think about what might be possible for him in the future.
“It’s hard not to when you see all those celebrities that are already at that level, in front of you on the red carpet, and just seeing where they’re at,” Dick said. “Those are definitely my goals growing up, to play in the NBA, as a kid. So, yeah, it’s just hard not to think about it. But, yeah, like what I always say is just, I have a ton of people in my corner that kind of keep my head on straight and help me focus on what’s at hand.”
What’s at hand, right now, is Dick preparing for his freshman season with the Jayhawks. That’s what he’s focusing on. He said he woke up early Friday morning for conditioning, and while he was in California he found time to work out, too.
There are always going to be challenges, adjusting to a new level of basketball. Developing the necessary time management is something Dick said has been tough in certain moments. But he also feels the chemistry he has with his coaches and teammates have helped things go smoothly, and that spending the past couple of years at Sunrise Christian Academy has prepared him well.
RELATED:Kansas men’s basketball releases full, non-conference slate of games for 2022-23 season
Whenever Dick joins a new team, he thinks there would be a couple of guys who keep to themselves. He hasn’t seen that at Kansas. He’s close with another freshman, his roommate MJ Rice, and redshirt junior Jalen Wilson, redshirt senior Kevin McCullar and sophomore Zach Clemence — the latter of whom Dick roomed with back at Sunrise Christian Academy while the two were there together.
“Obviously people have seen what I did in high school, but obviously it doesn’t matter anymore because everybody has a new slate,” said Dick, speaking to the role he could have with the Jayhawks. “Whatever coach needs for me to do to help the team win, because that’s what my goal is, is to get wins.
“So, in practice I’ve been playing a lot — just what I usually did in high school, with just the wing, shooting guard. I’m just kind of playing a versatile role around the court.”
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.