Gradey Dick is Ready for the Next Step in His Journey at Kansas

Gradey Dick is Ready for the Next Step in His Journey at Kansas

Wherever there’s a hoop, you’ll find find Gradey Dick. 

“My dad instilled that in me at a young age. If I haven’t found a place, he’s probably already found five,” he tells SLAM with a laugh. 

As one of the newest faces on the Kansas Jayhawks roster, Dick has been residing in Lawrence, KS, since mid-May and joins our Friday morning Zoom call from the stairwell of the Forrest and Sally Hoglund Practice Facility. Not a hint of fatigue can be found in his voice despite the team having just wrapped up their morning conditioning workout. After our call, he’ll run to get changed for a 9 a.m. practice, a hint at a schedule rife with constant movement and few breaks. If you’re privy to Kansas’ style of play, you know it’s fitting. Cutting, screening away, initiating dribble-handoffs, there’s never a stagnant body on the court. 

“It’s a lot of stuff you gotta actually be in shape for from day one,” Gradey says. 

Over the dog days of summer, the 18-year-old’s typical schedule on The Hill consisted of an hour and a half of lift followed by practice, then immediately transitioning to getting his allotted amount of makes for the day. 

But, Gradey’s father, Bart, adds over Zoom: “I think Monday morning got real.” 

On September 12th, the program’s inaugural two-week bootcamp began. It consisted of less than a handful of drills that involved an actual basketball. Physical exhaustion is the goal. The coaching staff set on preparing their roster for the mental fortitude required when an inevitable wave of fatigue hits down the stretch. 

“It started off more in my mind that the toughest thing was just the physicality of a college workout in the weight room and then going from that straight into the gym,” Gradey explains, plagued by all hoopers’ fear of noodle arms post-lift.

Instead, the opposite took hold. “It got my body ready for practice and helped in my favor.” 

The 6-7 forward has found comfort within his role rather swiftly, saying Kansas coach Bill Self sees him mirroring the scoring roles of now-Utah Jazz rookie Ochai Agbaji and Denver Nuggets guard Christian Braun. It’s an exciting sentiment for Dick to relish in, but he knows his early struggles are bound to surface soon enough. 

“They’re always gonna come no matter what stage I’m at in my career, but just [got] to remember that it’s going to get better and I’m just doing what I do,” Gradey says. 

Ranked the No. 14 recruit in the Class of 2022 by ESPN, the Naismith POY semi-finalist is more than seasoned when it comes to being tested and overcoming obstacles. The John Lucas Camp in Houston, Dallas Pro Stars, Compton Magic, Atlanta Celtics, Junior adidas Gauntlet and Jr. NBA World Championships are all well-versed in the scintillating shooting and pure scoring ability in Gradey’s game. Mind you, the aforementioned teams were all lit up before he reached 
high school. 

From the minute he woke up to the minute he went to bed, a young Gradey was constantly filled with energy, his mother Carmen recalls. With three older siblings—separated by 10, eight and four years—“he had to keep up, and he did,” she says. In order to succeed in scoring over his towering brothers and their collective friends,” Carmen says. “He couldn’t get inside, so he had to learn to hit the longshots.” 

“To fit in, he had to be creative,” Bart adds. 

Going up against the duo of Kennedy Chandler and Kendall Brown in practice every day in his junior year at Sunrise Christian in Wichita, and Mark Williams thereafter, helped further strengthen Gradey’s game for the next level. 

In his senior season, he averaged 18.3 ppg and 5.2 rpg while shooting 51.3 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from beyond the arc. A sharp shooter indeed. 

Creativity on the hardwood flows through the family’s bloodline. Gradey’s lanky frame comes by way of his mother, who played at Iowa State and subsequently a year overseas. Where his natural shot-making ability comes from is well-known, but Bart continues to hype his wife up, who would often go 15-15 from the stripe and shoot a clean 63 percent from the field.

“She’s very focused, and I think Gradey gets that from her,” says Bart. “She takes a few things and does them crazy well, and I think that’s where Gradey got that.” 

A 1980 graduate of KU—after pursuing football and baseball in his early college years—Bart sewed the roots for his family’s connection to the Sunflower State. The two-hour drive from Wichita to Lawrence was a regular occurrence when Gradey was a kid, especially when his oldest sister was on the rowing team. Now as the fourth sibling to attend the school, he’s determined to make his own mark. 

“He’s not gonna shy away from anything. And he gets determined when something happens, it’s like a light goes off and he goes to a different level,” Bart says. 

Coach Self also had his own plans for the freshman once he got on campus, telling KJ Adams to make his life hard, Bart tells us. And while the physicality of the college level took a bit of adjusting to, as far as KU’s social media footage shows, that period has come and gone. 

When Gradey was 7 years old, Carmen was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The youngest of four picked up a multitude of responsibilities around the house as he watched his mother battle through chemotherapy and numerous rounds of radiation that diminished her strength. Gradey’s maturity and discipline fostered rapidly at a young age, witnessing his mother’s strength and courage as the two read bedtime stories back and forth each night. 

“I think that molded Gradey in some different ways to not take things for granted,” Bart says. “I don’t think that’s lost on him.” 

Among a constant stream of NIL opportunities, an Olympic Gold medal and most recently joining the reigning champs officially in May, his experience when his mom was sick is just one of the many reasons why he’s focused on investing in the futures of kids who’ve shared his same situation. To that end, Gradey chose the South Central Kansas Boys & Girls Club as the location to announce his signing with WME Sports for representation. And when he won the Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year award, twice, he chose to give the award’s donation to the local Boys & Girls Club he visited back in May. 

“It’s a pretty special thing to think that your child can help make someone’s life a little better,” Carmen says. 

“[God], He gave me these blessings, so I’m gonna do my best to make Him proud, my family proud and make Kansas proud,” Gradey says. 

“He’s not afraid to be himself, and he’s just there as a freshman,” his father continues. “And he can be goofy as all getup,” Carmen interjects. 

With over 85,000 Instagram followers and a TikTok page boasting an additional 54.5K, Gradey’s already poised to succeed amidst the NIL era, allowing him the space to tap into his exuberant and uplifting nature around the team, as well as to connect with Jayhawks fans. 

Are the fruit reviews, dance trends and Michael Myers chasing videos a little goofy? Maybe. But, “It’s smart in the way that we go at it because we understand it’s going to draw attention if we do something sillier than usual,” Gradey explains. Over 2.2 million likes on his page validates that beyond belief. 

Dick, along with redshirt junior Jalen Wilson, roommate MJ Rice and the rest of the squad that pack into the 16:9 frame of the video, the Kansas basketball team is providing—scratch that—inviting Rock Chalk Nation to engage with them in a fresh and interactive way. 

“I like making people feel better, laugh and most of them make me laugh when I make ’em. So, yeah, I’ll incorporate a little basketball stuff into them, but at the same time it’s more so of an escape,” Gradey says. 

Tucked away in the main verse of Rod Wave’s opening track to his third studio album, SoulFly, are five words Gradey Dick has kept at the forefront of his mind as he moves into the next chapter of his journey. 

“…play the hand you dealt.” 

Carmen and Bart’s sacrifices, getting beat up on the blacktop by his siblings, his circuit-tested nature and naturally his proven ability to pour it in the cup among the best of them, been part of the hand that Gradey’s been playing his entire life. 

“I was given, fortunately, all these blessings in my life, and that’s kind of my hand, and I’m trying to do the best I can do with it and glorify God while I’m doing it,” Gradey says. 

During his official dorm move-in in June, he received one last offering of motivation. In the top drawer of his dresser lay a note written by former Jayhawk Ochai Agbaji. “Whoever takes over this room, be great,” he read aloud to his parents. 

One of the most famed courts in college is about to see it. 

Photos courtesy of Getty Images, Sunrise Christian and the Dick Family.

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