Bill Self received a special visit on Friday when former Kansas guard Elijah Johnson stopped by Allen Fieldhouse to catch up with his old coach.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
Johnson, who graduated this past May, was all set to leave for a professional opportunity in Poland, and he wanted to say goodbye to his old friends on campus.
But for Self, the brief moments of nostalgia helped crystallize a thought that’s been running through his mind all summer. KU is all set to replace five starters with a loaded cache of freshman talent. But while the roster oozes with promise and potential — and the team will certainly look amazing getting off the bus — Self is still being cautious about expectations with his young Jayhawks.
“It’ll be hard for next year’s team to win as many games as this year’s team,” Self said on Friday night while making a stop at the eighth annual KU Kickoff at Corinth Square in Prairie Village. “If you stop and think about what last year’s team did, winning 31 out of 37, we got our work cut out for us. But it’s a talented bunch.”
Self said that sophomore forward Perry Ellis and freshman guard Wayne Selden were the team’s most consistent performers during full-squad workouts this summer. And freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins also had the chance to get acclimated to his surroundings during an extended stay in Lawrence.
Wiggins returned home to Thornhill, Ontario, in July, Self said, and he’ll spend the rest of the summer working out at home before returning for the start of fall classes.
“He was able to finish up his (summer) class work,” Self said, “but since he’s been home, we’ve trusted him to work on his own.”
The official start of basketball practice will begin earlier this year, with new NCAA rules allowing teams to begin practice in late September, and Self says he’s anxious to get back on the floor.
“These guys have been absolutely great,” Self said. “They work and they’re not scared to work, and for a bunch of freshmen, they probably impressed me as much with their work ethic as anything else. So it’s gonna be a fun group to coach.”
Weis delivers message
It was year two for Charlie Weis at the annual football kickoff, and this time, he focused his efforts on gaining support and spreading optimism.
“As disappointed as I was in how things went last year, I think the one thing with football is everyone starts 0-0,” Weis said. “You’re not 1-11 anymore, you’re 0-0, and I think that each season gives you an opportunity to make a different statement.”
Junior running back Tony Pierson, a focal point of the Jayhawks’ offense, was conspicuously absent from practice on Friday, along with transfer receiver Rodriguez Coleman.
Weis didn’t disclose the specific reasons for Pierson’s absence, but it appears that the junior speedster is battling some sort of injury.
“It’s training camp, you get people banged up in training camp,” Weis said. “If there was any earth-shattering news, I’d let you guys know. They weren’t the only guys not out there, they were just the two that you noticed weren’t out there. So realistically, people get banged up in training camp, and you hold them. Sometimes it’s precautionary; sometimes because they need a few days to (recuperate).”