Svi Mykhailiuk has devised a plan to make sure he’s on time for 6 a.m. Bill Self Boot Camp conditioning workouts in Kansas’ basketball practice facility adjacent to Allen Fieldhouse.
“Set five alarms,” said the Jayhawks’ junior guard, who would rather be safe than sorry — or in this case, tardy.
Mykhailiuk and his KU teammates will rise before the sun Monday for the first of nine or 10 Boot Camp workouts of the 2016-17 preseason.
There will be hourlong sprints, backboard touches, defensive slides and jumping rope with no basketballs in sight Monday through Friday. After two days off, the Jayhawks will gather again Sept. 26 through either the 29th or 30th, depending on 14th-year coach Self’s assessment of the proceedings. Monday’s session actually starts at 7. Every other one starts at the usual 6.
“It’s kind of hard waking up every morning, but we need it as far as conditioning,” Mykhailiuk said. “It’s hard every year, but I mean if you are in good shape it will not be that hard. I think everybody is ready.”
Boot Camp often is hardest on those players who have never been through it before — in this case freshmen Udoka Azubuike, Josh Jackson and Mitch Lightfoot, transfers Evan Maxwell and Malik Newman and new walk-on Tucker Vang.
“We talk about it in the locker room with all the guys that have been through it,” said freshman forward Lightfoot. “They’ve told us tales of how Boot Camp can be. It can be difficult but we’re going to get through it and we’re going to become better athletes and in better shape.”
Sophomore Lagerald Vick has conversed with 7-foot, 275-pound freshman Azubuike about the challenge of making it through early-morning drills.
“I told ’Doke about it. … ‘Act like you are going hard, even though you probably can’t go as hard as everybody else. Just try to put in the effort. It’s going to be tough,’ ” Vick said.
Vick knows that from his first Boot Camp experience.
“It was kind of different. Coming from high school it was kind of tough, but I just had to go with it, just the grind of the program,” said the 6-5 Memphis Douglass High grad. “The hardest part was probably the last couple days because they expect more energy because you are starting to get in better shape.”
The running doesn’t necessarily worry the 6-8 Lightfoot as, like Vick, he also is a guy who is known for his ability to get up and down the floor.
“It’s generally what I happen to be good at. Running is my thing. I’ve got to be able to go up and down,” said Lightfoot, who also has taken a positive outlook toward awakening so early in the a.m.
“It’ll be OK for me because I like getting better,” Lightfoot said. “That’s going to help me get better, so I’ll be up in the morning ready to work out.”
Fifth-year senior guard Tyler Self said sleep — or lack of it — has to be considered a major issue during Boot Camp.
“You are scared you are going to oversleep so you wake up at all hours of the night. You have to try to relax and get ready for it mentally,” Self said.
Self said that instead of scaring the freshmen, the Jayhawk returnees warn them about possible pitfalls. If somebody messes up an exercise or misses a standard during a timed drill, everybody pays the price with extra running.
“We talk about getting ready for our jump-rope stuff because if you miss it turns into a sprint,” Tyler Self said. “We try to limit how many misses we get. The new guys typically come in never having really jump-roped before. We talk about it. That’s about it. The rest … they are athletes. They can handle it. It’s just between the ears.”
Jumping rope actually can be fun, some say.
“I used to jump like 2,000 (reps) a day. I’m pretty good at it,” said sophomore forward Carlton Bragg, who spent the weekend leading up to Boot Camp representing KU at the NCAA Leadership Development’s Elite Student-Athlete Symposium in Indianapolis. “I look forward to Boot Camp to get me in tip top shape for the season.”
Legend has it Boot Camp is one of the toughest assignments of the school year.
“It’s tough. It’s all mental. … Well, also physical,” said NBA veteran Cole Aldrich. “It’s what makes coach Self’s teams really good. They are always mentally strong.”
The best thing about Boot Camp, the players say, is it’s a sign that the season is quickly approaching.
Boot Camp precedes the Oct. 1 Late Night in the Phog, which is the official start of preseason practice. After that event, Self will award the players three days off before beginning a regular practice routine Oct. 5.
“Boot Camp kind of gets it all initiated, gets us ready to play and ready to go,” Lightfoot said. “I don’t think you can find a person in Lawrence, Kan., who doesn’t want the season here now.”
The best thing about Boot Camp from a coach’s standpoint?
“Same as always. Getting our guys in the best condition as possible,” Bill Self said. “Get them to be a little more responsible, tougher and rely on each other, become a closer team. You accomplish some toughness things together, some things we draw from every year in February, March. It gives us an air of toughness we can get through things and it’s a great method of teaching defensive slides and things like that.”