Coach Bill Self entered Kansas’ basketball practice facility at 6 a.m. sharp Friday, his players wrapping up 10 minutes of stretching exercises prior to the start of Boot Camp.
“I thought the media slept until noon,” Self said, acknowledging a group of reporters invited to watch the Jayhawks’ fifth early-morning Boot Camp conditioning session of the week.
“You guys must be bored at home,” Self added, smiling.
Self, in his 14th year with KU, huddled with his players at center court and had senior Landen Lucas provide an inspirational message followed by two minutes of jump roping that initiated 50 minutes of non-stop player movement highlighted by 20 minutes worth of suicide sprints (up and down the court).
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“Let’s knock it out. We’re here,” Self said, firing up his Jayhawks, some who arrived as early as 5:15 a.m., for ankle taping.
The players, who finished the last of several suicides at 6:53 a.m., “knocked it out” of the park — or at least to the coach’s satisfaction.
“They did great. They are trying hard,” Self stated after the final Boot Camp session of the week. The Jayhawks will be awarded Saturday and Sunday off, then continue Monday through Thursday in advance of Late Night in the Phog, set for Oct. 1.
“It may be hard to beat Lagerald (Vick), and Svi (Mykhailiuk) is in great shape, too,” Self added when asked to name a first-week MVP. “I don’t know if I have an MVP. They’ve all done pretty well.”
Asked what 6-foot-5 sophomore guard Vick did to stand out, Self said: “Quickness, staying in stance, being able to recover quickly, not worrying about where the finish line is, just going as hard as you can knowing you will eventually get there, whereas some guys worry about the finish line so they pace themselves. I think those are some things.”
Some of the Jayhawks looked as if they could run all day.
“We’ve got some veterans without question. If you look out there, some of our young guys are leading, too,” Self said. “Josh (Jackson, freshman guard) and Mitch (Lightfoot, freshman forward) are in unbelievable condition. Lagerald has been great. He didn’t have a great day today. He’s probably been as good as anybody we have. It’s nice to have Devonté (Graham, junior guard) and Frank (Mason, senior guard) out there, without question.”
Self said the “only negative” is the fact freshman forward Udoka Azubuike and redshirt sophomore guard Malik Newman had to be held out of conditioning Friday because of minor injuries. Liberty transfer Evan Maxwell, a junior power forward who hustled hard during the suicide portion of Boot Camp, had to sit out the final couple sprints ostensibly because of exhaustion. Boot Camp drills traditionally are tougher on the bigs, who have more weight to carry around.
“Malik’s back tightened up on him. He can’t go. Hopefully he’ll be able to go Monday and ‘Doke has a groin strain we’ve been told to be cautious with,” Self said. “Nothing serious. Those guys were doing really well, also, especially ‘Doke until he got nicked up. Hopefully we’ll get through next week without any further injuries and hopefully get those guys back on the court soon.”
As far as what basically happened during Friday’s 50-minute session … there was pretty much non-stop movement with players many times either sprinting or running up to coaches or managers, getting in a defensive stance for a moment, then continuing their sprinting.
Assistant coach Jerrance Howard at one point led a drill in which players shuffled and darted to whichever spot of the court he pointed to.
“Boy, I’m glad I don’t have to go through this any more,” said Howard, who participated in Self’s Boot Camp as a player at University of Illinois.
Players such as Lucas, Carlton Bragg and Tyler Self on Friday often shouted words of encouragement to the squad.
“Touch the line!” Tyler Self screamed when one player did not, forcing the squad to run a penalty sprint.
“Carlton … that comes natural to him,” Bill Self said of leading vocally. “Frank’s not real vocal but Devonté is, Landen is, Carlton is and Josh is and Lagerald is not bad. I think we’ve got better talkers than we’ve had in the past, maybe just because they are a little older.”
Jackson, the No. 1 prospect in the country according to Rivals.com and 247sports.com (No. 2 by ESPN.com) arrived with a reputation as a competitive player who sorely wants to win.
“Josh hasn’t surprised us in any way other than he is what they said he was from a competitive standpoint,” said Self, who showed his fiery side at one point of Boot Camp, yelling to the players: “This is where you win games, in the final five minutes. Everybody do their jobs!”
At the conclusion of Friday’s Boot Camp, at 6:53 a.m., Self cautioned the players to make sure to attend class. As to what was in store for the coach, he noted: “I might go home and nap. I’ll probably eat.”
Late Night to be crowded
KU will be bringing in five uncommitted seniors to the upcoming Late Night in the Phog, plus various underclassmen.
So far, those seniors who will attend are: Collin Sexton, 6-1 point guard from Pebblebrook High in Mableton, Ga., ranked No. 7 nationally by Rivals.com; Billy Preston, 6-9 forward from Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va., ranked No. 8; Troy Brown, 6-6 shooting guard from Las Vegas Centennial, ranked No. 12; Cody Riley, 6-7 forward, Sierra Canyon High, Chatsworth, Calif., ranked No. 34; and Tremont Waters, 5-11 point guard from Notre Dame High in West Haven, Conn., ranked No. 36.
Marcus Garrett, a 6-5 combo guard from Dallas Skyline, who has committed to KU, will attend on an unofficial visit. He’s ranked No. 37 overall.
“We do it every year,” Self said of bringing in a horde of recruits. “I think we’ve got … we probably have too many coming. That’s kind of how it’s worked out. We will have many unofficials too. It’ll be a busy weekend.”