Kansas basketball coach Bill Self handed Svi Mykhailiuk a microphone and asked the junior guard from Ukraine to lead his teammates in a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for 20 of the 400 attendees at Wednesday’s Ladies Night Out cancer benefit in Allen Fieldhouse.
“We all like Svi’s accent. We’ll let Svi start it,” Self said to laughter from the women seated in the lower northwest bleachers of KU’s tradition-rich building.
“I am not really a good singer. I guess I had to do it,” Mykhailiuk said later, smiling while signing basketballs and T-shirts and taking pictures with fans.
“Coach was happy. He was funny like he always is,” Mykhailiuk added of Self emceeing a question-and-answer session involving the players, coaches and attendees.
The women shuffled to different stations, including one in the weight room with strength coach Andrea Hudy, one in Hadl Auditorium with Self “breaking down” tape and another in the press room where they could take pictures next to Big 12 title trophies and the 2008 NCAA title trophy.
“We’re excited about this group. We have all the pieces, we’ve just got to get them to fit,” Self told the audience. “We’ve probably never had a better group of individuals, young men to work with than now. They will make you proud and us proud.”
Self was more critical when speaking with reporters about a team scrimmage on Sunday — the first scrimmage of the preseason with actual refs.
“We did not look good at all,” Self said, noting the Jayhawks have played “better” as the week has progressed. “It was a great teaching tape because the guys saw how poorly we executed and really how we didn’t play with nearly as much effort as I thought we would. It wasn’t very good. We’re certainly a lot better than we looked that day. That tape was pretty eye-opening for a lot of our guys because we didn’t look like a good team in our first scrimmage.”
He said the problems were, “paying attention to detail. I thought we played cool. We are not playing selfishly but when a guy holds it a half count too long or the ball wasn’t moving … then we went 1-on-1 when things didn’t go well,” Self added, comparing the scrimmage to last year’s 74-63 loss at West Virginia.
“At the end we played better but all we did was just play ‘take ’em’ and went 1-on-1. Even though we made it competitive it still wasn’t real ball. I think we’ve got to get our guys to understand that,” Self added.
Self singled out transfer guard Malik Newman when asked if anybody in the scrimmage resembled a “natural scorer.”
“He can score. He did it pretty well the whole time,” Self said of Newman putting the ball in the basket.
Asked about the freshmen, Self said they “are getting more comfortable. Udoka (Azubuike) has probably made more progress than anybody since he’s been starting (to play after missing time with a strained groin). He has to get in better shape. Missing Boot Camp hurt him. Josh (Jackson) I think is getting more comfortable every day.”
Of guards Devonté Graham and Frank Mason, Self said: “Well, they’re studs. You take great pride in everybody getting up to their ceiling. I’d say their ceiling is far higher than we thought it was probably when we recruited them. NBA people come around here. They’re saying, ‘We like your guards a lot. Things are going to have to go right for them (to make league).’ But as far as college guards and experience and toughness, I mean there’s nobody out there that’s more experienced or tougher than what these two are,” Self added.
Stiff back sidelines Bragg
KU sophomore forward Carlton Bragg missed Wednesday’s practice because of tightness in his back.
“He had back spasms or whatever. It just locked up on him,” Self said, noting the injury was not believed to be anything serious.
Self, who has filled one scholarship in recruiting (Dallas combo guard Marcus Garrett), was asked how he feels about KU’s pursuit of top players as the November early signing period nears.
“I don’t think we’re worried, but we hope we’ll be getting good news here before too long on some guys,” Self said. “The majority of guys we’re recruiting the hardest … they haven’t made decisions yet. We’re just kind of hanging in there.”
KU has three scholarships available for players in the Class of 2017, more if any non-seniors turn pro.
The event at a glance
The Ladies Night Out event benefits “Jayhawks for a Cure,” with all proceeds donated to Lawrence Memorial Hospital and the KU Cancer Center in an effort to fund cancer research. Some of the event’s attendees are cancer survivors.
“The ladies seem like they are into it. This is for a great cause,” Self said.