Kansas’ basketball players have completed nine of 10 practices allowed by the NCAA in advance of next week’s trip to Rome and Milan, a trip that will feature four exhibition games against Italian all-star teams.
“We only have one left,” sophomore guard Malik Newman said Thursday of an upcoming practice Sunday that will lead into Monday morning’s departure for Rome. “They’ve been great, awesome. We’ve been in there competing, having fun, going hard, just trying to get ready for Italy. We don’t want to go to Italy and get embarrassed. We’ve been working hard.”
Newman is KU’s 6-foot-3 transfer from Mississippi State.
He was speaking Thursday at former Jayhawk Frank Mason’s one-day basketball camp for youths at Olathe Community Center. The camp shifts to Lawrence High on Friday and to Wichita Hoops on Saturday in Bel Aire, Kan.
“From what I’ve been seeing at practice,” Newman said of the Jayhawks’ practices. “I think we have a chance to be really good. For us all to come together as one and go and compete against another organization, I think that can do something for us.”
In Rome, the Jayhawks will play Stella Azzurra, a team consisting of 18 and 19 year olds from Rome clubs, at 11:30 a.m., Central time, Wednesday, at Honey Sports City. KU will face the Players Group, which consists of a team being organized by Vittorio Gallinari, father of NBA player Danilo Gallinari, at 11:30 a.m. at HSC.
The Jayhawks will again face the Players Group at noon Central time, Saturday, Aug. 5, at PalaSport Enrico Somaschini (PalaPorada) in Milan and take on Italy All Star A2 on Sunday, Aug. 6, also at noon Central at Pala Sport. The Italy All Star A2 squad will consist of players from the Lega Basket Serie (LBA) professional men’s basketball league from the A2 level.
To watch the games via live stream one must sign up to become FloPRO subscribers on FloHoops.com. The games also will be available on select stations across the Jayhawk IMG Radio Network (including KCTE-AM, 1510 and 99.3 FM).
On Thursday, current Kansas players Newman, Devonté Graham and Udoka Azubuike worked as counselors at Mason’s camp.
“I love Frank. He is like a big brother to me,” Newman said of Mason, college basketball’s consensus national player of the year and second-round draft pick of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings who has signed a two-year guaranteed deal worth $2,562,627.
“When I came in, he and Devonté did a great job taking me under their wings, making sure I was comfortable while I was here,” Newman added.
Mason on Thursday was named 2016-17 Big 12 co-male athlete of the year along with Texas swimmer Will Licon.
“Of course. I want to win everything that Frank won. He (ran) the table (on awards),” Newman said with a smile. “I think he deserves it. All the hard work he put in, all the countless hours that people didn’t even know about. He was always working.”
Mason, who signed autographs for about 100 youths after the morning session of his camp on Thursday, said he had fun on day one of a busy camp week.
“It’s been a great experience so far, spending time with the kids, giving back everything that was given to me,” Mason said. “It’s been fun so far. I’m looking forward to the next session.”
Self: ‘I don’t expect us to look great’
KU coach Bill Self commented on the Jayhawks’ practices and approach to the four exhibition games in Italy during an appearance Thursday on Kansas City radio station 810 WHB.
“There will be no scouting. There will be nothing like that. We won’t practice after we get there (Monday). We’ll just play in the games,” Self said. “Hopefully it will be a fun experience for the guys. Also we’ll get some ball out of it. When you can only practice 10 times … I don’t expect us to look great. I want to see our guys out there wearing the Kansas jersey where there’s a little bit of pressure and seeing how they react to game conditions.”
He noted the trip would be important for several Jayhawks.
“I think you’ve got some key guys, but the most key guys would be Udoka (Azubuike) who didn’t get a chance to play much at all last year before he was hurt (wrist surgery). He just got cleared a month ago and Mitch (Lightfoot) who had a small role last year, whose role will be increased this year and Malik Newman, who didn’t play last year but I feel he obviously will have a huge role for us. The freshmen … Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett, to me those would be the most important guys.”
Self told The Star on Thursday that sophomore forward Lightfoot has been cleared to practice and has been cleared to play in the games in Italy. He suffered a broken nose at practice earlier in the month, had surgery, and missed a couple weeks of contact drills and pickup games.
One scholarship remains open
KU has one scholarship to give in recruiting following graduate-transfer Jack Whitman’s July 19 decision to leave the team.
“There’s no reason for us to sign someone (for 2017-18 season) unless we think that person can help us and help us now,” Self said.
“If we don’t find that situation, of course we’ll hold it and see what we can do this upcoming year. There’s a couple of longshot or potential situations that may be something that could maybe develop into a possibility. We’ll just wait and see what happens. We’ve researched it. I’m not saying we know them all (prospects in Class of 2017 still available) by any stretch. The pool of players available right now is very, very small. A lot will depend if we can find the right fit and that would be the right fit for them,” Self added.
Marvin Bagley, the No. 1 prospect in the recruiting Class of 2018 has said he may reclassify and play college ball this season. He has a list of KU, Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, Arizona and USC. He is a 6-10 senior forward from Sierra Canyon High in Chatsworth, Calif. He has not yet scheduled a visit to KU.