Kansas coach Bill Self didn’t need to see much of Rome to come away impressed.
Following a nine-hour flight from Chicago, the Kansas men’s basketball team took a brief bus tour — including a stop at the Circus Maximus ancient chariot track — before arriving at the Westin Rome team hotel just before 2 p.m. local time Tuesday.
“We drove around the most famous city square and saw supposedly where ‘Ben Hur’ was filmed,” Self said. “We didn’t really get a chance to see the Colosseum or the Vatican yet. It was off in the distance. But it’s unbelievable. It’s unbelievable how much history and how old everything is.”
Self was admittedly jet lagged following the long travel day. He encouraged his guys to sleep on the plane so they could try to stay awake most of Tuesday while adjusting to the seven-hour time difference.
That plan fell through — for a majority of the players and coaches.
“For those of us who didn’t sleep much on the plane, we’re pretty wiped out,” Self said with a smile.
Ideally, Self said he preferred that his players would stay up until 8 or 9 p.m. local time before going to bed, hoping that would help them rest before the team’s exhibition opener Wednesday night against Stella Azzurra (11:30 a.m. central time).
One bit of good news for KU: The team will enter this week’s four-game tour with a healthy roster. Sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot will be the only one affected by injury, as he will wear a mask on his face after suffering a broken nose in practice last month.
Guard Svi Mykhailiuk, who has been playing for his native Ukraine this summer, also joined the team in Rome, meeting up with his team for a scheduled lunch Tuesday.
Billy Preston cleared
CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein reported Monday that KU freshman forward Billy Preston had been “fully cleared” by the NCAA.
Self said Tuesday that the team had not anticipated any issues with Preston’s eligibility.
“With a majority of highly recruited guys that we’ve recruited, it takes awhile for the amateurism stuff to get cleared,” Self said. “His was finalized just here recently.”
Preston, who is Rivals’ 10th-ranked prospect, attended three high schools before finishing up his senior season at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.
“We didn’t have anything that would make us think that there could be an issue, but there’s so many things that could potentially happen with these youngsters through contacts and through people wanting to get close to them when they’re young,” Self said. “They (Eligibility Center officials) have to vet all that. Fortunately, nothing came of it. But we knew academically he’s been cleared for awhile.”
Self indicated Tuesday that KU is unlikely to fill its final scholarship this season that was opened up by forward Jack Whitman’s decision to leave the program.
“We’ve got to keep recruiting, but mainly for 2018. That’s where we’ve got to keep recruiting,” Self said. “We come off the road, and now, everyone’s lining up unofficial visits and official visits. We’ll be doing a lot of that — (assistants) Norm (Roberts) and Kurtis (Townsend) and Jerrance (Howard) and myself will be doing a lot of that.
“As far as a 2017 kid who’s eligible right now, something would have to fall in our lap. We’ve got feelers out, but it’d have to be a unique situation.”
KU’s current roster has nine eligible scholarship players for 2017-18, and that includes guard Sam Cunliffe, who must sit out the first semester because of transfer rules.