Bill Self’s 15th Kansas basketball Boot Camp begins at 6:15 a.m. sharp Monday in the Jayhawks’ practice facility adjacent to Allen Fieldhouse.
“I’d say our players are going to dread probably the next couple of weeks,” KU hoops coach Self said Sunday night, just a few hours before he was to head to bed in advance of a busy Monday.
He will head out recruiting after Monday’s first of nine 50- to 60-minute up-before-dawn conditioning sessions.
“But this is a great team bonding time,” Self quickly added. “Certainly, all Boot Camps bring our team closer together, and I’m sure this one will.”
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Self said all of his players are healthy enough to compete in Boot Camp drills, which consist of sprints, defensive slides and backboard touches.
“It’s probably more (conditioning) than most have gone through, of course it’s not anything they can’t get through,” said Self, who has held Boot Camp at KU, Illinois, Tulsa and Oral Roberts.
“Through all the drill work they get their bodies in shape, also their feet in shape,” he added.
It’s not just a physical activity.
“It’s kind of a mental thing we put our guys through,” said Self, who points out that Boot Camp does not end just after 7 a.m. conditioning. The players leave the gym ready to tackle a morning of classes on campus and afternoons of weight lifting, individual drills and pick-up basketball games.
“For two weeks anything goes basically. Whether it’s a 5 a.m. wakeup call for workouts to afternoon-type things, to if you are a minute late to tutoring or if you are a minute late for class. Anything goes. Whatever we say that two weeks they can’t argue with us,” Self said.
“What it does is create an element of more than team toughness, they are pulling together. You get to the point (during the season) they say, ‘Guys we didn’t do this for nothing.’ Even though other teams may do it, it gives us a source of pride. I think it has been a great team building experience for us.”
All the drills at Boot Camp conditioning are without the use of a basketball. Players receive no breaks at all, except to quickly gulp down water at various junctures.
Self told a humorous story about sophomore big man Udoka Azubuike’s first Boot Camp.
“We have them do 22s, down and back twice, 22s,” Self said. “I told Doke he had to run his in 17 (seconds). He ran it in 17. All the players started looking at him like, ‘That wasn’t very smart, Doke.’
“I said, ‘Hey Doke. I’m proud of you. I mean you showed us something. The bad news is now I know what your time is every time you run,’ ” added Self, who made sure to hold Azubuike to the 17-second standard.
Though big men sometimes struggled at Boot Camp — one year forward Darrell Arthur ripped off his sweat-soaked top in order to shed as much weight as possible for the exhausting sprints — it’s no picnic for any of the players.
“It’s definitely easier on the guards,” said former KU guard Tyrel Reed, who annually finished first in most of the sprint drills in his four Boot Camps at KU. “We are used to starting and stopping/changing directions all the time and that’s all the agility and sprint work was.”
Former KU big man Landen Lucas, who is playing pro ball in Japan this season after enduring five Boot Camps at KU, is happy his Boot Camp days are over.
“It sucks,” Lucas said simply of Boot Camp. “But as you go through more and more of them you realize how important it is and how much the little things in Boot Camp come into play in a game where there is a pressure situation and you have to pull it together. You get together (on court) and say, ‘This is nothing. When we were on No. 15 of the 22s, that was something.’ ”
Lucas will forever have a lasting Boot Camp memory.
“This was my freshman year,” he said. “I just got there and our first day of Boot Camp we didn’t do well in the morning. Coach said, ‘That doesn’t count. Come back tonight and we’ll do it all over again.’ We walked in the gym. He was yelling about how tough it’d be. We thought he’d gone crazy. We got through it. It was funny seeing a different level of him.”
KU senior Svi Mykhailiuk last year reminded the current newcomers that Boot Camp is easier if the players are on their best behavior once the morning conditioning drills conclude.
Players have to run penalty sprints if they are late for class or tutoring or weights during the day.
“Don’t be late for classes. Be on time. Try to do everything right. It’s hard every year but if you do that you are in pretty good shape,” Mykhailiuk said.
Boot Camp will run Monday through Friday. The players rest on Saturday and Sunday, and gather again Monday through Thursday, Sept. 28. The players will then take a day off in preparation for the Sept. 30 Late Night in the Phog.