Kansas’ basketball team parlayed its last summertime overseas adventure into a stellar 2015-16 season.
“I think it definitely helped. I think we were the 1-overall seed after that, that year,” KU coach Bill Self recalled of a Perry Ellis-led team that went 33-5 overall, 15-3 in the Big 12 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight, where the Jayhawks were ousted by Villanova.
Those results followed a gold-medal winning performance at the 2015 World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea. The Jayhawks went 8-0 — the last game an 84-77, two-overtime victory over Germany in the title contest on July 13, 2015.
“I do think it wore us out. I think we got tired in January. (Then) we kind of got our second wind. This isn’t going to be near as intense,” Self added.
The Jayhawks, who are allowed to practice 10 times in Lawrence prior to their upcoming week-long excursion to Italy, will play local all-star teams Aug. 2 and 3 in Rome and Aug. 5 and 6 in Milan. There will not be a tournament format, just four exhibition games on a trip that will be highlighted by several sightseeing outings.
“We had to go win over there,” Self said of the Jayhawks representing the United States in South Korea. “We practiced a month before we actually went over there (also winning two exhibition games against Canada at the Sprint Center and one vs. China in Korea). It was a six-week summer. This is just two to three days (of practice) a week for a four-week summer for us. It’ll be much more relaxing. It shouldn’t take away anything from the regular season.”
Self has never been to Italy.
“I’m excited to see the Vatican, obviously, and the Colosseum,” he said. “I’m sure there will be other things that will be some type of excursion that which we’ll go and enjoy. I hear it’s beautiful. I also hear it’s very hot. I’ll enjoy being with everyone.”
Self said the Jayhawks won’t know anything about the teams they’ll be playing heading into the trip. They’ll just show up for the opening tips.
“I think the biggest thing is you can kind of start developing your culture and how you are going to work (during the 2017-18 season),” Self said Tuesday, speaking to media before KU’s third pre-Italy trip practice. “I’m not saying this is going to help us win one more game or anything. You’d think if you do something in the summer you should probably be a week or two ahead when games start in November. That’s probably the extent of this.”
Sophomore guard Malik Newman said the trip will be valuable in terms of newcomers meshing with veterans.
“It’s more learning right now,” Newman said of practice. The former Mississippi State guard practiced a year ago but did not play in games in accordance with NCAA transfer rules. “Italy will be the same, a learning trip. It’s more learning than it is than the regular season. It (Italy) is a place I haven’t been. I’m excited about it. I’m pretty sure the team is excited about it. Whatever Italy has to offer, I’m ready to see it.”
Live recruiting period begins
KU’s coaches were set to hit the road Wednesday through Sunday as part of the “July live period” in recruiting. They’ll be covering the Nike EYBL Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C.; the Under Armour Association Finals in Atlanta; and adidas Gauntlet Finale in Spartanburg, S.C.
The No. 1 player in the country, Marvin Bagley, will be at Peach Jam, and the No. 2 prospect, Zion Williamson, at the adidas event. Basically all of the country’s top 50 prospects will be playing from Wednesday through Sunday of the next three weeks.
Bagley, a 6-10 senior from Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth, Calif., has a list of KU, Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, Arizona and USC. Williamson, a 6-6 senior from Spartanburg Day School, is considering KU, Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke and others.
Self said Tuesday that the Jayhawks, “are looking for everything. I think we could lose five or six guys. So we’ve got to sign big. We’ve got to sign little. We’ve got to sign point guard, tall wings. Recruiting-wise this is probably as important a year as we’ve had because potentially what we could lose this year.”
Summer league stats
▪ Former KU forward Cheick Diallo scored 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting (7-8 from the line) and grabbed eight rebounds in the New Orleans Pelicans’ 105-95 victory over Atlanta on Wednesday in the Las Vegas summer league.
▪ Ex-KU forward Landen Lucas scored five points and grabbed seven rebounds while playing 10 minutes in the Boston Celtics’ 88-83 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday. He was 3 of 6 from the line and 1 of 2 from the field. He had one block, three turnovers and no assists.
▪ Former KU forward Ellis had 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting (3 of 5 from three) with seven rebounds, three assists and two turnovers in Minnesota’s 78-76 win over Golden State on Tuesday.