Kansas coach Bill Self shook Fran Fraschilla’s hand and gave him a hearty hug after the ESPN analyst arrived at Self’s basketball fantasy camp several hours later than planned Thursday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
Self — and players from the six teams — were pleased to see Fraschilla’s smiling face following the 59-year-old broadcaster’s travel scare on Thursday morning. He was one of 112 passengers on an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Kansas City that had to make an emergency landing in Springfield, Mo., because of an odor in the cockpit.
Not wanting to be late for his fantasy team’s 4 p.m., opening game, the coach of “Team Ellis” rented a car and made the three-hour drive from Springfield to Lawrence with an hour to spare before tip.
“For about 15 seconds I was thinking, ‘OK have I made amends with my maker?’ There was that momentary 15 seconds when I said, ‘This might not end well.’ But after that it was just another flight. I felt like if it’s meant to be, the plane will land safely. Most of the time they do,” Fraschilla said matter-of-factly.
Considering everything … “I thought it was handled pretty well. He was cool, calm and collected,” Fraschilla said of the American Airlines pilot, who kept the passengers well-informed.
“He said, ‘We should be fine, although we have lost the autopilot and so we’re going to have to manually guide the plane in.’ Basically in so many words (he) said, ‘We need to get the plane down,’’’ Fraschilla explained. “When we landed there was some smoke in the cockpit. There was a fire truck out there. Police were there.”
Fraschilla — perhaps fittingly, his Team Ellis squad won its first game of the three-day camp in a 30-point rout over Team Wiggins — phoned his wife after landing in Springfield.
“She was fine,” Fraschilla said. “This is not going to keep me from getting on a flight on Saturday going back to Dallas.”
In retrospect, the well-traveled coach (he’s ESPN’s expert analyst on foreign players in the NBA Draft and thus travels overseas a lot) said the big thing was: “I did not want to be late for the start of camp. It’s when you get to meet all the guys. It’s one of the best times. It was good to make it here for that.”
Other fantasy coaches at camp for men 35 years and older: Doug Gottlieb, Doc Sadler, Miles Simon, Jerry Wainwright and Tim Welsh.
Self and his KU assistants were coaching the 40 or so campers on late-game scoring situations when Fraschilla arrived.
“These guys listen about as good as our players do, which isn’t very good,” Self said of the fantasy campers, smiling, “It was fun to interact with all of them like that.”
Several of Self’s Jayhawk players — Udoka Azubuike, Sam Cunliffe, Marcus Garrett, Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson, Mitch Lightfoot, Charlie Moore, Silvio De Sousa, Chris Teahan and Clay Young — are working the three-day camp as assistant coaches.
Seven-footer Azubuike is working out daily in preparation for the NBA combine, set for May 16-20 in Chicago.
“I’m happy for all our guys (attending the combine). I was hoping Lagerald would get in. There has to be some cancellations before he can get in,” Self said of junior Lagerald Vick. He is on the list of alternates for the combine. KU’s Devonté Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Azubuike have accepted invitations to not only take tests, but compete in 5-on-5 games at the combine.
“Certainly Doke wanted to test. This is the best way to test. All he is doing is testing. He just wanted to find out where he was, see how he stacked up against other bigs,” Self added.
Self indicated there certainly is a chance Azubuike, who has no plans to sign with an agent, will return for his junior season.
“This is a big-heavy draft. Doke knows that,” Self said of the June 21 draft. “Maybe he’ll get a chance to go against some guys and improve the thoughts of what the NBA people have of him. He has until the 30th (of May) to remove his name if he chooses to do so.”
KU has one scholarship left to give in recruiting if Azubuike returns, two if he turns pro.
“We only have one scholarship to give. It would be nice if we could sign another guy who could score from the perimeter and stretch it,” Self said.
A candidate would be graduate transfer Joe Cremo of Albany, N.Y., who is scheduled for a weekend visit on Friday. Self did not discuss the 6-foot-4 Cremo specifically in accordance with NCAA rules.
“A lot of people think we need a shooter. Well, we need a good player that can really shoot. Hopefully we can figure that out and find somebody. With only one scholarship,” Self added, “I think it’s best for this team if we can find the right personnel on the perimeter.”
Thus far, KU has signed guards Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes, wing Ochai Agbaji and forward David McCormack.
Self said there’s a good possibility KU could play two bigs and three guards at the same time a lot this coming season. KU rode a four-guard lineup to a Final Four berth this past campaign.
“I don’t know for sure,” Self said of style of play in 2018-19. “Based on personnel, I imagine we’ll play small some, but we’ll certainly play big a lot also.”
Fran’s fantastic in practice gym
Fraschilla has been a fixture as a coach at Self’s fantasy camp, which is in its seventh year of existence.
“There are guys here who dreamed of playing on Allen Fieldhouse’s court. I can’t say my record is stellar at this camp. I’m kind of like a Big 12 coach. I don’t win a lot of games out on the Allen Fieldhouse court, but I have done well in the practice gym," he said with a smile.
KU’s practice gym was the site of his squad’s lopsided victory over Team Wiggins on Thursday.
Self gearing up for USA experience
Self soon will coach USA Basketball’s Under 18 team at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men (June 10-16 in St. Catharines, Canada). The top four finishing teams will qualify for the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup for Men.
“I leave on the 30th (of May) and get back the 17th (of June),” Self stated. He’ll be assisted by former KU phenom Danny Manning, head coach at Wake Forest, and Dayton coach Anthony Grant.
Training camp for the team will be held from May 31 through June 2 at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Finalists will be announced June 2. The team will continue training June 3-8 in Colorado Springs until departing for the FIBA Americas tourney. The list of player candidates is expected to be released this week.
USA men’s teams are 53-2 in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships. The U.S. won gold in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016, silver in 2008 and bronze in 2002.
Cremo visits Villanova
Grad transfer recruit Cremo is scheduled to arrive for his KU campus visit Friday after visiting Villanova on Wednesday and Thursday. It may be a while before he learns if Villanova sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo will enter the NBA Draft for good or return to school for a junior year. Villanova guard DiVincenzo and big man Omari Spellman are testing the waters without agents.
Villanova juniors Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson will remain in the draft with agents. The Wildcats incoming recruiting class includes point guard Jahvon Quinerly, shooting guard Brandon Slater and small forward Cole Swider. Cremo is considering KU, Villanova, Creighton, Texas and Gonzaga.