Several hundred Bill Self basketball campers cheered wildly and stomped their feet on the bleachers as Kansas big men Dedric Lawson, Silvio De Sousa and David McCormack assaulted the rims during drills on Monday afternoon at Horejsi Center.
The three frontcourt players, who weigh a combined 735 pounds, proved an imposing sight with Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot (and their combined weight of 500 pounds) skipping the drills with excused absences to work other area camps.
“Missed it. Missed it. It’s nice to have,” KU big man coach Norm Roberts said Monday, referring to a plethora of big men on the Kansas roster. He was subbing for KU coach Self during a post-workout interview session. Self was in Colorado coaching the under-18 U.S. men’s national team.
“I was telling Coach (that) from a body standpoint, we’ve got bodies like we used to have, when we had Tarik (Black) and Joel (Embiid) and Landen (Lucas) and Perry (Ellis). We’re going back to that. It feels good to have those big bodies here,” Roberts added.
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Also, Memphis transfer K.J. Lawson worked some with the bigs on Monday. At 6 feet 8 and 205 pounds, he can play both guard and forward.
“I think they’ll make each other a lot better,” Roberts said of the bigs. “You’ve got somebody like Dedric (6-9, 230) who can play inside and outside. He can shoot the ball from the perimeter, handle the ball. You’ve got a power player like David (6-10, 260), now you have another big body to go up against Udoka (7-0, 275) every day. I think that helps those guys. K.J. can play inside there once in a while as well. You’ve got Mitch Lightfoot (6-8, 225) … energy. Silvio (6-9, 245) is a big body. We’ve got so many guys that are versatile that they could really get after each other.”
Of KU’s big man group, Roberts continued: “It’s got a chance to be a very, very good group. I think our skill level as big guys has to improve. I think that’s going to be a key for us with all our guys. I think they understand that. I do think we have some big bodies that can be physical with people, get angles, maybe score some easier hoops than just shooting threes. It makes it a little bit tougher (on opponents).”
McCormack has impressed in early drills. He weighed more than 300 pounds his junior year at Oak Hill Academy, dropping a lot of weight after that.
“It’s amazing what he’s done, the discipline he’s held, too,” Roberts said. “He’s really done a good job with his body. It means a lot to him. David is a kid who really wants to please. He really wants to be good. When you are a sponge like that, you’ve got a chance to be good pretty fast.”
Roberts said the month of June is important for KU’s players.
“We want them to enjoy being here in the summer,” Roberts said. “Obviously academics is most important. We want them to get a feel playing with their teammates, a feel for doing the things we need to do from a skill standpoint, a technique standpoint. That way when they come back in late August, early September, they know what’s going on and it’s easy for them to get right into it.”
KU assistants Roberts, Kurtis Townsend and Jerrance Howard ran drills for the campers Monday with Self away.
“He is doing great. I was out there a couple days ago. I think he’s really enjoying it,” Roberts said of Self. “It’s quite a bit of work. They are going two-a-days and meetings at night. I think USA Basketball really wants this team to be good and do well (at 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Canada). I think he’s enjoying it. I think he’s having fun.”
Former Lawrence High standout guard Justin Roberts, son of Norm Roberts, and St. Francis College guard Glenn Sanabria ran drills with the Jayhawks on Monday. They are working the camp as counselors.
Roberts recently decided to transfer from Toledo to Niagara.
Niagara coach Chris Casey is a former assistant of Norm Roberts at St. John’s. Norm was St. John’s coach from 2004-10.
“I have known Coach (Chris) Casey from the time I was about 8 years old, so I already had a relationship with him," Justin Roberts told the Niagara Gazette. "When they started recruiting me, I was definitely interested.”
Roberts averaged 1.6 points a game through two seasons at Toledo. He hit 46.9 percent of his threes as a sophomore (15 of 32).
"I wanted some more opportunity," Roberts told the Gazette. "I definitely know I can (put up similar numbers in more minutes). I've been working on my shooting the past two summers really hard. I knew I wanted to be more of a consistent shooter.”