Travis Releford, the only Kansas alumnus to play in Tuesday’s Bill Self campers game, more than held his own against the current, younger Jayhawks.
Releford, a 6-foot-6, 28-year-old shooting guard out of Bishop Miege High School, hit a pair of three-pointers while scoring 10 points for the winning Red squad.
“I feel 21,” fifth-year pro Releford said with a smile during an interview session conducted after the camp game at KU’s Horejsi Center.
“I did well,” Releford stated, not referring to Tuesday’s solid camp performance, but of his just-completed season with Hubo Limburg United in Belgium. The 2012 KU graduate averaged 12.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists a game for a team that lost in the first round of the Belgian League playoffs.
“I scored well, shot the ball well, shot it from behind the line, over 40 percent. One of my goals was to improve on that (outside shooting),” said Releford, a starter who converted 49.8 percent of his shots, including 19 of 47 threes for 40.4 percent.
Releford has an offer to return to Hubo Limburg for the 2018-19 season but has until August to decide if he wants to head overseas again.
“I’ve got some time. I just got back Friday,” Releford said. “It’s good to be back. When Brennan (Bechard, KU director of basketball operations) gave me a text and said I could play in the (camp) game, I was excited. To be able to show my kid where I went to college is a great feeling.”
Releford’s son, T.J., not only watched the campers game but stood next to dad during his postgame interview session. He’ll be back to watch his papa play in next Tuesday’s campers contest as well as the 10th-annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic fundraiser, which will attract more than 50 former KU players and coaches next Thursday night at Free State High School.
Releford — his KU teams reached one Final Four and two Elite Eights and compiled a 157-27 record from 2009 to 2013 — said he was impressed with the talent on KU’s 2018-19 team. The campers game involved current players plus Releford.
“I can’t single out one of them. They are all pretty good,” Releford said. “I noticed the difference in quickness, I’ll say that. I noticed when I practiced last summer with them before I went overseas. I noticed how quick they were to recover on defense.”
He likes KU’s chances this coming season especially with a big man group that includes Tuesday standouts Mitch Lightfoot (22 points), Dedric Lawson (20), David McCormack (18) and Silvio De Sousa (17). Udoka Azubuike, who was sick, watched from the sidelines.
“We were really small last season and still managed to go far,” Releford said of the Jayhawks, who won the Big 12 regular-season for a 14th straight year and the conference tourney title en route to the NCAA Final Four. “I think he (Bill Self) is going to have great joy with this team.”
Manning working with Self again
Former KU standout Danny Manning is an assistant coach for USA Basketball’s under-18 national team, which will compete in the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship Sunday through Saturday, June 16, in St. Catharines, Canada. KU’s Self is head coach of the team, which will play its first game in the event on Sunday.
Manning — a member of the bronze-medal winning 1988 U.S. Olympic Team — helped coach the U.S. to a bronze at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup.
“For other countries, playing against the USA team is something they look forward to,” Manning said in an article at USA Basketball.com. “I was guilty of overlooking that as a player, and to a certain extent, these kids (at U18 camp in Colorado the past week) are guilty as well, because they don’t know any better.
“We have to get our guys to understand the importance of wearing USA on your chest. You’re going to get everybody’s best shot night-in, night-out, game-in, game-out. You’ve got to be prepared for that, and you’ve got to be able to battle through some adversity if things don’t go your way. We’re trying to incorporate these things into the team process.”
Manning was a member of Self’s KU coaching staff from 2003 to 2012. That, of course, included the 2008 NCAA title season.
“For me, that was what I needed,” current Wake Forest coach Manning told USAbasketballcom, referring to starting a coaching career at KU. “I needed to see this business from the bottom up, see how it worked and see the way guys handled things. I just wanted to be a sponge. I wanted to learn from coach Self, from (KU assistant) Norm Roberts and all the guys coach had on staff.
“I hopped out there onto the court and felt really comfortable with what coach Self was teaching and how he was teaching it. It felt really good.”
Roundball Classic approaches
The 10th-annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 14, at Lawrence’s Free State High. Tickets remain available not only for the Classic, but the June 16 celebrity golf tournament at Jayhawk Club in Lawrence. Some returning KU players who have signed up for Thursday’s game: Releford, Cole Aldrich, Cliff Alexander, Nick Bradford, Sherron Collins, Mario Chalmers, Drew Gooden, Darnell Jackson, Landen Lucas, Brady Morningstar, Brandon Rush, Wayne Selden, Wayne Simien, Tyshawn Taylor and Jamari Traylor.