University of Kansas

KU basketball players muscle up at Boot Camp, ready for Late Night in the Phog

KU freshman David McCormack shows off big man skills at camp

David McCormack, a 6-10, 240-pound graduate of Oak Hill Academy, was impressive during the Bill Self Basketball Camp scrimmage on June 5, 2018 in Lawrence.
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David McCormack, a 6-10, 240-pound graduate of Oak Hill Academy, was impressive during the Bill Self Basketball Camp scrimmage on June 5, 2018 in Lawrence.

Kansas freshman David McCormack says Bill Self’s seven-day basketball Boot Camp was as tough as advertised.

“It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through,” McCormack, KU’s 6-foot-10 first-year power forward out of Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., said Wednesday in a media session at Allen Fieldhouse.

“It’s also been a great bonding experience with the team, pushing each other, making sure we get through together, not just surviving but making sure we get something out of it.”

KU’s annual Boot Camp conditioning program, which ran from 6-7 a.m. Monday through Friday last week and Monday and Tuesday of this week — appears to have helped the Jayhawks prepare for Wednesday’s initial practice of the 2018-19 season (teams are allowed to start 42 days before their first game, which in KU’s case is Nov. 6).

A team photo snapped in the locker room and posted on Twitter after Tuesday’s Boot Camp finale shows a well-sculpted Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot as well as some others.

McCormack — he described himself as a “brute force, a hard worker” on Wednesday — said, “I’d say so,” when asked if he graduated Boot Camp in the best shape of his life.

“It pushed me conditioning-wise, helped me drop a lot of weight as well.”

McCormack — he says he’s 6-11, 255 pounds after weighing over 300 pounds his junior year of high school — commented on junior forward Lightfoot’s physique as shown in the picture.

Kansas Jayhawks forward Mitch Lightfoot talks about how much weight he's gained this offseason. He spoke to reporters on Sept. 26, 2018, two days before KU basketball's annual Late Night in the Phog at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.

“It’s a bit of a flex there. (But) he definitely has been putting in a lot of work in the weight room, honestly,” McCormack said. “Mitch has dedicated himself to putting on muscle and changing his body.”

The 6-foot-8 Lightfoot told the media he tips the scales at 224 pounds, up from 209 at the conclusion of his sophomore season.

“It was just after Boot Camp. I was kind of gassed so I was hanging on the towel,” Lightfoot said with a smile, asked if he was purposely trying to flex his right muscle in the picture.

Indeed a towel was draped around his neck.

“It was a great Boot Camp. We got a lot accomplished,” Lightfoot added.

Lightfoot — he said there are “no layups” at practice this season because of all the shot-blockers on KU’s team — made a conscious effort to work on his body in the offseason.

“I think when I realized it was during the (NCAA) Tournament last year, playing against some of the bigger guys against Seton Hall. I realized at that point in time where I was at wasn’t going to get me where I want to be,” Lightfoot said. “I continue to eat a lot and get after it in the weight room.”

Seven-foot junior Azubuike, who shows off a weightlifter’s body in the Boot Camp picture, currently weighs between 270 and 273 pounds, Self said.

“I hadn’t seen that picture,” Self said, smiling. “What do you call it when you doctor up a picture? Maybe it’s been ‘photoshopped’ a little bit. Doke does look good, though.”

Of the Lightfoot pose in the picture, Self cracked: “I don’t think that picture will help us win one game nor will it contribute to us not playing well, nor will it intimidate any opponents, I can guarantee you that.”

Self also commented on physically imposing McCormack.

“David in his own way has been a terrific leader because he’s made those other guys be better,” Self said of the frontcourt players. “Anybody that tries that hard will raise the level in practice each and every day.”

Self said that following Boot Camp, “they are all in good shape. I don’t know we pitted them against each other. I think we pitted them more against me or more against the clock.

“We made them kind of bond together. They did a good job.”

A very good job, he stressed.

“I was asking one of the other coaches, I said, ‘Comparing this back to when the (Morris) twins were here or Thomas (Robinson) was here, good gosh it is night and day. These guys do everything right.’ The next question asked was, ‘Which ones would you rather have on game night, though?’ Hopefully these guys. It still remains to be seen. These guys did exceptionally well.”

Continuing on the subject of weight … Self was asked about his own physical condition. He explained he’s lost between “20, 25 pounds” since undergoing what he’s called “minor hernia surgery” in August.

“I don’t even know if I can do a push up right now,” Self said. “I just had surgery. I hope I feel better real soon. As of now, no I’m not close to being 100 percent.”

KU on Wednesday confirmed that rapper 2 Chainz, who has 4.15 million followers on Twitter, will perform at the 34th annual Late Night in the Phog, which starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday, at Allen Fieldhouse.

2 Chainz won a Grammy Award in 2017 for Best Rap Performance for “No Problem” with Chance the Rapper and Lil Wayne.

Lil Yachty performed at KU last year and Tech N9ne the year before. 2 Chainz (Tauheed Epps) played basketball at Alabama State from 1995-97.

“It’ll be a fun night. One of my all-time favorite rappers will be here,” Self said with a smile.

Asked if he had a favorite 2 Chainz song, Self said: “Basically at this point in time they are all tied for first and probably all tied for last, in my book. I bet you by tomorrow I’ll have a favorite. If you ask me tomorrow I’ll be able to sing a lyric or two, no rap a lyric or two.”

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Dotson could be ‘great’

Self praised freshman guard Devon Dotson on Wednesday.

“I think he could be a great one, not a good one but a great one,” Self said. “I think if you are going to recruit somebody, especially in the backcourt, the first thing you probably look at is explosiveness and quickness. He’s probably got as much as anybody we’ve ever had here.

“He’s in the same league as Frank (Mason) as far as explosive and fast. Not saying he’s Frank, but he’s probably farther along than Frank was when he got here. If he continues to develop, and he’s got to develop a better stroke, but it is getting better, he’ll be hard to guard.”

Kansas Jayhawks basketball coach Bill Self compares freshman Devon Dotson's explosiveness to another recent point guard. Self talked to reporters on Sept. 26. 2018, two days before Late Night in the Phog at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan.

Hampton update

R.J. Hampton, a 6-5 junior guard from Little Elm (Texas) High School, who is ranked No. 5 in the recruiting Class of 2020, won’t be attending Late Night in the Phog on Friday as previously planned, his dad told, on Wednesday. Self and assistant Jerrance Howard visited with Hampton on Tuesday in Texas.

“(Self) said that R.J. has really earned the right to be recruited by the best of the best programs,” Rod Hampton, the player’s father, told “All of them are great programs but he has to find the best fit that’s going to let him be R.J. At Kansas they can check a lot of the boxes he needs to be successful.”

Gary Bedore

Gary Bedore covers University of Kansas athletics for The Star.