Members of the Kansas basketball team had spent 17 days away from home to compete in the World University Games, and when they finally returned after 28 hours of travel from South Korea, they had bleachers full of Jayhawks fans at Hoglund Ballpark to congratulate them on their gold medal performance.
But the fans weren't the only ones waiting for them. So was one of their teammates — Cheick Diallo.
Diallo, a native of Mali, couldn't join the team in the overseas tournament because of academic issues that trickled down from his arrival to the United States just four years ago and delayed his arrival to KU.
Diallo eventually made it to campus a few days after the team had departed for Korea, coach Bill Self said.
"He's still going through all the stuff," Self said, but was optimistic that all of the paperwork will be sorted out by the time the semester begins.
"It's good to have him here. Hopefully all that stuff will go well with everything."
When Self introduced his team, the crowd roared, but the eruption Diallo garnered after Self introduced him individually was of equal magnitude.
Diallo, a 6-foot-9 forward, was a five-star recruit coming out of Our Savior New American School in Centereach, N.Y., and the fifth-ranked recruit in the nation, according to Rivals.com.
He scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds at the McDonald's All-American game in early April, earning him the game's MVP honors.
"It's great to have him here. He's a great kid and a terrific talent," Self said. "People here will love him."
Self surprised by success
Bill Self knew his team would compete, but he said he was surprised by the level of success his team had in the tournament.
"I don't think anybody thought we could win the gold medal," Self said. "I was hoping we could get out of pool play and at least make it to the medal round."
Team USA breezed through pool play, and then defeated Lithuania, Russia and Germany to the title.
Self also added that he hoped the team could use the experience as a "springboard" going into summer workouts and the regular season, and saw the trip as an overall success.
"I thought there were some serious advantages to taking the team," he said.
Senior forward Perry Ellis agreed with his coach's sentiments.
"We were playing real games and were in real game situations, just getting a feel for everybody," said. "Early on, I think it's definitely gonna help us get a head start."