As heralded recruits looked on from front-row seats Friday, Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self spoofed a DirecTV commercial, freshman forward Carlton Bragg Jr. played a piano at midcourt, and a fan won $10,000 at Late Night at the Phog.
All sorts of fun and games preceded the main event, the men’s basketball scrimmage that served as the finale for the evening, but Self delivered a serious message in his short address to a raucous crowd, albeit a crowd that did not completely fill the arena.
“We cut down nets in ’08, we got real, real close in ’12,” Self said, a confident look on his face. “If things fall right this year, this could be our year. Rock chalk.”
In his video skit, Self showed a sillier side, spoofing the DirecTV commercials that feature a celebrity portraying himself and a less impressive version of himself. The alternate version of the remarkably successful coach was “Short-Shorts Bill Self.”
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“I’ve been to Manhattan, Kansas, the Little Apple, four times!” bragged the non-cool version of the coach, the remark a dig toward in-state rival Kansas State.
“Don’t be like Short-Shorts Bill Self,” Self advised viewers at the conclusion of the video skit. “Wear crimson and blue, and rock chalk.”
Self also had a key role in another one of the most memorable moments of the evening. In one contest, participants could choose someone to shoot from beyond the halfcourt line, and a successful shot would win the contestant $10,000. The first chosen shooter, former Jayhawk Darnell Jackson, airballed his attempts, but Brennan Bechard, another former Jayhawk and the team’s current director of basketball operations, delivered a swish.
Jerrod Martin Castro, the sophomore student at Kansas who had Bechard shoot on his behalf, threw his arms into the air and fell nearly to his knees when Bechard’s shot went down. Many of the Kansas players ran over and dog-piled Castro and Bechard as the crowd roared.
After Castro shared a hug with a grinning Bechard, Self wrote out the check against Castro’s shoulder, and then Self high-fived him as they walked off the court together.
“I thought that was the highlight of the night,” Self said after the event. “I was really happy for Jerrod, so that was cool. I felt bad for the young lady because I would have loved to see her win, too, but I’m glad he did it. That was why we did it, to hopefully give somebody a fun night.
“And whatever happens, I hope he’s cool with it, because he should be buying tonight,” Self added. “That’s like making a hole-in-one. You ought to buy the rest of the night if somebody makes a shot for you like that.”
The audience for the whole event included a number of key Kansas recruits, including three ranked in the top 10 nationally by Rivals. Forward Harry Giles (No. 2), guard De’Aaron Fox (No. 5) and guard Malik Monk (No. 6) all sat behind the bench as the festivities continued past the scheduled end time of 9:30 p.m.
Other recruits in attendance included center Marques Bolden (No. 16) and center Schnider Herard (No. 34).
Several local recruits also showed, including Columbia Tolton Catholic forward Michael Porter Jr., who is ranked No. 3 by Rivals for the class of 2017, and Bishop Miege center Bol Bol.
Self made certain to look toward the recruits when he described Lawrence as “the best place on earth to play.”
About the scrimmage, however, the coach was not so enthusiastic. Crimson prevailed over Blue, 36-31, and Self was less than pleased with the performance.
“That’s terrible,” Self said. “That was awful tonight. I’m disappointed in how some individuals played because that’s not how we practice.”
For fans, the scrimmage was the first look at the freshman class of Bragg, guard Lagerald Vick and forward Cheick Diallo. Self was aggravated with how the team as a whole played Friday, but he still has a high opinion of the group, particularly Bragg, who he predicts will eventually leave early for the NBA.
“He’s going to be able to go,” Self said. “Carlton can shoot it, he can pass it, he’s going to be strong. He’s a good athlete, he’s got size, he’s got length, and he has great feel. There’s nothing I don’t think that kid won’t be able to do in a couple years here.”
Senior forward Perry Ellis led all scorers in the scrimmage with 12 points. He shot five for six from the floor, including two for two from three-point range. Self said Ellis is not feeling pressure going into his final season with the Jayhawks.
“Probably added readiness, but definitely not pressure,” Self said. “Perry feels good about everything right now, and he looks good.”