Wearing a light gray University of Kansas golf shirt, casual black pants and gray and white sneakers, Bill Self stood at center court with microphone in hand and 16,300 fans clinging to his every word during Saturday’s 33rd-annual Late Night in the Phog at Allen Fieldhouse.
“Good evening Jayhawks. How we doin’ this evening?” Self, KU’s 15th-year coach, exclaimed to the roar of supporters who again packed the building for the basketball season-opening lovefest.
Self, KU’s newest inductee in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., was introduced 90 minutes into the proceedings, right after his name was unveiled on a fieldhouse banner recognizing all of the Jayhawks Hall. A banner listing all of KU’s Big 12 hoops titles also was updated, the digits “2017” appearing on the cloth hanging from the center rafters.
“This is obviously one of the most fun nights we look forward to each and every year. It’s great for our present players to see the love in my biased opinion in the best place in the world to play basketball,” Self told the fans.
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After bear-hugging former KU guard Mario Chalmers, who charged onto the court — the Memphis Grizzlies guard attended Late Night and sat on the northwest bench with his current NBA teammates and fellow ex-Jayhawks Wayne Selden and Ben McLemore — Self fired up the crowd with a prediction of sorts for the 2017-18 season.
“This can be a special year like last year. We’ve knocked on the door. We’ve beat on the door. It’s time for this team to kick the door in,” Self said of the Jayhawks’ hopes of winning the school’s first national title since 2008.
Self expanded on that comment at his post Late Night media session, saying: “I heard Bum Phillips say that one time, so I was copying him, but we have knocked on it and we’ve beat on it and got close but not quite finished the way we wanted to (KU lost in the Elite Eight the last two seasons). Hopefully this year will be the year we can get to where we want to go.”
Chalmers, by the way, was chosen by a male student to shoot a halfcourt shot that if made, would have won the student $10,000 of Self’s money. Chalmers missed, the ball hitting the front portion of the rim and falling away. A female student chose KU director of basketball operations Brennan Bechard, who after making the shot the last two Late Nights, missed deep off the backboard.
Another highlight of Late Night included KU senior Devonté Graham hosting a talk show entitled, “Between Two Hoops” with guests Jerrance Howard, Kurtis Townsend, Norm Roberts and Self.
Graham starred on the court as well, scoring 22 points for the Blue team in a 45-45 tie against the Crimson squad in the 20-minute Late Night scrimmage.
“I think I had a pretty good time,” Graham said, smiling.
The KU students simply loved the Late Night performance of 21-year-old rapper Lil Yachty.
KU’s men’s and women’s players stood on the court with arms around each other, as Lil Yachty rapped. At one point, the Jayhawks formed a semicircle and sang and danced to the music of Lil Yachty. Yachty charged into the stands and rapped with the students in the north end, then headed to the midcourt stands, where he shook hands with KU volleyball coach Ray Bechard and others while performing.
Rap artist Lil Yachty got the Allen Fieldhouse crowd rocking during the Jayhawks' annual opening of the college basketball season.Rich Sugg The Kansas City Star
“I’ll admit it,” Self said, “I’m a Little Yachty fan. “I thought that was good. Of course I don’t know any of his songs. Obviously the students know him.”
Also, former KU and WNBA player Angel Goodrich attended and spoke to the fans.
Self was not impressed by his team’s play in a scrimmage in which Lagerald Vick had 17 points, Billy Preston nine and Malik Newman eight. Newman cashed a three at the buzzer that tied the score for the Crimson team.
“That’s a little disappointing to me tonight to be honest,” Self said .”I mean 38 threes (12 makes) in a 20-minute running clock game, that’s ridiculous. Dedric Lawson (six points, five boards) didn’t get within 10 feet of the paint. Billy Preston didn’t either. I mean you are never going to win that way. They never threw the ball to Doke (Azubuike, seven points, five boards) unless it was an uncontested dunk. We aren’t going to play that way once we start practicing on Tuesday.”
Vick hit 7 of 9 shots and had four assists.
“Devonté has looked good, but I think Lagerald has been our best player so far from maybe the beginning of summer,” Self said. “He is one of the most underrated players I would think in our league, without question.”
Men’s prospects watch show
Several recruits who were seated behind KU’s bench at 7:40 p.m., 70 minutes into the Late Night show, seemed to enjoy the proceedings. Especially enthused was Zion Williamson, the No. 2 prospect in the recruiting class of 2018 who waved to students in the north end zone who were chanting, “We Want Zion.”
Here’s the list of all the recruits in attendance (the rankings listed are by Rivals.com):
▪ High school seniors: No. 33 David McCormack, 6-10, PF, Oak Hill Academy, who has committed to KU; No. 2 Zion Williamson, 6-6, F, Spartanburg (S.C.) Day School.
▪ Juniors: No. 2 James Wiseman, 6-10, PF, Memphis East; No. 21 Chandler Lawson, 6-8, PF, Memphis East; No. 16 Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, 6-8, PF, Bishop Miege; No. 38 Zach Harvey, 6-4, SG, Topeka Hayden; No. 49 Malik Hall, 6-7, F, Wichita Sunrise Academy; No. 101 Samuell Williamson, 6-6, F, Rockwall (Texas) High.
▪ Sophomores: No. 3 R.J. Hampton, 6-4, PG, Little Elm (Texas) High; No. 10 N’Faly Dante, 6-10, PF, Wichita Sunrise; No. 17 Jabri Abdur-Rahim, 6-6, F, Seton Hall Prep, Short Hills, N.J.
No. 23 Xavier Foster, 6-9, PF, Oskaloosa (Iowa) High; No. 39 Bryce Thompson, 6-3, SG, Tulsa Booker T. Washington, as well as unranked K.T. Raimey, 6-3, PG, Olathe East; Ty Berry, 6-1, PG, Newton High.
▪ Freshmen: Johnathan Lawson, 6-5, F, Memphis East.
Women’s recruits at Late Night
Zarielle Green, a 6-foot guard ranked 13th by ESPN’s Dan Olson in the class of 2018, was among many visitors for the KU women’s team during Late Night.
Green, who plays for Duncanville (Texas) High School, was joined by two teammates: 6-foot-1 forward Starr Jacobs (123rd) and Aniya Thomas, who have been part of the team’s consecutive state title runs.
Another 2018 visitor was Brooklyn Mitchell, a 5-7 point guard who ranks 43rd in the class and 12th at her position.
Other guests included Rickie Woltman (2019, 34th), Kaylah Rainey (2019, 84th), Holly Kersgieter (2019), Mariane Carvalaho (Highland CC, third-ranked juco player), Sydney Parrish (2020, seventh), Eliya Love (2020, 128th), Emily Ryan (2020), Payton Verhulst (2021, ninth) and Bella Fontleroy (2022).
The Star’s Jesse Newell contributed to this story.
BLUE 45, CRIMSON 45
Blue (45): Marcus Garrett 1-5 0-0 3, Devonté Graham 7-12 5-5 22, Svi Mykhailiuk 3-7 0-0 7, Udoka Azubuike 3-4 1-2 7, Mitch Lightfoot 3-8 0-0 6, Sam Cunliffe 0-4 0-0 0, Clay Young 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 17-40 6-7 45.
Crimson (45): Dedric Lawson 2-6 2-2 6, Lagerald Vick 7-9 1-2 17, K.J. Lawson 0-2 0-0 0, Malik Newman 3-7 0-0 8, Billy Preston 3-7 1-2 9, Charlie Moore 2-4 0-0 5, Chris Teahan 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 17-35 4-6 45.
Three-point goals: Blue 5-17 (Garrett 1-4, Graham 3-6, Mykhailiuk 1-4, Lightfoot 0-2, Cunliffe 0-1); Crimson 7-21 (D. Lawson 0-4, Vick 2-3, K.J. Lawson 0-2, Newman 2-6, Preston 2-3, Moore 1-3). Rebounds: Blue 26 (Azubuike 5, Cunliffe 5, Mykhailiuk 4, Lightfoot 4, Garrett 3, Graham 3, Young 1, Team 1). Crimson 18: Preston 6, D. Lawson 5, K.J. Lawson 2, Newman 2, Moore 1, Vick 1, Team 1). Assists: Blue 8 (Garrett 2, Graham 2, Cunliffe 2, Mykhailiuk 1, Azubuike 1); Crimson 8 (Vick 4, Moore 2, K.J. Lawson, Newman). Turnovers: Blue 6 (Azubuike 3, Lightfoot 1, Cunliffe 1, Young 1); Crimson 5 (Preston 2, Vick 1, K.J. Lawson 1, Newman 1). Blocks: Blue 0; Crimson 2 (D. Lawson 1, Preston 1). Steals: Blue 3 (Mykhailiuk 2, Lightfoot 1); Crimson 4 (Newman 2, D. Lawson 1, Preston 1). Attendance: 16,300.