Surprise visitor Nick Collison walked through the northwest tunnel of Allen Fieldhouse late Friday afternoon and shaded his eyes as he looked around the renovated basketball palace.
"It's a lot brighter in here now," exclaimed the fourth-year Seattle SuperSonics power forward, in the building for the first time since the lighting was intensified a year ago.
"I haven't been in here since the new scoreboard went up. Everything's painted. It looks great."
Taking advantage of the final few weeks of the NBA offseason - he spent four days in his hometown of Iowa Falls visiting relatives - Collison made a special trip to Lawrence on Friday to visit friends and play pick-up basketball with members of Kansas University's current men's basketball team.
"They've got a lot of good young players, a lot of talent," said the 6-foot-9, 255-pound Collison, who was greeted enthusiastically by KU sophomore Brandon Rush and junior Russell Robinson as he warmed up for the pick-up action.
"They should be good. They were really good last year. For a young team to win the conference tournament and regular-season championship ... that's a great season, even though some fans may not think so after what happened in the (NCAA) Tournament (first-round loss to Bradley)."
Collison will be back in Lawrence again Oct. 15 for a 1 p.m. NBA exhibition game between the Sonics and Kirk Hinrich's Chicago Bulls.
As of Friday, about 9,000 tickets had been sold for the contest. Tickets remain available at kuathletics.com and KU's ticket office.
"It should be a lot of fun," said Collison, who "heard about it last spring. They said it'd be an opportunity to have a good draw for an exhibition game.
"I think we have eight exhibition games and only two at home. They move games around so people can see the NBA in a lot of non-NBA cities. It's exposure to the game."
While Hinrich is starting point guard for the Bulls, Collison is a reserve in the Seattle frontcourt.
Collison averaged 7.5 points and 5.6 boards a game in 66 games last season. A starter for 27 games, Collison lost his spot in the lineup, to Chris Wilcox, after suffering a foot injury that kept him out a month.
"I've been working hard, been (in Seattle) most of the summer trying to get stronger and work on my game," said Collison, who will be a restricted free agent after this season, the team having the right to match any offer tossed Collison's way by another organization. "I played all right last year. I don't think I had a great year. Hopefully, I'll play better this year. I'm just looking for a little more consistency. It was an up-and-down year, but I'm ready to get going again."