KU’s past, present make Self’s camp a hit

Thomas reflects on 33-point exhibition explosion

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self coach expects a peaceful, highly uneventful Father’s Day 2009.

“I don’t have special plans. We have camp going on. I’ll spend a little time in the gym. Camp is over on Sunday. That’ll be a good Father’s Day there,” Self said, smiling.

The always-demanding, time-consuming men’s hoop camp season — which eats up much of June — concludes today.

Self’s Team Camp followed Elite Camp, Parent/Child Camp and two weeks of Self’s summer camp for youths.

Sessions included appearances from former KU players Lester Earl, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun, Keith Langford, Aaron Miles, Christian Moody, Russell Robinson, Wayne Simien and Billy Thomas.

“It’s great we had different guys come back. I wish they all could come back. Time schedules don’t permit that,” Self said of all former KU players. “We had so many guys back you basically watched grow up in front of you — guys like Aaron, Keith, Darnell playing in front of the campers. Those guys are competitive. They don’t come in here just to have fun, but to play.”

In fact, the alumni swept the current Jayhawks (67-52 and 67-63) on consecutive Wednesdays during scrimmages for the enthusiastic campers.

“The old guys have still got it,” said former KU point guard Robinson, who will play for the Orlando Magic’s summer-league team after starting for the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Developmental League last season.

“They (current Jayhawks) are talented. They will have a great team. I can’t wait to see them play,” Robinson added.

Now that camp season is over, KU’s coaches will have some down time before the start of the July summer-recruiting evaluation period. Many of the current Kansas players will continue to attend summer school classes.

Here are some tidbits gathered during the past two weeks of camp:

• Shooting guard Billy Thomas, who helped Colorado claim the 2009 NBA Developmental League title, probably set an all-time camp record in exploding for 33 points against the current Jayhawks.

Asked, “who guarded you the best today?” Thomas, who hit 12 of 18 shots including seven of 11 threes, grinned and cracked, “I missed a couple shots.”

Of the current Jayhawks, Thomas said: “I’m very impressed. I saw Thomas Robinson Friday (in pickup game) and was impressed. He’s active, bounces up the floor. I look forward to him learning and getting better. I look forward to seeing Tyshawn (Taylor) play this year. I was very impressed with him last season. He has to value every possession and not turn the ball over.”

• Darnell Jackson of the Cleveland Cavaliers talked about working with Cavs phenom LeBron James.

“I told him all the time, ‘Hey man, I used to play with you on the Playstation. Now I get a chance to be your teammate,’’’ Jackson said. “To be with him on and off the court is a great feeling. LeBron is so strong.”

There have been rumors the Cavs may acquire center Shaquille O’Neal this offseason.

“It’d be fun. I don’t know if I want to go against him. He’s a big kid, too,” power forward Jackson joked. “I’d be real excited if we get Shaq.”

• Combo guard Keith Langford, whose performance in Italy last season earned him a two-year, $2.6 million contract in Russia, talked about how he has changed as a player since leaving KU.

“I’m a lot more aggressive I’d say from the beginning of games,” he said. “A lot of times in my career here, I was passive, and aggressive only when I needed to be. Skill-wise I’m always continuing to add different things. Obviously a key for me is to work on the jump-shooting, which I’ll always have to do. My percentages are good. I’m healthy, very happy where my career is at.”

He thoroughly enjoyed speaking to Self’s campers.

“You get a chance to come back and show you are still doing well,” the 6-foot-4 Fort Worth, Texas, native said. “I can be a testament to guys who played here that maybe you don’t hear about a lot, who are not a first-round draft pick, but are still doing well from what they learned in this setting and applied it to the outside world.”

• Langford found it hard to believe point guard Aaron Miles, who played in Greece last season, is not in the NBA.

“You can ask anybody who has played with him, at free-agent camps, NBA summer league, in Europe ... anybody I come across always loves playing with Aaron,” Langford said. “He’s a guy you love having on your team.”

• Miles, KU’s all-time assists leader, is talking to various NBA teams about summer-league ball. He said he loves living in Lawrence.

“I’m enjoying Lawrence and the community,” said Miles, who grew up in Portland, Ore. “Owning a house … it’s my first time. Coming home from overseas, after living in the Towers (as a student) .. this is different. It feels great being with my fiancee and little boy, enjoying life.”

• KU junior Cole Aldrich has been busy working camps all summer, while also lifting weights and conditioning. He’s headed to work NBA player Amare Stoudemire’s camp later this month in Arizona. “It’s all about getting ready for the season,” Aldrich said.

Of working at Self’s camp, Aldrich said: “It’s a fun week, so many kids. Tyrel (Reed, roommate) was telling me last year he went to this camp four or five straight years as a kid. Now he’s working it. It’s cool to see small-town kids and even kids in K.C. and Topeka come here and play against kids they don’t know and some they do know.”