Kansas University’s European adventure will begin a bit later than originally planned.
The Jayhawk basketball players, coaches and support staff members, who had expected to touch down in Zurich at 8 a.m. today (1 a.m. Central time), in advance of Tuesday’s exhibition game against the Swiss National Team, instead were in Washington, D.C., this morning.
The Jayhawks spent the night at the Dulles Airport Marriott Hotel.
The culprit? Bad weather on Sunday in D.C. that forced KU’s early-afternoon commercial flight from Kansas City International to D.C. to be diverted to Pittsburgh.
By the time the Jayhawk flight made it from Pittsburgh to D.C., the connecting flight had departed.
“Everybody is in good spirits. Everybody is taking it in stride. These things happen,” KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said.
“There was bad weather in D.C. They weren’t letting anybody land or take off, so we were diverted to Pittsburgh,” he explained. “When we landed in Pittsburgh, it was raining. They discovered a leak in the flight deck, and they had to fix that. We were in the Pittsburgh airport an hour and a half. We finally took off for D.C. at 8:15 (p.m.) and missed our connection at Dulles, so here we are.”
The Jayhawks were working on flight plans for today. They will miss their first day of sightseeing in Zurich, since it is seven-hour time difference.
Pardon his French
KU coach Bill Self grinned sheepishly recently when asked if he knew how to speak French.
“Oui, oui,” Self, Kansas University’s 10th-year basketball coach, said, answering in the affirmative.
“No, I don’t know any French,” he quickly added. “I do have a little translation book I received. It’s got important questions if you get in trouble like: ‘What is your name? What direction is this?’ Maybe I can get smart enough to be able to carry that around and ask a question or two.”
Self actually won’t need his French vocabulary cheat-sheet until Thursday, when the Jayhawks hop on a high-speed train and head from Zurich — first stop on a nine-day European tour — to Paris, the final stop.
German is the official language in Zurich and Fribourg, site of Tuesday’s noon (U.S. Central time) exhibition game against the Swiss National Team. It will not be televised or broadcast on radio, though updates via a live blog will be available at kusports.com.
KU will also play the Swiss National Team at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Fribourg.
The Jayhawks will play AMW Team France, a squad made up of French A and B League professionals, at 1 p.m. (Central time) both Saturday and Sunday. Again, updates from those games via blog will be available at kusports.com, with no TV or radio on tap.
Self says the games are secondary to the 10 practices the team held in July and early August in accordance with NCAA foreign-tour rules.
“What we’ve gotten out of it is what we’ve already gotten out of it, and that’s practice,” Self said, while also acknowledging there could be some benefit to playing the games.
“Just getting guys acclimated. Not counting Evan (Manning) and Tyler (Self, walk-ons), you’ve got eight freshmen out there on scholarship. That’s a lot. It’d be good for Ben (McLemore) and Jamari (Traylor) to make some baskets in game-type situations. The biggest thing is to get them some game-readiness,” Self said. “Last year, (Jeff) Withey hadn’t played a lick, and we sent him overseas with a (Athletes in Action) touring team. It’s amazing how much his confidence shot up just seeing the ball go in the hole. Hopefully it’ll be the same with these guys.”
Self is not stressed about keeping alive KU’s 39-game winning streak in exhibition contests. The Jayhawks last loss an exhibition game — actually three in a row — during the last trip to Paris. Roy Williams’ Jayhawks went 0-3 in Dec. of 1995 with a team that won the Big Eight title and reached the Elite Eight.
“I don’t know exactly how we’re going to do it,” Self said of approaching the games, which will be played in four 10-minute quarters with European rules such as the 24-second clock. “I’ve talked to my staff about a strategy, what we are going to do from a coaching standpoint. The way I visualize it is, everybody will play about 18 to 20 minutes. If it gets down to the last five minutes and we’ve got to win the game, we’ll try to do that.
“This (Swiss National) team we play the first two games ... they beat Texas A&M twice last year and Villanova twice last year. The year Butler went to the finals against Duke, they beat ’em twice. I don’t know if it’s the same cast of guys. The Sefoloshas (Oklahoma City Thunder’s Thabo and brother Kgomotso) and those guys were playing.”
The Jayhawks are ready to play some international basketball.
“We want to bond with the new guys and figure out how they can come in and help us. It’ll be a fun trip,” senior Travis Releford said.
“It will be an all-around fun trip for everybody,” noted sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe, saying the highlight for him will be, “the shopping stores. That’s probably where you’ll catch me. It’s what I look forward to.”
Senior Elijah Johnson’s goal is to keep everybody on the same path. This team leader wants to make sure nobody gets lost on any tours in Switzerland and Paris.
“I feel like a big brother. I feel like I’ve got to take care of everybody, make sure everybody is all right, make sure everybody understands what is going on, make sure everyone is on the same page, make sure everyone is not frustrated on or off the court,” Johnson said. “Make sure everybody’s mind is right so they can give everything they’ve got in the gym.”