Bill Self has learned that two weeks of Kansas Basketball Boot Camp is better than one.
“We went soft on them last year. I realize that was a mistake,” Self, KU’s 12th-year coach said, speaking as halftime guest of Bob Davis and the Jayhawk Radio Network during Saturday’s 23-0 football loss to Texas in Memorial Stadium.
“The season is so long. You could start practicing so much earlier than usual, so we went one (week),” explained Self, whose Jayhawks started practicing on Sept. 27 last season in accordance with new NCAA rules.
It used to be teams began on the Friday closest to Oct. 15. This year, practice starts this Friday — Oct. 3 — with Late Night in the Phog set for Oct. 10.
“This was hard. Our guys did really well,” Self said of 2014 Boot Camp, a two-week event which concluded Thursday and Friday when U.S. Marines came to town and put the Jayhawk players through a regimen titled, “The Program.”
“We finished what we (coaches) do with the players Wednesday, then we had some real men, tough guys come in and get their attention a bit, from a physical standpoint, but primarily a mental standpoint, which I think was good,” Self added.
Under the Marines’ supervision, the 16 Jayhawks performed drills in Robinson Pool and on the Anschutz Pavilion football field. Activities included calisthenics, carrying teammates on their backs and also lugging logs and sandbags.
“If we are going to be ‘One team, one heartbeat,’ we need great leaders and have to be great teammates,” Self said. “Even though we think we are and think we are putting out, the way it was presented to us was: ‘You think that’s trying? I’ll show you what trying is.’
“It’s cool to see the way these guys (Marines) held our guys accountable. Some who think they can lead may not know anything about true leadership. I think our guys got a lot out of it. Hopefully we’ll have some true leaders because of it.”
Freshman point guard Devonté Graham was the one Jayhawk presented a T-shirt (with The Program logo) by the Marines, signifying top leadership skills of all participants.
“We do have one senior, Christian Garrett, who has been in our program four years,” Self said, asked about players who might emerge as leaders. “I don’t know who our leaders are. On paper, you’d think Wayne Selden. You’d think Devonté Graham. Maybe Jamari (Traylor) in some ways.
“One thing we did learn ... a lot of people say athletes or people in business lead by example. That means they try hard. They do their job. They do their work on time. The way it was presented to us (by Marines) is, ‘That is a leader? Because they do their job? You shouldn’t be a leader because you do your job. A leader is, you do your job and make sure people you work with are better because you do your job.’
“We have great guys lead by example. Those aren’t leaders. Those are good ambassadors, guys who are respected by peers. We need some true leaders, and I think this Program helped us do that,” Self stated.
Speakers: Self and actor Rob Riggle both spoke at Friday night’s homecoming pep rally in downtown Lawrence. Riggle was introduced to the Memorial Stadium fans at halftime of Saturday’s game, while Self did the network radio interview.
“We’re in the game,” Self said at halftime, with KU down, 13-0. “We gave up a couple of short fields (UT scored on drives of 18 and 13 yards). The kids really look like they are playing hard.”
Riggle drew loud applause at Friday’s rally when he told about 1,000 onlookers that his only “demand” as host of last year’s ESPY’s Awards show was that he’d take the stage with KU’s cheerleaders and the Jayhawk mascot.