Kansas University’s basketball players may be as fired up tonight playing NCAA Div. II Pittsburg State as they would be if the foe was Pitt of the powerful ACC.
That’s because the Jayhawks, who have been practicing since Oct. 2, are desperate for a game — any game — exhibition or otherwise.
“I would say we’re ready to get out there and compete,” said KU senior forward Perry Ellis. “We’ve been practicing with each other a while now, plus the summer. We practiced then, also. I’m just ready to get back out there, excited to get back out there. We’re ready to play somebody.”
Tipoff for the first of two exhibition games is 7 p.m., in Allen Fieldhouse. KU will also meet Fort Hays State on Tuesday in Allen leading up to the regular season opener vs. Northern Colorado a week from Friday.
“We have a lot of veterans (six juniors, four seniors). We’ve been through a lot of this stuff. We’re ready to get to the game,” Ellis said.
“We practiced all fall to get ready,” noted junior guard Wayne Selden, Jr. “The exhibition games are a good springboard for the young guys, a good springboard for the rest of the team, to get adjusted to the new rules (emphasis on free-flowing play). We’re pretty excited about it.”
Tonight marks the debut of freshmen scholarship players Carlton Bragg, Jr., and Lagerald Vick, as well as sophomore walk-on Clay Young. The squad’s other newcomer, frosh Cheick Diallo, will only play if he’s deemed academically eligible today. Coach Bill Self said he heard nothing from the NCAA Eligibility Center on Tuesday regarding a decision involving the academic status of Diallo. A fourth newcomer, junior transfer Dwight Coleby, is out for the season following recent knee surgery.
“I’d say maybe a little bit, not too much,” Ellis said, asked if the newcomers would be jittery making their college exhibition debuts. “They got experience this summer (at World University Games). It won’t be too bad. I feel they are anxious to get out there.”
Even Self, who loves practice, sounds as if he’s overdue to patrol the bench area during a game.
Self said the first month of practice, “hasn’t seemed it’s gone quite as fast because we started so much earlier. The rule says you can start 42 days before the first game but you have to take 12 days off.”
The Jayhawks have had a few intrasquad scrimmages with refs. Tonight in an exhibition against an actual opponent, Self wants to see, “how we play within the focus of the rules. I would love to see if we can play without fouling and still be aggressive. A lot of people can play without fouling but they lose all aggressiveness and can we do both? Can we be good defensively and also be a team that plays smart and doesn’t play with their hands as much and are disciplined? Those are what I want to see and then to see how the young kids react when the lights are on.”
“I would like for us to be able to score inside. I think that’s something that obviously was a deficiency last year that we’re trying to address, but I still don’t think we’re very good at it,” Self said.
“We’re going to throw it all over the gym. We’ll turn it over. We’ll not miss block outs. We’ll do all that stuff, just like they will also. I mean, it’s so early, it’s hard to be great at everything.”
Red-shirt talk: Self was asked if there were any red-shirt possibilities this season. “You know what? No. No,” he said. “But if we decided to red-shirt a freshman, we can do it after the two exhibition games. You just can’t red-shirt anybody else. So, if everybody plays on Wednesday, that’s returning, then that would eliminate them as a possible red- shirt.”
The NCAA passed a rule a few years ago that allowed first-year players to compete in exhibitions and still be eligible to red-shirt. If a returning player is used in an exhibition, he can’t red-shirt the season.
The foe: The Gorillas are coached by Kevin Muff, who is 76-67 entering his sixth season at Pitt State. Last year, Pitt State went 20-12 and finished tied for third in the MIAA with a 12-7 record. The Gorillas won the 2015 MIAA Postseason Tournament. ... PSU is picked to finish fifth in the MIAA preseason coaches’ poll. ... The Gorillas return four players who started 13 or more games a year ago, as well as eight letterwinners. Junior guard Josiah Gustafson (15.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg) returns after earning first-team All-MIAA honors. Senior guard Javis Flynn (6.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg) led the MIAA in assists (5.0) and steals (2.4). Senior guard Trey Starks (12.3 ppg), the MVP of the MIAA Postseason Tournament, also is back. ... Pitt State has an enrollment of 7,127.
This, that: KU has won all 10 meetings with Pittsburg State, including six exhibition contests. This series started in 1944 and every meeting has been played in Lawrence. ... KU is 75-9 in exhibition contests, including 43-2 under Self after its 10-0 run during the summer of 2015 at the World University Games. KU has won 42-straight exhibition contests in Allen Fieldhouse. The last home loss in exhibition play was 93-82 to Australia on Nov. 29, 1993.
F — Trevor Gregory (6-7, Jr.)
G — Dakota Jones (5-11, Soph.)
G — Josiah Gustafson (6-6, Jr.)
G — Javis Flynn (5-10, Sr.)
G — Jaxon Holden (6-1, Soph.)
F — Perry Ellis (6-8, Sr.)
F — Jamari Traylor (6-8, Sr.)
G — Frank Mason III (5-11, Jr.)
G — Wayne Selden Jr. (6-5, Jr.)
G — Devonté Graham (6-2, Soph.)
Tipoff: 7 tonight Allen Fieldhouse.
1 — Doug Palacio, 5-10, 165, Fr., G, Arlington, Texas.
2 — Louis Rollins, 6-2, 180, Fr., G, Shawnee Mission.
3 — Javis Flynn, 5-10, 170, Sr., G, Watonga, Oklahoma.
4 — Josiah Gustafson, 6-6, 190, Jr., G, Omaha.
5 — Chris Owens, 6-4, 180, Fr., G, Springdale, Arkansas.
10 — Adrian Fernandez, 6-4, 175, Soph., G, Madrid, Spain.
11 — Trey Starks, 6-0, 190, Sr., G, Springfield, Missouri.
15 — Lucas Wilson, 6-5, 185, Fr., F, Paola.
20 — Lamine Dieng, 6-8, 230, Sr., F, Thies, Senegal.
21 — Jaxon Holden, 6-1, 185, Soph., G, Flower Mound, Texas.
22 — Denton Hays, 6-7, 225, Sr., F, Tulsa.
23 — Creighton Brinker, 6-8, 220, Jr., F, Seneca.
24 — Trevor Gregory, 6-7, 235, Jr., F, Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
32 — Dakota Jones, 5-11, 175, Soph., G, Warrensburg, Mo.
33 — Colton Pitko, 6-0, 170, Fr., G, Eureka.
Head coach: Kevin Muff. Assistants: Ryan Stock, Preston Ingram.
0 — Frank Mason III, 5-11, 185, Jr., G, Petersburg, Virginia.
1 — Wayne Selden, Jr., 6-5, 230, Jr., G, Roxbury, Massachusetts.
2 — Lagerald Vick, 6-5, 175, Fr., G, Memphis.
4 — Devonté Graham, 6-2, 175, Soph., G, Raleigh, North Carolina.
5 — Evan Manning, 6-3, 170, Sr., G, Lawrence.
10 — Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, 6-8, 195, Soph., G, Cherkasy, Ukraine.
11 — Tyler Self, 6-2, 165, Jr., G, Lawrence.
13 — Cheick Diallo, 6-9, 220, Fr., F, Kayes, Mali, Africa.
14 — Brannen Greene, 6-7, 215, Jr., G, Juliette, Georgia.
15 — Carlton Bragg, Jr., 6-9, 220, Fr., F, Cleveland.
21 — Clay Young, 6-5, 205, Soph., F, Lansing.
22 — Dwight Coleby, 6-9, 240, Jr., F, Nassau, Bahamas.
31 — Jamari Traylor, 6-8, 220, Sr., F, Chicago.
33 — Landen Lucas, 6-10, 240, Jr., F, Portland, Oregon.
34 — Perry Ellis, 6-8, 225, Sr., F, Wichita.
42 — Hunter Mickelson, 6-10, 245, Sr., F, Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Head coach: Bill Self. Assistants: Kurtis Townsend, Norm Roberts, Jerrance Howard.