KU basketball practice officially under way
You might have felt it sometime around mid- to late-afternoon on Wednesday.
Something was different. Something was buzzing. Something was real.
And it’s something that so many of you have been waiting months for, even counting down to ever since the 2017-18 Kansas basketball season ended at the Final Four in San Antonio.
Yes, Wednesday marked the first official practice of the 2018-19 KU basketball season, and, according to Kansas coach Bill Self, the session was much more about setting up what’s to come than diving in too deep right away.
“Today is going to be the easiest practice of all-time,” Self told reporters shortly before taking his new team onto the floor for its first real practice of the new season. “It’s going to be a walk-through. Still practicing, going three-quarter speed, but just something so we can get through the drills that we’re going to do the first week of practice.”
Typically, Late Night — set for 6:30 p.m. Friday at Allen Fieldhouse — has marked the first official practice of Kansas basketball season. But because of a counting error by the head man himself, the Jayhawks were actually able to get going a couple of days before Late Night.
See, recent NCAA rules dictate that a team’s first practice can be held 42 days ahead of their first game. And, initially, when Self did the math back from KU’s fast-approaching season opener against Michigan State at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis, he landed on Friday, Sept. 28. Turns out he was off by two days. Technically, the Jayhawks could have gone on Tuesday, but Self decided to take that day off since the team finished boot camp in the morning.
That turned out to be a good move in the eyes of the players. Asked on Wednesday if he had felt more sore than normal having to contend with so many bulked-up big men on the Kansas roster this season, KU junior Mitch Lightfoot, up a few pounds of muscle himself, said simply, “I think I’m sore because of boot camp right now. It has nothing to do with practice.”
From there, instead of leaving well enough alone, Self adjusted this week’s schedule and plugged in the first practice for Wednesday. In order to do so, Self had to postpone KU’s previously scheduled session with The Program, but doing so cleared the way for Wednesday’s first practice, which not only will give the Jayhawks a jump start on Late Night but also will better prepare them for the practices in the immediate future.
That might not seem like much, but when you consider that seven of the 12 scholarship players on KU’s 2018-19 roster are essentially newcomers, it makes sense that they’d want to capitalize on every possible moment before diving in for real.
NCAA rules require teams to take 12 of those 42 days off leading up to the first game so Self and company already have the next month or so mapped out.
Here’s a sneak peek: Off Tuesday. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Off Saturday. On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Off the next Wednesday. On the next Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“We’re going to average probably about three-on, one-off probably for the next three or four weeks,” Self explained.
Practice on the same day as Late Night? Is that common?
It’s not, Self said. But it’s important this year because of the recruits who are slated to visit campus this weekend.
“Since recruits are here, we’ll practice for about an hour, just so they can see us practice and their families before Late Night,” he said. “Not every year, but we will this year for sure.”
In reality, KU’s practices actually began weeks ago. Relatively new NCAA rules allowing coaches to work with their players on a limited basis once school begins has changed the feel of the start of the season during recent years.
“Late Night used to be the initial start of practice,” Self said. “It was a big deal. It tipped off your season. It doesn’t tip it off any more. The first day of school tips it off because you can work with them four hours a week. (That) may not seem like a lot, but, hey, one hour a day, four days a week, that’s quite a bit. So we’ve got some stuff in.”
And they have even more in now that they’ve had one official, full-squad practice. Two more this week before Late Night and then a day off before jumping into the meat of what they hope will be a run back to the Final Four.
“Honestly, anything’s possible with this team,” freshman forward David McCormack said Wednesday. “Our dynamic is amazing. I don’t even know how to speak on it to a further extent. We have a lot of great talent. We have a great dynamic. We have a tough mentality. Our goals, we haven’t really spoken on them, but we feel really good about this year.”