While the date of Late Night seems to be changing and arriving sooner every year, there are still a few things about KU basketball’s annual tipoff event that remain the same.
From the classic Late Night countdown by Kansas fans to the organization and structure of the event itself, Late Night in the Phog, set for its 34th edition on Friday night, has continued to be one of the most anticipated events on the KU sports calendar. And this year’s extravaganza does not appear to be any different.
Sure, the event is earlier than ever — last year’s Sept. 30 date was the earliest in history and we’re checking in two days earlier than that even this year — but that just adds to the excitement, as fans of Kansas basketball don’t have to wait quite as long for their favorite team to get back on the floor.
The Jayhawks actually begin practicing Tuesday — the first official day allowed by NCAA rules — and will use Late Night’s scrimmage as a second practice of sorts, even if it is more about the festivities and the spectacle than X’s and O’s.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few key questions surrounding this year’s Late Night.
The nuts and bolts of what’s what with the 2018-19 team won’t be revealed or learned for several weeks still, but Late Night itself comes with a handful of questions. So let’s tackle them.
• First the details: The 34th annual Late Night event, which will be free of charge and open to fans on a first-come, first-served basis until Allen Fieldhouse fills up, is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. But the fun will start much sooner than that. Here's a look.
11 a.m. — Phog Fest starts on the lawn east of Allen Fieldhouse
1 p.m. — Booth Family Hall of Athletics closes
2 p.m. — Debruce Center closes
4 p.m. — Phog Fest closes
4:30 p.m. — Student doors open
5 p.m. — General public doors open
6:30 p.m. — Start of Late Night in the Phog
Food trucks scheduled to be at this year's Phog Fest outside of Allen Fieldhouse include: Drasko's, Blend, Mad Greek, Monk's Food Truck, G's Jamaican Cuisine and Polar Oasis.
Fans attending the event are encouraged to bring a nonperishable food item to donate to Just Food. Monetary donations also will be accepted at the event at entry. Additionally, there will be a 50/50 raffle, with the proceeds benefiting Just Food.
With school in session, all university parking lots will be restricted until 5 p.m., with the exception of Lot 90, located across Naismith Drive to the southeast of Allen Fieldhouse, which will be available for public parking at noon. During the day, public parking is available in the parking garage just north of Allen Fieldhouse with hourly rates. Parking in the garage for Late Night in the Phog after 5 p.m. will be $5 per vehicle.
Be prepared for the entry process to be a little slower than usual due to the security measures and the large amount of fans trying to enter at the same time. According to KU Athletics, all persons — staff and guests — are subject to screening before entering Allen Fieldhouse. Walk-through metal detectors will be the primary means of screening. For guests who are unable to use a walk-through metal detector, hand-held metal detectors will be used, with physical pat-downs as a final alternative option. Any person who does not consent to screening will be denied entry into the Fieldhouse. For more information on what is and is not allowed inside Allen Fieldhouse, please review the clear bag policy and the list of prohibited items. A bag check will be provided for a $5 charge for those not wanting to walk back to their vehicles. The bag check will be located at a secured tent on the corner of Naismith Drive and Allen Fieldhouse Drive.
• Who is this year's celebrity performer? Beyond the men’s scrimmage, which caps Late Night each year, the question of which musical act the Jayhawks will bring in seems to be one of the most anticipated aspects of Late Night. And this year does not figure to be a letdown. Monday night, during his weekly "Hawk Talk" radio show, KU football coach David Beaty spilled the beans that Grammy-winning rapper 2 Chainz will be at Late Night this year, performing four or five songs for 15 or 20 minutes. It marks the third year in a row that KU has brought in a big-time rap artist (Tech N9ne in 2016 and Lil Yachty in 2017) for the event and continues the tradition of adding a celebrity flare to an already wild night. In the past, Hollywood actor Rob Riggle (2014), "Survivor" winner Dani Boatright and, of course, dozens of famous or soon-to-be-famous recruits have packed Allen Fieldhouse for the season kickoff event, and 2 Chainz will be the latest in a long line of big names at this year’s event.
• What will KU’s depth mean for Late Night? Simply put, it could mean a more intense scrimmage. Regardless of how you break it up, this year’s roster features two pretty strong starting fives and a few bodies behind that even. Picture this: The crimson team trots out Charlie Moore, Quentin Grimes, Marcus Garrett, Dedric Lawson and Udoka Azubuike. And the blue team runs with Devon Dotson, Ochai Agbaji, Lagerald Vick, Silvio De Sousa and David McCormack. Talk about an all-out battle between a bunch of dudes who a.) want to secure bragging rights and b.) don’t want to get punked in front of the KU faithful. “I think we’re going to play defense (this year),” Garrett said recently with a smile. “I think it might be a little competitive out there. That’s definitely what (depth) does.”
• Who’s the one to watch? If you’re picking just one KU player and you can get past the idea of watching everything 7-foot monster Azubuike does around the rim, I’d get my eyes on freshman Grimes, who has the potential to be an absolute star this season. Grimes was terrific in high school, even better during the all-star circuit this spring and summer, and played a big role on the Bill Self-coached U17 USA team that won gold at the FIBA Americas in June. After that, he arrived at Kansas and has just kept working on his game. Watch him with the ball, watch him off the ball, watch him defend and watch him hunt highlights, like this one from a team shoot-around on Monday afternoon.
• What about recruiting? Well, as you all surely know, one of the biggest parts of Late Night is the recruiting element, with both the festivities and the students doing their part to wow the recruits who are in the building. Each year, a dozen or so official and unofficial visitors make the trip to Late Night to take in the scene and see what Kansas is all about. The Jayhawks don’t land all of the visitors, of course, but it’s rare that at least one or two of the guys who visit don’t wind up becoming Jayhawks in the future. Heck, some guys have been so impressed by what they saw that they committed to Kansas in the days that followed. And while that might not be the case this year, the recruiting element will be as big as ever, with a few elite targets expected to be in the building on Friday night.
Here’s a quick look at the list that we know of today: Recent KU commitment Christian Braun (unofficially), a 4-star guard from nearby Blue Valley Northwest High; Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (5-star forward from IMG, ranked No. 10 in 2019 class); James Wiseman (5-star center from Memhpis, ranked No. 2 in 2019 class); Cassius Stanley (4-star shooting guard ranked No. 31 in 2019 class); R.J. Hampton (5-star point guard ranked No. 5 in 2020 class); N’Faly Dante (5-star center ranked No. 7 in 2020 class); Chandler Lawson (No. 87 in 2019 class) and Jonathan Lawson (youngest of the Lawson brothers); Isaac McBride (4-star point guard ranked No. 109 in 2019 class); Anthony Walker (4-star power forward ranked No. 76 in 2019 class); Ty Berry (3-star point guard ranked No. 121 in 2020 class); and Bryce Thompson (4-star shooting guard ranked No. 66 in 2020 class). Asked if he got the sense that Late Night meant something to these recruits, Garrett, who did not visit Kansas for Late Night, said: “Oh yeah, of course. I feel like when recruits come to Late Night, they have fun, they like the atmosphere, the fans and things like that, and we get to spend time with them, have a little fun, play video games.”
• Don’t forget to keep an eye on? KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend. Sure, KU coach Bill Self has been at the center of the spectacle for the past 15 years, but Townsend has always done a great job of using his sense of humor and wit to steal at least a portion of the spotlight. So if you see a skit featuring Townsend, don’t dismiss it as a good time to go to the bathroom. Dig in and get ready to laugh. You won’t be sorry.
• Oh, by the way ... For those who can't wait until Friday to get their first glimpse at the team, here's a Twitter post from senior Lagerald Vick of the Jayhawks after Tuesday's final boot camp session of the year. Clearly, these guys have put in some work in the weight room and appear to be in great shape entering the 2018-19 season.
The recent tradition of bringing a big-name rap star to Late Night in the Phog to help kick off another Kansas basketball season appears to be alive and well.
And it was KU’s football coach, of all people, who dropped the announcement.
Speaking about the hype surrounding the week ahead for Kansas athletics on his regular Hawk Talk radio show on Monday night, David Beaty revealed that famed rapper 2 Chainz was coming to Kansas for Late Night.
“We've got the Homecoming parade on Thursday,” began Beaty, whose team will take on Oklahoma State at 11 a.m. Saturday in its 2018 Homecoming game. “Obviously, Late Night on Friday, which is extremely exciting. I think 2 Chainz is going to be there, which is a big deal, you know.”
And with that the mystery surrounding this year’s guest was gone. A source with knowledge of KU’s entertainment plans for Late Night told the Journal-World on Monday night that they, too, had heard 2 Chainz was coming.
In addition to continuing the trend of welcoming popular rap stars to Late Night, the addition of the 2017 Grammy Award winner for Best Rap Performance (for "No Problem" with Chance the Rapper and Lil Wayne) to the Late Night lineup makes sense for another reason.
2 Chainz has strong ties to Adidas, which not long ago released a shoe — dubbed the Top Ten Hi “2 Good 2 Be TRU.” — inspired by the name of the rapper's first headlining tour and the company's collaboration with the Georgia-based rapper.
With Kansas being one of Adidas’ biggest college basketball brands, it would only make sense for 2 Chainz to appear at an Adidas school if and when he decided to jump into the preseason college basketball performance game.
Beyond that, 2 Chainz — aka Tauheed Epps — also has a college basketball past. From 1995-97, Epps played on the Alabama State University basketball team, averaging 2.8 points and 1.6 rebounds in 4.5 minutes per game during his two seasons with the program.
Throughout his post-basketball, musical career, 2 Chainz has written and performed a number of hits that opened in the top 50 of the Billboard Hot 100, with a few climbing into the Top 5.
He follows 2017 guest Lil Yachty and 2016 guest Tech N9ne as the most recent rap stars to perform at Late Night and figures to be a huge hit for the college students, athletes and recruits in attendance.
As for the recruiting aspect of Late Night, the latest visitor list for the 2018 edition features: Recent KU commitment Christian Braun (unofficially), a 4-star guard from nearby Blue Valley Northwest High; Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (5-star forward from IMG, ranked No. 10 in 2019 class); James Wiseman (5-star center from Memhpis, ranked No. 2 in 2019 class); Cassius Stanley (4-star shooting guard ranked No. 31 in 2019 class); R.J. Hampton (5-star point guard ranked No. 5 in 2020 class); N’Faly Dante (5-star center ranked No. 7 in 2020 class); Chandler Lawson (No. 87 in 2019 class) and Jonathan Lawson (youngest of the Lawson brothers); Isaac McBride (4-star point guard ranked No. 109 in 2019 class); Anthony Walker (4-star power forward ranked No. 76 in 2019 class); Ty Berry (3-star point guard ranked No. 121 in 2020 class); and Bryce Thompson (4-star shooting guard ranked No. 66 in 2020 class).
The Jayhawks, who will put the finishing touches on this year's Bill Self boot camp on Tuesday morning and officially will begin practicing on Wednesday, also have been busy preparing for the usual skits, performances and team scrimmage that also are a huge part of every Late Night.
Stay tuned throughout the week for more on Late Night 2018.