Sunday, September 16, 2018

Jayhawks bracing for another Bill Self boot camp

Kansas head coach Bill Self watches as the players rapidly shuffle across the court during Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m.

Kansas head coach Bill Self watches as the players rapidly shuffle across the court during Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m.


In late August, just a few weeks after the Kansas men’s basketball team had arrived back on campus, KU coach Bill Self was asked a simple question.

“How has the team looked?” a small group of reporters wondered.

Without hesitating and in that self-deprecating, Self sort of way, the Kansas coach said simply, “Our conditioning’s awful.”

There’s no doubt that the Jayhawks have taken plenty of measures in the past few weeks to change their head coach’s opinion. But none of those efforts will have been as intense and challenging as what the Jayhawks will face this week, starting bright and early Monday morning.

It’s boot camp time for the Kansas basketball program, the two-week conditioning grind that serves as a way to test and shape the minds of the Jayhawks as much as their bodies.

For the next 10 days, Self and his coaching staff will push this year’s Jayhawks like some of them have never been pushed before.

So much of the experience emphasizes mental toughness. And in the past, flawless execution occasionally has led to shorter sessions.

“It’s kind of a mental thing that we put our guys through,” Self has said in the past. “For two weeks, anything goes, basically. And anything could go, whether it be 5 a.m. wake-up calls to workouts, to afternoon-type things, to if you’re a minute late to tutoring, to if you’re a minute late to class, anything goes.”

About half of the players on KU’s 2018-19 roster know exactly what that means. And while that might serve them well in preparing themselves, it won’t exactly be knowledge they can share with their younger teammates. As just about anybody who ever has tackled one of Self’s boot camps will tell you, one has to go through it to understand exactly what it’s about.

“It’s just something you can’t condition yourself for,” former Jayhawk Devonte’ Graham said last year.

Freshmen Devon Dotson, Ochai Agbaji, Quentin Grimes and David McCormack, along with walk-ons E.J. Elliott and Garrett Luinstra will join sophomore Silvio De Sousa in going through the experience for the first time. Veterans Lagerald Vick, Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot have been through it multiple times before. And sophomores Marcus Garrett and Chris Teahan enter this week with at least some knowledge of what it’s all about.

Even transfers Charlie Moore and Dedric and K.J. Lawson were around last year to get a feel for how to survive boot camp.

“The drill work and getting their bodies in shape, getting their feet in shape and everything else, it’s probably more than most have gone through,” Self admitted in the past. “Of course, it’s not anything that they can’t get through. But they have a sense of pride when they do it together as a team, and I think it’s been a great team-building experience for us.”

One of the most interesting aspects of this year’s boot camp centers on KU’s search for a new leader. With Graham and Frank Mason III now long gone, the door is open for someone to take the leadership reins. That will be a big thing the coaching staff observes during the next couple of weeks. And aiding them in that process will be the presence of the ex-military guys from The Program, who will come to Lawrence for two days next week.

“That’ll be the end of boot camp,” Self said. “So we’ll go Monday through the next Thursday (Sept. 27). … And our stuff will end on Tuesday.”


Bryce Landon 3 years, 11 months ago

I've often wondered where Coach Self got the idea of boot camp. Did he develop it himself, or did he get the idea from his mentors at Oklahoma State? If he has at some point explained the origins of boot camp, it's been long enough that I have forgotten.

Jonathan Allison 3 years, 11 months ago

I think that pretty much every coach worth his weight in salt, uses some form of "boot camp" for the first one or two weeks of practice. Though they may not call it by that name. I remember going through brutal conditioning sessions for the first week or two weeks of practice going all the way back to 7th grade (20 years ago). During the first week, especially, there was little to no drills which involved an actual basketball. It was sprints, defensive slides, jumping up and down, push-ups, and then more sprints and defensive slides.

I assume that it's this way at most schools, but will admit that my experience was at a school which was so small as to not have the luxury of having "try-outs" or making cuts.

In 7th grade in fact they combined the Jr. High and HS practices for the first week of practice and I don't even think there was a basketball in the building. I pushed myself to limit and was usually the second finisher most sets of sprints. After the week was over the HS coach gave me a gift card for a free pizza at the local pizza hut because I outran 90+% of his HS team.

In 8th grade I played on the Jr. High team, but practiced with the HS team before school two times a week, for one game late in the season I actually got to suit up and play on the HS team after one of their players was dismissed from the school. I got scrub minutes in the 4th quarter, but it did make me feel special.

My 9th grade year the HS team had a new coach, and my reputation had to be earned all over again. But the tradition of intense conditioning and minimal ball work the first one of two weeks of practice continued.

Phil Leister 3 years, 11 months ago

So relevant to the question posed. Thank you very much for the three paragraphs about your junior high experiences. Can you tell us about high school as well?

Jonathan Allison 3 years, 11 months ago

Bill Self didn't invent wind sprints. He didn't invent defensive slides, and he didn't invent treadmills. He has only perfected the art of using them to whip his teams into preseason basketball shape.

These players are coming into the pre-season in a condition that less than 1% of us were ever in in our lives, but the means of getting them from "awful conditioning" to "pretty good shape" is nothing new.

I could describe to you the drills that we did. But odds are good that you probably did something very similar to them when you were younger. And odds are good that everyone on Bill Self's roster could relate to them despite the fact that many of them are future pro-basketball players and I never was even a blip of the radar of any college coach at any level of college basketball.

How about you? Maybe you had a great basketball coach who in fact didn't make you run "suicides" or "Vegas's". Maybe your team reported to practice in great shape and your coach immediately started implementing the offense and defensive sets and breaking down film in preparation for the first opponent.

My assumption is that right up until the professional level, when you're essentially responsible for your own preparedness, that almost all coaches will use the first week of practice to run the boys into the ground.

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