Coming off a National Championship season in the 2021-2022 college basketball season, Kansas basketball is making its way back to the court to defend its title.
Late Night in the Phog, an event where the University of Kansas typically gives fans a glimpse into what their upcoming basketball season could look like, took place a couple of weeks ago. Usually, the event is held the first weekend of October, but head coach Bill Self didn’t want to conflict with the school’s football team hosting home games.
This decision was made before the football season started and before anyone knew Kansas football would start the season 5-0. Self wanted to make sure students and Jayhawk fans would be all-in with head football coach Lance Leipold’s team.
Fast forward to early October, and Self made the right call. College GameDay came to Lawrence, KS on October 8th as the Jayhawks hosted the ESPN show. The football team has hit a bump in the road after a few key injuries, but it is still the most exciting football season in nearly 15 years.
That being said, the straw that stirs the drink around campus in Lawrence is the basketball program. Everyone knows it, and there’s still a place at the table for college football until December, but the basketball hype is already underway.
Late Night was packed and featured DJ Diesel, AKA NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, spinning a set to close the night. Leading up to the performance, Kansas unveiled its 2022 National Championship banner, and the men’s and women’s teams were both able to do a brief scrimmage in front of the crowd.
There were a few members of the 2022 National Title team in attendance and each team had a few athlete speakers as well as speeches from both head coaches. Typically this event is a big night for recruiting, and this one was no different. However, due to self-sanctions, all of the visits for the men’s program were “unofficial” visits where the athletic department wasn’t allowed to pay for their trips.
This past weekend KU had a surprise scrimmage in the St. Louis area. They went head-to-head with Illinois in what is being called a three-hour joint practice. There wasn’t a final score for the scrimmage and both teams worked on situational basketball.
The two teams played a 20-minute live scrimmage before taking a break and then followed that up with three 10-minute sessions. The teams ended the joint practice working on end-of-game situations.
Self called the scrimmages “competitive” and noted the “best players played pretty good,” with those in attendance saying Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar Jr. was the best player on the floor for the Jayhawks.
Returning starters DaJuan Harris Jr. and Jalen Wilson were also active. Self wants to see some of his young core Freshmen step up and do a better job. They still have some time to gel and grow together before the regular season gets underway. Self has time to figure out who will start vs who will be rotational players.
The Twitter account @KUHoops posted several videos of the “secret scrimmage” and showed off some highlights from the practice.
Yes, there is still plenty of football season left. The Jayhawks are on a bye this week and they will hope to heal up and get ready for the close of the season despite a tough stretch of games still ahead of them featuring three ranked teams. Everyone is pulling for the Jayhawks to get one more win and become bowl eligible.
However, just like every other year in October, it’s hard for Kansas fans not to get excited about the upcoming basketball season for the Jayhawks. As Bill Self said on the College GameDay set, there’s room for Kansas to be a football and basketball school. This year is just the start of what the athletic department hopes can be a great partnership between the two programs for many years to come.