October 3, 2013

Self, KU ready for Late Night

Friday night is quickly becoming the most anticipated edition of Late Night in the Phog since Bill Self's first year on campus giving fans a first look at possibly the most athletically gifted team in KU history.

Late Night in the Phog is the official start to basketball season at Kansas. Despite the fact that KU has practiced all week, Friday night will mark the first look at the team in Allen Fieldhouse in front of what should be a packed house of 16,300.

A day before the madness, Bill Self and players met with the media to look ahead to what should be a wild Late Night.

"We've had 4 (practices)," Self told the media on Thursday. "It's been ok, but it hasn't been great. I don't think anybody is too excited about their team right now. Obviously we've got some good players, some good athletes, but we've got some pieces that don't quite fit yet, but we've got another 5 or 6 weeks to figure it out."

Just days into practice, Kansas is only scraping the surface of its potential. Although they have a ways to go before they are ready for an opponent, the Jayhawks and Self's highly touted recruiting class which includes 8 newcomers has fans as excited as ever to step back into the old barn and enjoy KU hoops.

In Self's first decade at Kansas, only his first year could be considered as big or bigger than the hype surrounding the 2013 edition of Late Night.

"My first year here was unbelievable." Said Self. "We brought back the team from '88 and I think they turned away a lot of people at the door, but every year is full and I would think this year we will have a great chance to have it full again and they may do something in the baseball field if I'm not mistaken, as far as showing it. I do anticipate tomorrow night being one of the more anticipated nights we've had."

Earlier Thursday, preseason honors were handed out by the Big 12 conference.

Freshman Andrew Wiggins was named conference freshman of the year, as well as making the first team all-conference, the first freshman to do so in conference history.

Others receiving recognition included senior transfer Tarik Black, tabbed newcomer of the year. Black brings a unique blend of pure talent, as well as extensive experience, having played for Memphis for four years prior to finishing out his eligibility at Kansas.

Black spoke with the media before what he expects to be the wildest Midnight Madness he has seen in his five years.

"Craziness, I expect craziness," Black said. "I've been hearing so much about and everybody is talking so much about it. I've been a part of some madness's, but I'm expecting this one to be another level because of highly touted it has been."

On top of what he brings to the program when it comes to his basketball skills, Black talked about what he might bring on the dance floor Friday night during the annual skits put on by players.

"I could have a move or two, a move or two. I'm not bad contrary to what I may look like. We've got some guys that you wouldn't expect to be able to dance that actually can dance though. I haven't seen coach Self, I want to see coach Self dance. He's given us a few laughs over the past two days preparing for Late Night, but a guy like Perry [Ellis], I didn't think Perry had it in him but he's got moves, Perry's got moves so I can't wait to see them tomorrow night."

Junior guard Naadir Tharpe, who will be faced with a completely different role as a member of the team with the loss of point guard Elijah Johnson to graduation, is being pushed by freshman Frank Mason, a talented and under-recruited talent out of high school. Tharpe is unproven to some degree because of his sporadic play in his first two years, but knows the competition will only make the two of them and the team, better.

"It's been intense of course but it's only going to help us both out but nothing should be easy, it wasn't easy my first two years so it shouldn't be easy for him and it shouldn't be easy for me at all. I just tell him let's go after one another together," said Tharpe.

When asked about what people can expect from the team, Tharpe compared the talent of his teammates to his AAU days when he played with the best of the best.

"I'm not going to compare college basketball to high school but it makes me feel like I'm back in high school playing in the AAU days with the dudes that were around that were complete studs. Basically I played with Will Barton (Memphis) and CJ Fair (Syracuse), guys like that, and to be able to play with Andrew [Wiggins] coming here, Wayne Selden from back home, Perry now-he's gotten so much better than last year-and with the other dudes that we have surrounding us, it's going to be fun."

While they still have work to do, fans will finally get to see the full team play together on the court, Friday night. The hype will be astronomical and probably unrealistic when it comes to the unofficial box score following the 20 minute scrimmage, but it's Kansas Basketball, and it's Late Night in the Phog-a level of Midnight Madness that only the bluest of the blue bloods can put on display.

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