KU basketball season is finally here, and it all starts Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse when the Jayhawks host Emporia State in what is believed to be the earliest exhibition home game in KU basketball history.
After two-plus weeks of practice, KU coach Bill Self is anxious to see how his team plays when the lights come on, especially the freshmen. Self is somewhat concerned heading into the game since his team has only scrimmaged once thus far, and that was even cut short.
"I'd like to see how our guys react to guarding different action," Self said. "I'd like to see how they react to scouting report because we're so young and everything is going to be new. I'd like to see how Ben (McLemore), Perry (Ellis), Andrew (White) and other freshmen react under the lights for the first time. It's one thing to get after each other in practice, but I'd like to see us get after somebody to see what that would be like."
Self will start Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and McLemore on the perimeter, and Jeff Withey and Jamari Traylor up front. Ellis will be the first big guy off the bench with White the first perimeter player off the pine.
With senior forward Kevin Young out with a broken right hand for about 10 days, Traylor has stepped up and earned a starting nod. The 6-8, 220-pound Chicago native sat out last season as a partial qualifier. Self calls him a "relentless" player who "will go after the ball."
"He's played the hardest, and in the last week, he's played the best of the other guys (big men)," Self said. "What I want to see Jamari do is be able to do it in the game and not just practice. There's not pressure in practice. If you miss a shot, it's not a big deal. Jamari has just played (two years) of basketball, ever. I just want to see how he reacts to a game-type situation as much as anything."
Emporia State, which is coached by former Colorado star Shaun Vandiver (second year at ESU), returns two starters and seven lettermen overall from last season's 9-18 team. The Hornets, who finished 5-15 in the Mid America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, lost at Tulsa, 60-49, on Saturday. Terrence Moore, a 6-1 freshman guard and a former teammate of Ellis at Wichita Heights, was the only Hornet player to score in double figures (12 points). Emporia State outrebounded Danny Manning's team, 44-36, yet committed 22 turnovers.
Like any young team (KU has seven freshmen plus two freshman walk-ons in Tyler Self and Evan Manning, who's missed practice with an ankle injury), the Jayhawks have had some turnover problems themselves in practice. Self has a warning for the media on press row Tuesday night.
"We got some turnover issues, without question," Self said, "and will continue to have those for a period of time. But it's gradually getting better. For those of you sitting on press row, have your hands ready."
*KU is 59-9 in exhibition games, including 27-2 under Self. The Jayhawks have won 36 straight home exhibition games dating back to 1994.
*Kansas leads the overall series with Emporia State 13-3, including a 5-0 record in exhibition games. The series dates back to 1904. KU last faced the Hornets on Nov. 9, 2010, when the Jayhawks defeated ESU 90-59 in an exhibition game in Allen Fieldhouse.
*Self's teams at KU are 18-0 in home exhibition games.
*Kansas has scored 100-plus points in 24 exhibition contests, including four of its last seven.
*Vandiver should be a familiar face for Jayhawk fans. The former 6-10 power forward was the Big Eight's Rookie of the Year in 1988 for Colorado and a two-time first-team All-Big 8 selection in 1990 and 1991. He led CU to a third place finish in the NIT during his final season in 1990-91. The Buffaloes had not previously been to the NIT semifinals in 22 years.
He was then selected as the 25th overall pick in the 1991 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors. However, he never played for them. He wound up having a successful nine-year career in Europe.
Vandiver, who was named head coach at Emporia State in April 2011, previously served as an assistant at Boise State during the 2010-11 season. He's also been an assistant at Wyoming, Bowling Green, and Northern Colorado.
*Bill Self's Assists Foundation is hosting "A Courtside View" Panel fundraising event on Nov. 1 at the Crown Toyota Pavilion in Lawrence. The panel of hoops experts will feature Self, ESPN's Jay Bilas and Fran Fraschilla, Sporting News columnist Mike DeCourcy and Kansas City star columnist Blair Kerkhoff.
The event will take place from 6-9 p.m. with a cocktail hour set from 6-7. Self said they are expecting about 400 people for the event, and plenty of tickets are still available at www.assistyouth.org.
"We're really looking forward to this event," Self said in a press release. "We've got some great guys coming to talk about the upcoming season and discuss some of the major issues that are impacting our sport today. I think KU fans are the most knowledgeable basketball fans in the country, they understand the sport and they stay well-informed on things happening around the country. For anybody that loves to talk ball and the issues that are effecting it at all levels, this will be a really great night."