Many would agree that the Day One open practice at the NCAA Tournament is a lot like the referee at a WWE event: You wouldn’t miss it if it wasn’t there, but it just wouldn’t be the same.
However, approximately 3,500 fans – many of them too young to know who Danny Manning is – turned out at Kemper Arena to watch the Jayhawks run drills and shoots threes for 35 minutes Thursday night.
The crowd gave KU a tremendous ovation as they came out of the tunnel and stepped onto the floor. “That ovation was nice, Coach Bill Self said, “Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve seen a tremendous following for KU Basketball.”
Among the crowd was 11-year-old Sarah from Shawnee, who led the cheers like it was a regional final. “I found out Sunday I was coming, and I’ve been excited all week,” she said.
Cathy Apel of Kansas City brought her two sons, 11 and 9, to the game because practice is just as satisfying for the kids. “The boys are huge basketball fans, and tickets are awfully expensive, so we came to practice. We’re having a great time!”
One of the highlights of the evening was Coach Bill Self taking six deep three-point shots, making three. Later, he was told his players said he missed three due to stage fright
Self grinned and shot back, “Well, if that’s the case, some of them have had stage fright several times this season.” Then he added, “I thought for having a warm-up jacket on and not being loose, I didn’t think I was that bad.”
The other highlight was a slam dunk contest featuring the KU “smalls” at the end of the 35-minute workout, with Omar Wilkes declared the winner by Self and KU “bigs” Jeff Graves, J.R. Giddens and Wayne Simien.