One of the Best Late Nights?

This may have been one of the best Late Nights of all. The Kansas men's and women's basketball team danced, they sang, and celebrated the beginning of hoops season. And the crowd cheered.

Highlights of legendary players, coaches, and games from yesteryear were shown on the video board. Memorable names like James Naismith, Phog Allen, Roy Williams, Larry Brown, Wilt Chamberlain, and Danny Manning suddenly came racing back for the crimson and blue faithful.

And the crowd cheered.

Former Kansas players in the NBA also strut their stuff on the video board. Jayhawk fans relished and became mesmerized seeing Drew Gooden, Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Wayne Simien, Scot Pollard, Jacque Vaughn, Raef LaFrentz, and Paul Pierce dunk, shoot, pass, and create their Jayhawk magic.

And the crowd cheered.

“Survivor” winner, KU graduate, and TV personality Danni Boatwright interviewed the KU players as they came out of a Corvette, Infiniti, and other fancy cars before walking onto the red carpet heading into Allen Fieldhouse.

Senior forward Jamie Boyd (Underwood, Ia.) couldn’t wait to get on the court for her last Late Night and participate in the scrimmage. She may be from Hawkeye country, but now she’s pure Jayhawk.

“There’s nowhere else I’d rather play,” Boyd told Boatwright.

And the crowd cheered.

KU legend and pro football Hall of Famer John Riggins was introduced to the frenzied crowd as highlights of his famed KU and NFL career were displayed on the video board. Riggo received a standing ovation as he talked about how proud he was to be inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime of the KU-Baylor game the next day.

He said he wished his parents were alive to see him honored.

“I know they would be extremely proud because it meant so much for them to see their boys go to the University of Kansas,” Riggins said.

Riggins joked that the only people who might remember him are either ones collecting social security or those who have passed away. Then he concluded his speech:

“Ultimately, this is an honor for my family,” Riggins said. “I accept it graciously. I bow humbly before you.”

So one of the greatest football players in KU and NFL history bowed on James Naismith Court.

And the crowd cheered.

There was so much more. KU football coach Mark Mangino came to midcourt and wished the men’s and women’s teams the best of luck this season, and said all the sports teams at Kansas were united together. The Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers mascots entertained the Jayhawk Nation as they jumped on the trampoline, dunked basketballs, and danced with fans.

And then the women’s team took the floor. The White team beat the Blue, 18-17. Junior guard Ivan Catic of the White team stole the show with a game-high eight points (3-3 FG and 2-2 three-pointers), junior center Maria Zinic (four points in seven minutes) showed some fire with a couple strong moves to the hoop, and freshman guard Chakeitha Weldon (five points) attacked the rim off the dribble.

“It was great energy, great atmosphere,” Henrickson said after the scrimmage. “You don’t ever take something like that (Late Night) for granted.”

Henrickson said the players weren’t as nervous as last year.

“I think last year, Kelly Kohn bricked the first layup in warmups, and I was told she made her first layup, so that was good," Henrickson said. "I thought Chakeitha was aggressive. They’re (freshmen) going to be fine. They weren’t any different than those kids last year were as freshmen.”

After the women’s scrimmage, it was time for the men’s team to take center stage. First, KU coach Bill Self walked onto the court to thunderous applause.

"The football team is having a great year and that's the best thing that could have happened for this University, but isn't it about time we start playing some basketball," Self said.

The KU coach told the fans a team is only as good as its seniors.

“This year, we have five studs,” Self said. “We got to go for the big prize. We got to cut down the nets in April.”

And the crowd cheered wildly once more.

After some high-flying dunks during warmups, the men’s team played a 20-minute scrimmage. The Red team beat the Blue, 44-34, while shooting a sizzling 60.6 percent from the field. Senior guard Jeremy Case led the Red team with 12 points (5-5 FG and 2-2 three-pointers), while senior center Sasha Kaun scored nine points and pulled down six rebounds. Sophomore forward Darrell Arthur added eight points for the Red, as junior guard Mario Chalmers chipped in five points, four rebounds, and five assists.

Sophomore guard Sherron Collins of the Blue team led all scorers with 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Freshman guard Connor Teahan, senior forward Darnell Jackson, and sophomore guard Brady Morningstar all added six points each for the Blue. Freshman center Cole Aldrich went scoreless with three turnovers in nine minutes.

After the scrimmage, a reporter immediately asked Self: “How was the hoop?”

“I didn’t think it was great, but it’s probably as good as it was ever going to be in this setting,” he said. “We haven’t even started practice yet. One thing that was good is the Red team made shots. Usually you don’t make shots in situations like that. But we didn’t guard anybody. That’s not real ball.”

“I think there were probably some good things happened tonight that all freshmen need to go through, and that will be good for them in the long run because it was new and nervous, and those other guys get juiced up and ready to play. Their experience really shows."

“Cole was nervous. The little guards get in there and dive down on him. He’ll adjust. The game is fast right now, but he’ll come around.”

Overall, Self thought Late Night in the Phog was a huge hit.

“They had a good time,” he said. “To be honest with you, I thought it was really funny with the singing and the skits.”

Case had a great time dancing, shooting the deep ball, driving to the hoop, and just relishing his last Late Night at Kansas.

“It was probably the most fun I had of any Late Night,” he said.

Case truly enjoyed walking onto the Hollywood style Red Carpet.

“It’s just something different,” he said. “They hyped it up a lot and put the fans on the side and the cheerleading stuff. It felt good doing that. It was a lot of fun. “

And did he have fun talking to Boatwright?

“I’d have to say yes,” Case said with a smile. “She’s a beautiful lady. I know they were only supposed to interview a couple (players). She had me stuttering a little bit with that smile.”

Reed, for one, was overwhelmed with all the fan support.

“It was awesome,” he said. “Just growing up being a fan sitting there, it’s different being a player, but it was a great experience. We have the best fans in the country. It’s amazing. Ever since we’ve had Late Night, it’s been packed every time. I know all the players appreciate it. I appreciate it, and I can’t wait to do it next year.”

So do we.

All in the Family

During media day before Late Night in the Phog, senior guard Rodrick Stewart broke exclusive news about his twin brothers Kadeem and Hikeem. It seems the 15-year-old high school freshmen have some mad hoop skills, and they’d like to follow in their older brother’s footsteps at Kansas.

“Ah definitely” Stewart replied. “That’s all they talk about. They really love KU more than SC (where Rodrick’s twin brother Lodrick went to school and just finished his last year with the Trojans in 2006-07). They love it here.”


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