Practice Makes...Perfect?

I walked with great anticipation last week down the hallway to the new KU basketball practice facility connected to the west side of Allen Fieldhouse...

And after entering hoops heaven, I had just one word.

"Wow."

Yes, this state-of-the-art facility is pure class. The first aspect I noticed on this muggy day was how cool, bright and long the facility was. It measures a court and a half with seven baskets. And that's just getting started. On the south wall, "Kansas Jayhawks" is emblazoned in Trajon font followed by the five men's national championship banners (1922, 1923, 1952, 1988, 2008). Adjacent on the west wall is a scoreboard to the left of the center court used at the Alamodome in San Antonio for the 2008 Final Four.

As I turn around to the north wall, I see the second-floor balconies outside of KU coaches' Bill Self's and Bonnie Henrickson's offices.

Perfect for some hoops watching or patio furniture and barbecue grilling. But we'll get to that later.

I wasn't the only one impressed with this facility. It has drawn rave reviews from the players, coaches, and media. Just ask Henrickson, who spoke to the media just before conducting player workouts at the facility for the second day.

"I love it, it's awesome. I missed my first two shots off the balcony, though," Henrickson said with a smile. "I got to work on my H-O-R-S-E shots up there. But it's great. It's good for recruiting and the players really like it. It's a good feel to it."

Perhaps above all, the men's and women's basketball teams won't have the complication of scheduling practice times with the new facility.

"I have a great relationship with Bill, and if we have four conflicts, we take two and he takes two and we figure it out, whether you want to go early in the morning or late at night," Henrickson said about scheduling practice times in the past at Allen Fieldhouse and the Horseji Center, which is home to KU's volleyball team.

"That eliminates that now because we can practice at the same time. We've never been able to practice at the same time. ... It allows the players to come here anytime. They feel like it's a facility that's a basketball facility. They're in here all the time."

The practice facility is part of the Allen Fieldhouse, Wagnon Student Athlete Center and Parrott Building renovations. The project will be completed by Late Night in the Phog on October 16. Other renovations include a new student-athlete support wing on the front of Anschutz Pavilion, new locker rooms for soccer, volleyball and softball and new administrative offices.

Also, the men's and women's basketball teams' locker rooms, as well as the opponents' locker room, are undergoing renovations in Allen Fieldhouse.

The new practice facility and overall upgrades should certainly help recruiting.

"There's so many teams in our league that have done a really good job with facilities in the last three or four years," Henrickson said. "It's not a decision breaker, deal breaker, but it's part of why you want to come here. This speaks to a huge commitment to basketball, both on the men's and women's side, the locker room. It says the same things about wanting to recruit first-class athletes and then give them the resources that are first class.

"We can do that now."

A hoops maven, Henrickson loves having her office right above the court.

"I like it because I hear balls bouncing all day ... so that's good," said Henrickson, who's not allowed to watch her players practice, aside from the player workouts she and her staff conduct.

"The secretaries want to put a grill and patio furniture out there (on the balcony)," Henrickson added with a smile. "That's their plan."

Senior forward Porscha Weddington doesn't need the barbecue. She's just thrilled to see the practice facility finally completed.

"It's hard to describe how nice it is," she said. "They showed you stuff (DVD and architectural renderings), they told you how it was going to be. But when you actually saw it, it just blew you away."

Me, too.

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