"Wow."

I walked with great anticipation on a Wednesday afternoon last August down the hallway to the new KU basketball practice facility connected to the west side of Allen Fieldhouse.

After entering the new complex, I had just one word.

"Wow."

Yes, this state-of-the-art facility (11,600 square feet) is pure class. The first aspect I noticed was how cool, bright, shiny and long the facility is. 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 Trajan 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 turned around to the north wall, I saw the second-floor balconies outside of KU basketball coaches' Bill Self's and Bonnie Henrickson's offices.

Perfect for some 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.

"I love it, it's awesome. I missed my first two shots off the balcony, though," Henrickson said with a smile this August day. "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."
Self marvels over the facility as well.

"It is the best I have been in," he said. "We have a court and a half, which is perfect. We have seven usable goals during practice. It is just off the locker room and just outside my office. I thought it was going to be nice, and it is a lot nicer than I thought it would be.  The whole facility is really just a first-class deal. We have absolutely no excuse if we are not able to attract and train our guys in the best way possible because we certainly have all the resources from a facility standpoint that we will ever need."

And now the the men's and women's teams won't have the complication of scheduling practice times with the new facility.

"I have a great relationship with Bill, and if we (had) 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, home of the KU 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."

So are the men.

"Knowing that you have your own practice facility to go to practice every day and all the renovations that have been done to our locker rooms and to the Fieldhouse, it definitely adds to the excitement of playing here at Kansas," junior guard Tyrel Reed said.  "It's amazing," Reed added. "This is the best facility in the country. I think the guys that played before us have really given us a chance to reap the rewards."

The practice facility is part of the Allen Fieldhouse, Wagnon Student Athlete Center and Parrott Building extensive renovations, all completed in time for Late Night in the Phog in mid-October. Renovations include new men's and women's basketball locker rooms, film rooms, lounges, a wider concourse, donor atrium, expansion of the Booth Family Hall of Athletics, remodeled concession stands, a new student-athlete support wing on the front of Anschutz Pavilion, new locker rooms for soccer, volleyball and softball, and new administrative offices.

The practice facility and overall upgrades in Allen Fieldhouse 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 (new) 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," she said.

"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."

Editors note:  For more pictures of KU's new facilites, visit the Phog.net fan page on Facebook by clicking this link.

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