LAWRENCE — There are certainly more quantifiable ways to measure how the Kansas basketball team handled the first day of Bill Self’s annual boot camp on Monday morning. But the simplest way usually involves checking the trash cans in and around Allen Fieldhouse for remnants of breakfast.
On Monday morning, the cans were clean, a sign of success in what has become the unofficial beginning to basketball season in Lawrence.
“Nobody threw up,” KU sophomore guard Andrew White III said. “So it was a real good experience.”
This year’s boot camp, highlighted by the traditional intense workouts, began Monday and had a feeling of change. And it wasn’t just the six freshmen and eight total newcomers who were enjoying their first taste of boot camp. Kansas will begin practice on Friday, Sept. 27, two weeks earlier than usual after the NCAA allowed for an earlier start in the offseason. As a result, Self has opted for just one week of the 6 a.m. sessions.
The Jayhawks won’t have more preseason practice time, though. The usual allotment will just be spread out over an extra two weeks. The Jayhawks’ annual Late Night in the Phog festivities are scheduled for Friday, Oct. 4. And they won’t open their exhibition season until playing host to Pittsburg State on Oct. 29.
“We’re gonna go slower,” KU coach Bill Self said last month. “If you start that early, then you don’t have to be quite as accelerated, so it’ll probably be a situation where we go maybe a little bit slower and get more stuff in. And then by the time Oct. 15 rolls around, we’ll be ready to roll.”
For a team replacing five starters, the earlier start could certainly be useful. Freshman guards Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden, two projected starters, got their first tastes of boot camp on Monday, and White reported that all of KU’s freshmen survived the morning.
“The freshman did well,” White said. “Everybody finished, everybody was up to pace, so I think they did really well today. We didn’t have to do much extra, so that’s always good for the first day.”
KU has been working out all summer, so it’s not as though Monday’s workout was the players’ first day in the same gym. But after advancing to the Sweet 16 last season with a veteran-laden squad, the Jayhawks could have one of their deepest rosters in years. And from a pure numbers standpoint, Monday’s workout was loaded with players who could battle for playing time this season.
Consider the case of White, who arrived as a top-50 recruit last season. After struggling for playing time as freshman, White returns more mature and more experienced. But he must now must battle with Wiggins, Selden and fellow freshmen guards Brannen Greene and Wichita North’s Conner Frankamp in the backcourt. Still, White says he never considered transferring or looking for an easier way at another school.
“I felt like, even last year, this was a place that I could have contributed,” White said. “This is a place I could contribute this year. So I didn’t have any transfer talk, just because I have a lot of confidence in my game. And I think eventually I’ll be where I need to be so I can play.”
For now, though, White and the Jayhawks are simply focused on getting through the rest of boot camp. And for all the looming questions about youth and inexperience, Self is confident this could be among the most athletic teams he’s had at KU. And in that way, the Jayhawks’ skills certainly translate to a week of nothing but running and jumping at 6 a.m.
“I’m gonna be very nervous about the last four minutes of games,” Self said, “because we don’t have anybody that’s ever been a closer before. But certainly, as far as throwing the ball up, and having guys go get it, this will be the best team we’ve had to do that.”