In most years, Bill Self’s summer routine follows a familiar and structured pattern. There are Kansas basketball summer camps in early June. There is the NCAA-allowed allotment of team practices and individual workouts. And on occasion, Self will use the summer months as a time to play some golf and cultivate an offseason beard.
This summer, the stubble may have to wait.
On Monday, Kansas will begin practicing in preparation for its appearance at the World University Games in July, where the Jayhawks will represent the United States in Gwangju, South Korea. The appearance in the international event, which begins July 3, will result in a heavy and hectic summer schedule for Self and his program. The Jayhawks will practice close to five days per week over the next three weeks. They will be free from any NCAA limits on summer practice time. They will face Canada’s World University Games squad in two Kansas City exhibition games on June 23 and June 26.
“This gives us unlimited access to them,” Self said last week, discussing the summer schedule in the days before his players reported back to campus. “We’ll be able to practice for approximately three weeks and play 11 games.
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“The best thing about it is, it occurs at a time where it’s going to make for a very, very busy summer, but when we get back, we’ll have a month where we can let the guys tone it down and get their batteries recharged.”
Self says he’s obviously excited to represent the United States and face some international competition, but just as important to Self is the extra practice time and the ability to work with his players. The Jayhawks will welcome three freshmen to campus this summer and the extra reps, Self believes, could pay off when the season rolls around this fall.
Specifically, incoming freshman forward Carlton Bragg and shooting guard Lagerald Vick are set to report to campus this week and be on the roster for the World University Games. Incoming freshman Cheick Diallo, a native of Mali, is not eligible to play for the United States in international events. But Diallo’s arrival to campus is set to be delayed anyway as he finishes up some high school classes this month in Long Island, N.Y. Mississippi transfer Dwight Coleby, a native of the Bahamas, will also miss the World University Games and report to campus in July. Self, though, expects a smooth transition for all four newcomers.
“I think it’ll be pretty seamless,” Self said. “Carlton is a very skilled big guy, great shooter and great passer. Cheick has a motor and is one of the premier big guys in the country, without question. And Lagerald is a great athlete.
“I don’t know if they’ll all contribute in the same way that maybe some of our past freshmen have. But there’s no question they’re all going to be starters (at some point) and good players in our program.”
Vick, a 6-foot-5 native of Memphis, was the final freshmen to join the recruiting class — and the least heralded. But Self offers an optimistic tone when discussing Vick’s ability to contribute soon. Before signing with Kansas, Vick pondered attending a prep school in 2015-16 and re-classifying to the 2016 recruiting class. If Vick would have done that, Self says, he could have been an McDonald’s All-American-caliber recruit. Instead, the Jayhawks landed a young player with a high ceiling.
“I don’t even know who to compare him to,” Self said. “Ben (McLemore) is not a fair comparison. Obviously, (Andrew Wiggins) and Kelly (Oubre) aren’t. But a guy like Frank (Mason) — a guy that can come in and he’s going to play as a freshman. At what level and what amount? We don’t know. But I certainly anticipate him being a starter (down the road).”
In the near term, Self said he wants to use the summer to build confidence and chemistry among the returners and newcomers. Sophomore guard Svi Mykhailiuk, a native of Ukraine, cannot play in the tournament, but he can participate in practice as a team manager. Junior wing Brannen Greene will miss the summer while recovering from offseason hip surgery. But Self has added SMU guard Nic Moore, the reigning American Athletic Conference player of the year, to the roster to bolster numbers in the backcourt.
For now, Self said, he’s not too concerned with rotations or starting lineups. In fact, Self would likely favor balanced playing time in South Korea, perhaps trying to play all players close to 18 to 22 minutes.
“I anticipate us starting different guys every game,” Self said. “And Nic will play just as much as Frank and Devonte’ Graham. But I am excited about playing two little guards together, because I think that’s a direction that we need to move to.
“I want to win the games, but Hunter Mickelson needs a lot of minutes. Carlton needs a lot of minutes. Lagerald needs a lot of minutes. We’re going to play to win, but we’re going to give everybody an opportunity to play.”