Kansas basketball coach Bill Self strolled through the northwest tunnel of Allen Fieldhouse onto James Naismith Court at 7:47 p.m., Friday, one hour and 17 minutes into the 35th annual Late Night in the Phog.
Self, who admittedly has been going through a tough time because of the NCAA’s investigation into KU’s hoops program, received a thunderous ovation as he grabbed a microphone and started to speak before a full house of 16,300 fans.
“I heard a long time ago that actually bad publicity is better than no publicity,” Self said to laughter from the stands. He was referring to recent headlines written in response to his program receiving an official notice of allegations from the NCAA.
“I actually don’t believe that but it felt pretty good to say,” Self added, smiling. “As you guys know, we’re kind of going through some choppy waters right now. But I want everybody to listen to me,” he added in a more serious tone.
“We’ve been here now starting our 17th year. I’ll tell you this, in the prior 16 years I’ve never been more proud to be coach of your Kansas Jayhawks than I am going into my 17th year.
“Without stating the obvious … I never felt that we could have more support from an administration than we do here at Kansas. I never felt we could have more support from an athletic department than we do at Kansas. I brag to all the recruits all the time that we have the best fans in the world. I never felt we could have more support from our fans than we do here at the University of Kansas,” he added.
Of this year’s team, Self told the crowd: “Faces change but expectations do not at the University of Kansas. This year’s team is pretty big, pretty long, pretty athletic. We’ve got good young players, veterans. I think your expectations should be off the charts with this year’s team,” he added, holding his right hand way above his head, to fans’ cheers.”
Then Self acknowledged one of the reasons no seats were to be had in Allen on Friday: the presence of rapper Snoop Dogg.
“People of my generation, maybe even some a little older people and obviously a little younger grew up loving basketball, but we also grew up loving and listening to Snoop,” Self bellowed. “Let’s have a fun time tonight,” Self stated leaving the court.
Yes, 47-year-old Snoop Dogg, wearing a No. 20 KU jersey would perform, but only after a 12-minute scrimmage held by KU’s team. There were several standouts in the scrimmage, perhaps none better than former KU guard Sherron Collins who banked in a half-court shot to win $5,000 of Self’s money for a pair of fans.
In the scrimmage, David McCormack scored 10 points (he was 1 of 1 on three pointers) and Ochai Agbaji scored eight in the Crimson Team’s 32-30 win over the Blue squad.
“I think he could be one of the better wings in the country,” Self said of Agbaji. Self called Agbaji “our best all-around athlete,” just ahead of Silvio De Sousa, who scored six points.
Devon Dotson had 12 points to lead the Blue squad. Udoka Azubuike added eight and Christian Braun had four points with three rebounds. His two buckets came off offensive rebounds.
Of freshman Braun, Self said: “He’s ready to make an impact. He makes good players better and average players good.”
Senior Isaiah Moss, who has a hamstring tweak, did not play in the scrimmage. Freshman Dajuan Harris is red-shirting this season and didn’t play.
After the scrimmage, Snoop Dogg had the fieldhouse fans on their feet in his rousing performance. He led a rendition of the Rock Chalk Chant. He also was accompanied by dancers who climbed and danced on four poles stationed on the floor during some of Snoop’s numbers.
Earlier in Late Night, the Jayhawk players raced onto the floor for a dance number with KU’s cheerleaders.
KU’s five true freshman (Tristan Enaruna, Harris, Braun, Jalen Wilson, Michael Jankovich) were followed by the four sophomores, (Dotson, McCormack, Agbaji, Elijah Elliott), who all wore white shirts, jeans and sneakers. Three juniors (De Sousa, Chris Teahan, Marcus Garrett) followed for their dance segment with the cheerleaders. The dancing concluded with seniors Udoka Azubuike, Moss and Mitch Lightfoot wearing suspenders with their white shirts and jeans as well as bow ties.
KU football coach Les Miles appeared on the center video board with his team to kick off the 35th-annual Late Night. In a video, Miles, in his first year at Kansas, asked the 16,300 basketball fans to “come see us tomorrow.”
The Jayhawks take on Oklahoma at 11 a.m., Saturday, at Booth Memorial Stadium.
KU’s women’s coach Brandon Schneider then walked through the building’s southwest tunnel wearing a gold glitter shirt and blue jeans and spoke in person to the crowd for a few minutes.
The Jayhawk women’s team defeated a men’s practice squad, 34-13, in a 10-minute scrimmage.
A batch of blue-chip high recruits walked through the northwest tunnel and sat in the stands behind the KU bench at 7:30 p.m.
Bryce Thompson, a 6-foot-4 combo guard from Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School was not one of the prospects. His dad, Rod, told The Star on Friday morning his son, the country’s No. 19-ranked prospect in the recruiting class of 2020 according to Rivals.com, had responsibilities at his high school’s homecoming football game and would arrive on KU’s campus on Saturday in time for the KU-Oklahoma football game.
Bryce, who has attended Late Night before, will be in Lawrence on Saturday and Sunday for his official campus visit.
Several top prep seniors were expected to attend Late Night: No. 10-ranked Isaiah Todd, 6-10, forward, Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, North Carolina; No. 80 KK Robinson, 6-0 point guard, Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia and No. 133 Davion Bradford, 7-0, center, Mehlville Senior High, St. Louis.
Juniors who had said they’d be in the house: Javonte Brown-Ferguson, 6-11 center, Thornlea Secondary School, Ontario, Canada (unranked because he attends school outside the U.S.); No. 12 Kennedy Chandler, 6-0 point guard, Briarcrest Christian High, Eads, Tennessee; No. 15 Harrison Ingram, 6-7 forward, St. Mark’s High, Dallas; No. 18 Kendall Brown, 6-7 forward, Sunrise Christian Academy, Bel Aire, Kansas; No. 40 Zach Clemence, 6-10 junior forward, Sunrise Christian Academy, Bel Aire, Kansas. No. 56 Roosevelt Wheeler, 6-10 center, John Marshall High, Richmond, Virginia; No. 129 Tamar Bates, 6-4 combo guard, KC Piper High School.