Performances at this year’s Late Night prove Kansas basketball is as strong as ever
By Dylan Gehlbach
The inherent basketball tradition at the University of Kansas was as strong as ever Friday night, as two new banners were added to the extensive collection in Phog Allen Fieldhouse: A Big 12 Conference Champions banner and a Final Four banner. Not too shabby.
But that was only the tip of the iceberg at this year’s “Late Night in the Phog.”
The women’s basketball team was the first to impress on Friday. Not just with their skills with the basketball, but with their dance skills as well. There was an impressive Michael Jackson themed routine, but the routine of Bunny Williams, Tania Jackson, Cece Harper, and Carolyn Davis won the vote from the crowd and gold-medalist Diamond Dixon. Dixon sat on a panel of judges that featured assistant coach Terry Nooner (dressed as Lebron James) and head coach Bonnie Henrickson (dressed as Hope Solo).
Dancing wasn’t the only thing on display for the Lady Jayhawks. The Kansas women’s basketball team also played a 12-minute scrimmage. The Crimson team defeated the Blue team 21 to 12. Team Crimson was led by seniors Carolyn Davis and Angel Goodrich, Davis with six points to lead scorers. Sophomore Asia Boyd also had a quality game with five points.
Following the women’s scrimmage, men’s head coach Bill Self made his first appearance of the night. Self reminded the crowd of what he told them last year: to trust the process. But as Self said, “The process worked out pretty well for us last year.” Self encouraged the crowd to sit back and enjoy the process again this year. Self exited the court, as the main event was about to begin.
Next, it was time for the men’s basketball team to put on their dancing shoes. A large group of freshman went first, soaking up their first experience in a full Allen Fieldhouse. Freshman Rio Adams was their secret weapon, awing the crowd with his other talent of dancing. Naadir Tharpe was the standout in the sophomore/junior group, but, as always, nothing could compare with the senior dance. Travis Releford, Kevin Young, Elijah Johnson, and Jeff Withey brought down the house with their reenactment of the popular “Gangnam Style.”
Next was the classic “Dream On” video of past and present Jayhawks achieving greatness. This edition focused around last year’s team and their journey to the National Championship game. At the finale of the video, fans were amped up and ready to finally see their Kansas Jayhawks in action once again.
The men’s scrimmage was a 20-minute affair that ended in a 36-28 victory for the Crimson squad in a competitive game. Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey led the Crimson team to victory with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Redshirt freshmen Jamari Traylor and Ben McLemore proved that they were worth the wait as stand outs in the scrimmage. The months that they spent practicing with the squad last season showed as each scored six points for the Blue squad.
If the scrimmage showed fans anything, it was that whatever Self lacked in variety last year, he has in abundance this year. With so many talented new players mixed with junior and senior leadership, the Jayhawks are posed to make a run at their ninth straight Big 12 Championship. Fans will be expecting nothing less. With Self’s history at Kansas, can you blame them?