For the second time in a three-year period, Kansas men’s basketball is going abroad for a summer slate of exhibition games. On Tuesday, 20 days before the Jayhawks begin their tour of Italy, they took questions from the media and had a brief open practice session.
Coach Bill Self said that practice before the trip, as well as the trip itself, will be lighter than the team’s normal workload.
“It’s a good time to get everyone together,” Self said. “It’s not going to be an intense time like during the regular season or regular practice.”
He added that he expects the entire team to enjoy the experience overseas.
“I’ll be in a good mood the entire time, so I can’t imagine the players not having a good time and enjoying themselves,” Self said.
In terms of actual play, Self said everyone on the roster will get playing time in Italy, but the nine eligible scholarship players in the fall will see the majority of the reps. He said this is a chance for some players to separate themselves as go-to options, while also acknowledging that the program already has a leader entering next season.
“I think the leadership is already starting to solidify itself,” Self said. “This is Devonte’ [Graham]’s team.”
Guard Malik Newman, who will be eligible to start the 2017-18 season after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, said the thing he’s most looking forward to on the trip is getting back into live game action.
“I’m just ready to get back on the court and compete,” Newman said.
Guard/forward Dedric Lawson, a transfer from Memphis who will sit out this season, said players like Graham and Newman have helped him adjust to the program.
“I feel great here,” Lawson said. “Those guys made it comfortable for us.”
Self, Newman and Lawson all said they haven’t been to Italy before, but are excited for the opportunity to visit the country.
“Whatever Italy has to offer, I’m ready to see it,” Newman said.
The Kansas basketball tour of Italy begins on July 31, but the first game for the Jayhawks will be on Aug. 2 in Rome. Kansas will play again in Rome on Aug. 3, then will play two games in Milan on Aug. 5-6. Over the rest of the tour, which lasts until Aug. 8, the team will visit historic Italian landmarks, including the Vatican and Milan’s Cathedral Duomo.
This tour is going to be the first chance Kansas fans get to see the quintet of recent transfers play as Jayhawks. Newman and fellow guard Sam Cunliffe are eligible this coming season (Cunliffe starting in the spring semester), while guard Charlie Moore, Lawson and Lawson’s brother KJ, another guard/forward, will compete despite being ineligible for the 2017-18 season. The latter three will be eligible starting in fall 2018.
Notable returning players for the Jayhawks for the trip to Italy (and the upcoming season) include guards Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, who eschewed the NBA draft to stay for their senior seasons, and big man Udoka Azubuike, who missed Kansas’ last 25 games last season due to injury.