The fans were chanting "Pugh," not "boo," during Kansas' 102-69 exhibition basketball victory over the Converse All-Stars last Friday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
It looks as if a love affair is developing between the fieldhouse faithful and T.J. Pugh, Kansas' 6-foot-8, 215-pound freshman forward from Omaha, Neb.
Pugh scored nine points on 3-of-8 shooting and grabbed three rebounds in 16 minutes. He also gained a lot of fans on one play, by diving out of bounds and saving the basketball.
"T.J. is a hustler. He made some key plays just by working hard," KU junior center Scot Pollard said.
Pugh's performance has been noticed by KU coach Roy Williams said.
"I'll still say the two players who have been most impressive in the preseason are Scot and T.J. Pugh," Williams said. "The play where T.J. went out of bounds and saved the ball, he's done it all preseason."
Pugh also made a long three-point basket on Friday.
"He's made 3-for-3 from the three-point line," Williams said. "He shot two at practice and made them and tonight he made one, also. But he is not going to be our designated shooter."
Pugh averaged 25.8 points and 9.7 rebounds per game last year at Omaha Creighton Prep High. He chose KU over Stanford, Nebraska and others.
"He's played extremely hard," Williams said. "He's led our squad in diving on the floor without any question. He's got more loose balls than anybody.
"The effort is what sets him apart a little bit. Usually you don't find freshmen who understand the intensity level. He's adapted to that part pretty well.
"He can put the ball on the floor, take it to the basket and he's a pretty good shooter. I wish he was bigger, he's on the short side of 6-8, but he battles you."
Pierce, McGrath practice: Freshman forward Paul Pierce, who suffered a strained left elbow during Friday's game, returned to practice Monday.
The elbow is heavily taped "to prevent it from extending all the way," KU trainer Mark Cairns said. "He's doing really well. He's progressing nicely."
Cairns has been using heat on the elbow and range of motion exercises.
Also, sophomore guard C.B. McGrath, who missed Friday's game because of a sprained left wrist, returned to practice Monday. "It's not swollen any more. He has all his range of motion back," Cairns said.
The Jayhawks will next meet Australia's Victorian All-Stars at 7:05 p.m., Monday, at Allen Fieldhouse. Some tickets remain and are on sale at KU's ticket office.