Archive for Tuesday, October 20, 1998

LATE NIGHT KICKS OFF THE SEASON

October 20, 1998

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Allen Fieldhouse started buzzing at 2 p.m. Friday when a couple of KU basketball crazies wandered into the Jayhawks' 43-year-old building.

``Can we take our seats now?'' the fans asked, realizing they'd arrived three hours before doors officially opened for KU's Late Night With Roy Williams.

The answer was in the affirmative.

Nobody at KU was about to boot the early arrivals from the fieldhouse, which doubles as an office building during the day.

Five-and-a-half hours later, those die-hard fans were joined by 13,500 others who arrived for Late Night's first activity -- a volleyball match between Kansas and Iowa State.

The spectators were subdued at times, vociferous at others as Kansas won in three straight games over the Cyclones.

``The crowd was semi-volleyball literate,'' Kansas senior setter Laura Rohde said. ``They (fans) definitely were basketball literate. Maybe they'll come out to some more of our games.''

The crowd definitely was welcome, first-year KU volleyball coach Ray Bechard said.

``I'd been to a Late Night volleyball match before,'' noted Bechard, a native Kansan who coached at Barton County CC for 13 years before accepting the KU job. ``I always thought it was a great atmosphere for volleyball. Tonight they were appreciative of our effort. We're certainly glad they were here. I think they realized we needed some help the last game and gave it to us.''

KU won that game 16-14 to complete a sweep of the Cyclones.

Of course, most of the 15,800 fans were on hand for the basketball portion of Late Night. The hoop hoopla started after 10 p.m. when Marian Washington's KU women's basketball team was honored for last year's trip to the NCAA Sweet 16.

After performances by the cheerleaders and Crimson Girls, KU's band took center stage. As they played a number from their perch in the upper deck behind the south goal, the fans began to do ``the wave.''

Two KU recruits -- Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich -- gladly participated as the wave passed their section behind the scorer's table. Standing next to them in an aisle was KU video coordinator/equipment manager Ben Miller, who also performed the wave.

Good sports, head coach Williams and his assistants also ``waved'' while grinning at Miller the next time the mass of arms passed KU's bench.

The skit/dance portion of Late Night started about 10:45 p.m. This year's theme was ``Night at the Naismiths'' -- an awards show in which guest judges rated acts and presented not an Oscar, but a Naismith, to the winners.

One of the guest judges was senior T.J. Pugh, who couldn't participate in skits because of his ankle injury.

Highlights ...

KU sophomore center Eric Chenowith and women's player Shandy Robbins opened the ``Best Picture'' award category with a scene from the movie Titanic. Robbins played the role of Kate Winslet while Chenowith was Leonardo DiCaprio.

The other Best Picture award nominee was ``Karate Kid,'' starring Lester Earl as Daniel and Terry Nooner as Mr. Miyagi.

Chenowith and Robbins were deemed winners of the ``Naismith,'' a bronzed shoe. In accepting the award, Chenowith presented the shoe to Pugh.

``I want to thank T.J. Pugh. It was supposed to be his skit, but he got hurt and I had to take over,'' Chenowith said.

Nick Bradford then followed by dancing with KU's Crimson Girls to M.C. Hammer's ``Can't Touch This.''

``It was all freestyle,'' Bradford said. ``Promotions and the cheerleaders thought it'd be better if I just went out and freestyled to make it more unique. I really didn't practice it at all. I just went out there.''

John Crider and Kenny Gregory took part in a commercial where they played well-dressed businessmen not working, but shooting wadded up balls of paper at trash barrels.

``It must be basketball season,'' public address announcer Howard Hill intoned.

Next came a pair of spoofs of dance shows -- MTV's The Grind, starring Luke Axtell and Brooke Reves. Plus Soul Train, featuring Gregory, Ryan Robertson and Chenowith in blue, teal and red polyester pants.

Soul Train won the ``Naismith Award.''

The Music Group of the Year competition featured the Spice Girls, aka Nakia Sanford, Suzi Raymant, Heather Fletcher and other women's basketball players versus the Village People. Jeff Boschee wore Native American head dress, while Crider was in a sailor's outfit.

Ashante Johnson and Nooner also danced and lip-synched to the song, ``YMCA.'' The Village People were winners of the Naismith and were attacked by the Spice Girls.

``I love all that. The more they have fun, that's what I like to see,'' Williams said.

Next, transfer Luke Axtell played an original song on his guitar dedicated to John Wayne and Jesus Christ. KU's men's players stood behind him as he played, lighting matches in the background.

``I heard he was going to do it. I didn't think he'd have enough guts to do it in front of everybody. He did a good job,'' Gregory said.

Unfortunately the sound system had some problems and not everybody in the crowd could hear Axtell's song.

``Luke's singing was impressive,'' Williams said. ``Either he is not accomplished enough using those mikes or they weren't very good. You couldn't hear him too well. We were so close we could hear it fine. I wonder about the people up top.''

Next, Boschee played talk show host Donahue in a skit and Ryan Robertson, Jelani Janisse and Bradford starred in a spoof of Jerry Springer's talk show.

Finally, the women's and men's teams danced with coaches Washington and Williams, who had been dancing solo.

Gregory was the star of the basketball portion of the show, ramming home several windmill dunks during a warmup drill.

``Kenny had some dunks that were really impressive,'' Williams said.

During the 25-minute men's basketball scrimmage that started at 12:15 a.m., Axtell and Crider hit the first threes they attempted in KU togs. The game ended in a 25-25 tie.

``It was time to come home,'' Williams said of the decision to not play overtime.

Yep, it was about 1 a.m., and the end of a long day, especially for a couple of crazies who showed at 2 p.m.

-- Gary Bedore's phone number is 832-7186. His e-mail address is gbedore@ljworld.com

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