Archive for Friday, October 14, 2005

It’s KU basketball time’

Tonight’s extravaganza to kick off basketball season

October 14, 2005


Though it will take place hours earlier -- much earlier than the past -- Kansas University's "Late Night in the Phog" figures to be a great night again this year.

So predicts freshman Julian Wright, eager to participate in the new, NCAA-approved primetime extravaganza, set to run from 6:30 to approximately 9:30 tonight at Allen Fieldhouse.

"Everyone will lose track of time once they get in the building," said Wright, who attended last year's midnight scrimmage as a Jayhawk prospect out of Chicago Heights, Ill.

"It may start at 6, 7 or 8. People won't care. They just know it'll be a good time. Whatever time it is, it doesn't matter. It's KU basketball time."

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. today at the fieldhouse, with the women expected to scrimmage in the 7 p.m.-8 p.m hour. The men will take center stage on ESPNU from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free.

Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

"Last year was amazing. It was my first time to go to a college event like that," said Wright, who watched KU seniors Wayne Simien, Keith Langford, Michael Lee and Aaron Miles don tuxedos to meet ex-Jayhawks Danny Manning and Mike Maddox at center court and touch the 1988 national-championship trophy during a skit.

"The way the crowd interacts ... they were involved," Wright marveled. "Sometimes you get a group of people, and people are all looking away. Here they are so attentive, involved in KU basketball. It's amazing."

Wright realizes the fans will be interested especially in getting a look at the freshmen -- himself, plus Brandon Rush, Micah Downs and Mario Chalmers, as well as sophomore Rodrick Stewart, who transferred from USC last winter and practiced but did not play in games.

"It's a new era, I guess, in terms of Kansas basketball," Wright said.

Sophomore Russell Robinson is ready for his second KU season to begin.

"I think of it as a great way to start the year. You get a taste of the season right there. It's basketball," Robinson said.

This will be the final Late Night for senior Christian Moody.

"Last year was really cool. The juniors had (performed) the Top Ten list (of David Letterman)," Moody said. "I just hope we have something cool for the seniors. I've been thinking of ideas."

"I'm ready for Late Night," noted senior Jeff Hawkins. "It's for the fans. That's what's important, putting on a show for them."

Here's a quick look at the 20 previous Late Night shows in the Phog.


Hypnotist Tom Silver, who performed along with Dallas Mavericks' mascot Mavs Man, didn't need the power of suggestion to convince KU's fans to have a good time.

KU's six freshmen started things on a high note, holding a "dance off" inspired by the movie, "You Got Served." Robinson started the dance competition, gyrating for 15 seconds, followed by solos from C.J. Giles, Darnell Jackson, Matt Kleinmann and Alex Galindo, who has since transferred to Florida International.

The final contestant, Sasha Kaun, prepared to dance, clapped his hands, and two female dancers took his place. Kaun won the competition by yelling, "You suckas got served!"

In a spoof of the show "Behind the Music," three members of the Temptations -- Nick Bahe (now at Creighton), Jeremy Case and J.R. Giddens (now at New Mexico) pulled females from the stands to serenade them to the tune "My Girl."

The Jayhawk players took part in what has become a traditional skit-ending circle dance to the songs "Step in the Name of Love," and "Drop It Like It's Hot."

"I thought the crowd was great," KU coach Bill Self said. "To fill the building on fall break shows the kind of support we get from our students and all our fans. The skits were actually decent," he said, grinning.


The first Late Night of the Self era was full of laughs, as usual, but also some dramatic moments.

One came when Self was introduced to a packed house after a showing of a highlight video of the coach's introductory press conference.

Self was accorded a prolonged standing ovation.

"I have been in some loud places," Self said, "but that was a little bit overwhelming."

The fans also rocked the building when the 1988 title team, led by coach Larry Brown, was introduced. Brown skipped an NBA exhibition game to attend the proceedings.

The fans responded with loud ovations for all of the '88 players and coaches, the biggest rounds of applause reserved for New York Knicks coach Brown (then with the Pistons) and national-player-of-the-year Danny Manning.

Asked his most memorable moment of his first Late Night, Self said, "I'd say when they showed the video. And the 'One Shining Moment' video of the '88 team."


KU seniors Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich stole the "Mardi Gras"-themed show, Collison playing volatile Texas Tech coach Bob Knight in one skit and Hinrich portraying Missouri coach Quin Snyder in another.

"It was the most fun I had in my four years," said Collison, now a member of Seattle's SuperSonics.

Then KU coach Roy Williams had a lot of fun, too, praising administrators for installing a new sound system, which improved acoustics in the fieldhouse.


Freshmen Simien, Lee, Langford, Miles, and Hawkins serenaded their mothers in a song and dance. Williams wasn't thrilled with the singing, however, bemoaning the fact the songs were barely audible.

"It took away a great deal of enjoyment for me. We've got to figure a way for it to be heard, or maybe 14 Late Nights is enough," Williams fumed after the proceedings.

Late Night had a patriotic theme coming a month after the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Then-KU athletic director Al Bohl honored KU students for raising money for victims of the tragedy on the East Coast. And country singer Coley McCabe performed a stirring rendition of the national anthem.

Also, Jeff Carey yelled the words "God Bless America" as a red, white and blue ribbon dropped from the rafters near the retired jerseys in the south rafters. The emblem remained in the fieldhouse all season.


Drew Gooden, who is now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, sat in a canoe with John Crider, who ultimately transferred from KU to Washburn, as the canoe was pulley-ed across the fieldhouse floor.

"We were running away from some sharks or something," Gooden said, relishing the moment. "The shark was a guy with a fin on a skateboard. They have us do some crazy stuff. We're forced to do all that."

Carey, who showed with a wavy head of hair instead of his customary crewcut, had teammates shave his head under the South goal. The clipping of his hair took longer than expected, the crowd growing a bit restless waiting for the trim to be completed.


Big men Eric Chenowith and Carey played electric guitar as Collison sang vocals for the Limp Bizkit song "Faith." They were joined by a drummer in the KU band.


The 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. Ever-athletic Kenny Gregory rammed home several windmill dunks during a warmup drill.


A transfer from LSU, Lester Earl wore a black leather jacket in a spoof of 1950s music. Earl had some monster jams, along with Gregory and Paul Pierce in a pre-scrimmage dunkathon. Also, Ryan Robertson had a big role in a skit as host of the game show "The Price Is Right." Also, Raef LaFrentz imitated John Travolta in a dance skit, C.B. McGrath mimicked talk-show host David Letterman, and Earl danced wildly in several numbers.


Scot Pollard became the first basketball player in KU history to score 14 points, grab seven rebounds and block four shots while wearing bright red polish on his fingernails.

"Revlon Vixen" was the eccentric player's color of choice.

That's the night Pollard, who is now with the Indiana Pacers, proposed to his girlfriend, Mindy Camp. She, of course, accepted.


Fans showed early for the Saturday night event which started when former KU football coach Glen Mason took the court and yelled, "Live from Allen Fieldhouse, it's Late Night With Roy Williams." Now veteran football coach at the University of Minnesota, Mason has said one of his favorite moments at KU involved the reception he received at that Late Night. Earlier that day KU had won a football game during a 10-2 season.


Baseball Hall of Famer George Brett and golfing great Tom Watson joined ex-Royals' center fielder Brian McRae and ex-Chief defensive back Deron Cherry as honorary coaches. Brett wore a KU T-shirt under his button-down, while Watson wore a KU hat throughout the proceedings. Brett took his coaching duties most seriously, getting in the face of KU's Jerod Haase for forgetting to high-five him during introductions. The coaches stuck it out the entire evening, well past 1 a.m., Williams applauding them for their participation.


Fans dressed as their favorite TV sitcom characters before the scrimmage. The Lone Ranger, Silver, Tonto, Gilligan's Ginger and Granny Clampett all were on hand. This Late Night marked the debut of freshmen Jacque Vaughn, Pollard, B.J. Williams and Nick Proud, as well as Cal transfer Jerod Haase.


Zany big man Greg Ostertag, who is now back with the Utah Jazz after a season in Sacramento, showed up in a Frankenstein's monster outfit. Williams' entrance was followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new fieldhouse floor. The place was packed, even though Late Night was televised. The TV show actually drew poor reviews. The 8 p.m.-9 p.m. portion of this year's Late Night will be shown on ESPNU.


Williams decided Late Night would be better suited on a Friday night, not Monday, the first day KU could practice in accordance with NCAA rules. Pre-scrimmage hoopla was highlighted by freshman center Ostertag, who lip-synched a Garth Brooks tune while surrounded by the Crimson Girls. Ostertag's country singing and dancing became a staple at Late Nights during his career.


More than 13,000 fans showed to see the Jayhawks dance and scrimmage after a long Sunday of pro football, including a Chiefs home game against Detroit. During the 1990 scrimmage, Rex Walters scored 16 points and amazed the crowd with some violent dunks. Walters is now associate head coach at Florida Atlantic, working for former KU aide Matt Doherty.


In '89, a $5 admission fee was charged to pay for two bands, who performed on a massive sound stage. Maddox, Rick Calloway, Freeman West and Jeff Gueldner stole the show performing Robert Palmer songs.

"I think Jeff Gueldner better stick to basketball," Williams said at the time.


Williams' first Late Night -- it was called "Later With Roy Williams" -- drew more than 10,000 fans. Alonzo Jamison shattered the backboard. After the new goal was in place, Milt Newton led the Blue team to a 36-35 victory as he scored 16 points.


Manning and Scooter Barry sang The Temptations song "My Girl." The normally reserved Manning was willing to grab center stage prior to his senior season. He went on to lead the Jayhawks to the national championship, KU's last NCAA crown.


"Late Night With Larry Brown" became a major happening in 1986, thanks in large part to its namesake, "Late Night With David Letterman." Onetime Letterman foil Larry Bud Melman visited Lawrence for the early Wednesday morning scrimmage, first signing autographs at 7 p.m. at the Burge Union.


KU's inaugural "Late Night With Larry Brown" attracted 6,000 fans. Considering it was a first-time event, Brown was ecstatic.

"It was fabulous. I was thrilled with the students," Brown said of the throng that showed at 12:01 on a Tuesday morning. "They made it all worthwhile, and I know our kids enjoyed it."

Many of the students wore T-shirts that read "Late Night With Larry Brown. Starring the 1985-86 Kansas basketball team ... all the way to Dallas."

The shirts proved prophetic as the team advanced to the Final Four in Dallas. Current KU coach Self was a grad assistant on that team.


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