Bill Self’s Boot Camp officially was to begin at 6 a.m. today, in Kansas University’s new basketball practice facility.
That’s four days after the Jayhawks’ first up-before-the-crack-of-dawn conditioning workout of the 2009-10 school year.
“We’ve definitely gotten after it already the past couple days,” seventh-year KU coach Self said.
Miffed over a pair of scraps between KU’s basketball and football players, Self ordered his team into the gym early Thursday and Friday.
“It was a semblance of Boot Camp, but the start of Boot Camp is Monday,” he said.
It is something the Jayhawk newcomers have been fearing.
“One of the players told me there should be a big sign in Allen Fieldhouse saying, ‘Welcome to Hell.’ That’s kind of intimidating,” freshman Elijah Johnson said.
The Las Vegas point guard/shooting guard — along with fellow newcomers Thomas Robinson, Xavier Henry, C.J. Henry and Jeff Withey — will assemble with the veterans at KU’s practice facility (the fieldhouse is under construction) at 6 a.m. today through Friday this week and next for what is regarded as the toughest team activity of the school year.
“Of course they try to scare me and tell me nobody makes it out,” freshman forward Robinson said. “I look at it as it is 45 minutes to an hour. The people who are telling me about it are still breathing. It’ll just make me better at the end of the day. We’ll be better as a team when it’s over.”
Sophomores Markieff and Marcus Morris said Robinson definitely should be concerned.
“It was horrible — the worst experience ever in my life, the longest two weeks in my life,” said Markieff Morris, who struggled to complete his initial Boot Camp.
“It was a nightmare,” added Marcus Morris. “Last year, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into because I was saying to myself, ‘Nothing can really be that hard.’ Now I really have seen what really can go on. I’ll be better prepared for it this year.”
Boot Camp consists of hourlong conditioning in the morning, as well as afternoon weightlifting, individual drills and pick-up games.
It’s the non-stop running (defensive drills, backboard touches, slides and sprints) that causes the most headaches.
“I’d never done any drills where we don’t use basketballs. This is all work without basketballs, and it’s at 6 in the morning, which makes it worse,” Marcus Morris said.
The coaches make it clear no basketballs will be in use.
“Last year we came out there, and all the trash cans were wrapped around the basket, and they all had Chase Buford’s face on it. They called it the ‘Chase Can,’’’ Marcus Morris said.
That’s because junior guard Buford has lost his breakfast more than once at Boot Camp.
“It has to be Chase puking all the time,” junior Conner Teahan said of the funniest moments in his first two Boot Camps. “I think he puked right on the court his freshman year. Last year he puked the first three days. We have the ‘Chase Cans’ sitting out there.”
Boot Camp has confounded many a Jayhawk.
“The funniest thing I saw was when ‘Shady’ stripped down to everything but his spandex,” junior Brady Morningstar said of former KU forward Darrell Arthur shedding clothes during suicide sprints. “He had shoes on, ankle braces and spandex. He was running and was still so tired. He thought it’d lighten up the work.”
It’s tough for the players to muster even a smile at about 7 a.m. each day.
“The way you look at the end of it … when you are in the locker room sitting in the chair … the guys are just exhausted,” junior Cole Aldrich said. “When we’re sitting in our chairs looking at each other, we’re not saying anything. We’re that tired after two weeks.”
Yet the Jayhawks emerge united after two weeks.
Self’s Boot Camp is designed to help build team unity as well as get the players in condition for the start of practice on Oct. 16.
“The objective is to put them through a tough test, to make them do it together and hold each other accountable, come closer to becoming a team,” Self said. “Another objective is getting our feet and conditioning to the point you can start practice.”
The veterans say Boot Camp works.
“After Boot Camp, we’re in tip-top shape. There’s no way to not be in shape after that,” Markieff Morris said.
That realization should help pull the freshmen through.
“It’s all mental. At the end of the time I know it’s not to kill me, it’s just a test,” Johnson said.
“I’m not sweating it because it will be good for all of us in the end,” Xavier Henry added.