It’s seemed like an eternity since Travis Releford last played in a Kansas University men’s basketball game.
“I have no idea. I can’t remember. It’s been that long,” said the 6-foot-6 sophomore guard/forward from Kansas City, Mo., unable to recall the specifics of his last appearance in a Jayhawk uniform.
“I am very excited. After sitting out and red-shirting ... I have my chance this year. It’s going to be fun,” added Releford, referring to today’s home exhibition opener against Washburn University (7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse).
He has been inactive since a one-minute outing in KU’s second-round NCAA Tournament victory over Dayton on March 22, 2009, in Minneapolis.
“Just knocking down open shots, creating for my teammates and defending,” Releford said of what he hopes to bring to the table.
He’s not the only KU veteran hitting the court tonight for the first time in a long time.
Senior Mario Little, who last played in KU’s 2009 Sweet 16 loss to Michigan State in Indianapolis, also returns after practicing a full year but not playing in games.
“I am not in a hurry, but I’m anxious to get out there,” said the 6-6 guard/forward from Chicago.
“It’s been humbling, stressful at times. Certain times being in Allen Fieldhouse with the fans screaming and it being a big game and full of anticipation, you couldn’t help but want to play so bad,” Little added of 2009-10.
“I’d get hyped warming up, anticipating, then I’d have to sit on the bench and clap. It was kind of disappointing to me. The red-shirt year was very humbling, but I’m glad I took it.”
KU coach Bill Self, who hadn’t decided whether one of them, both of them or neither will start tonight, is happy to have the two available for duty.
“They’ve done well. Mario can score, and Travis has been good. I don’t know who I’m going to start tomorrow, but both are in consideration for that,” said Self.
He said Little has played power forward 70 percent of the time in practice and Releford 40 percent of the time this preseason with big men Jeff Withey (foot, unavailable tonight) and Markieff Morris (hernia, available for duty) coming off injuries.
“Mario is national juco player of the year who has not had a chance to show his stuff. Travis would have played for us last year, but would not have had the impact last year as he would three years from now as a fifth-year senior,” Self said. “Red-shirting guarantees graduation. They are both good players.”
Both are willing to play both inside and out.
“I’ve been down there helping out, trying to make guys better and all that,” Little said.
“Whatever it takes for the team to win,” Releford added.
They’re not the only ones raring to get started tonight. Sophomore power forward Thomas Robinson has high hopes after a somewhat inconsistent freshman campaign.
“Practice has been tough. There’s a lot of stuff coach has had to put in, a lot of teaching, trying to get ready for the season,” Robinson said. “We’ve been really going over defense. People are judging us off being a fast team this year. We’ll use all our athleticism on defense, trying to get points off that.”
Tonight they’ll try to defeat a Washburn team that’ll start five seniors.
“We’ve been beating up on each other for a whole summer now. I want to play against somebody else. It’s time for the season to start,” Robinson said.