Kansas University’s basketball players have worn some wacky costumes at their season-opening Late Night basketball celebration throughout the years.
There have been top hats and tuxedos, suspenders and overalls and Halloween-themed Frankenstein’s monster/Count Dracula get-ups.
A colorful past makes one wonder what the Jayhawks will come up with during the present — today’s 7:30 p.m. Late Night in the Phog. Allen Fieldhouse doors swing open at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free. Seating is first-come, first-served. Nonperishable items, which will be donated to charity, will be accepted at the gate.
“I will wear whatever they tell me to wear as long as it’s not a dress,” said KU senior guard Brady Morningstar, ready, willing and able to make a fashion statement at his fifth and final Late Night.
That was a nod to former KU/NBA center Scot Pollard, who wore a red dress during the 1996 Late Night With Roy Williams, the same night he proposed to his wife, Mindy.
But that’s a story for another day.
“Whatever we do ... it will be fun,” Morningstar said of tonight’s Late Night activities, sure to include some form of singing, dancing and acting.
“It’s fun for us and fun for the fans,” Morningstar added. “I’d say Late Night is joy after Boot Camp and joy because the season is finally here, but, joy, ‘Geez we’ve got 31⁄2-, 4-hour practices coming now.”
Those practices start Saturday.
As far as tonight, one word pops up when players discuss Late Night.
“Fun,” junior guard Tyshawn Taylor said. “Late Night is a good thing. As a player, it’s what we look forward to. Once you get to Late Night, you know you are past Boot Camp, whew! You are about to get started. I look forward to Late Night a lot. That’s when stuff starts.”
Late Night is not only about KU’s men’s and women’s players performing, then competing in a pair of short intrasquad scrimmages.
It’s about recruiting.
Late Night is KU’s biggest recruiting weekend of the school year.
“I think it’s a lot different when you are a player (as opposed to a prospect),” Taylor said. “You go through Late Night a couple of times, you have gone through the routine. You know what to expect, how people love you, how it’s going to be, how the adrenaline is going to be rushing.
“I think as a recruit when you are sitting in the stands, you are watching how many people are going crazy. Because we are dancing and being goofy, you can just tell what a basketball game would be like at Kansas.”
Several Jayhawks attended Late Night as recruits.
Sophomore guard Elijah Johnson committed the day after Late Night his senior year at Cheyenne High in Las Vegas.
“Coming as a recruit is more fun. Well, I won’t say more fun, but to be in the bleachers and actually hear these people screaming in your ear is amazing,” Johnson said.
“On the court, it’s another world. It seems like you have the whole world looking at you right there on the floor. But it’s all the fans from Lawrence and all over the state of Kansas coming for the first event of the year.”
Kansas Citian Travis Releford attended several Late Nights during his days at Roeland Park Bishop Miege High.
“I think it’s fun both ways, fun to be a recruit and kind of have all the attention on you and be able to see all the shows (skits) and to see the players dance,” Releford said. “And then to be a player, being able to run out in front of the crowd and be just out there having fun is exciting.”
Junior forward Markieff Morris also attended Late Night as a recruit.
“Once I saw that, it made me fall in love with the place,” Morris said.
Royce Woolridge attended Late Night as a committed recruit last October.
“I think it’ll be more fun as a player because we get to go out and do that stuff I saw last year,” Woolridge said, recalling, “Xavier (Henry) and Elijah were out there dancing in the short shorts and afros, and Jeff (Withey) was dancing. Those guys were doing some crazy dunks in the layup line, and the crowd was into it.
“I can’t wait. I’m so excited for Late Night. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The Jayhawks certainly believe the prospects on hand sitting in the first few rows behind the bench will enjoy Late Night 2010.
“You know it’s always going to be a blast,” Morningstar said.
“It’s going to be another great night. It’s my third year. Running out of this tunnel for another Late Night will be awesome,” Morris stated.
For Releford, it’ll be awesome playing in the Late Night scrimmage after red-shirting a year ago.
“There’s not going to be any pressure,” Releford said, “because people are supportive, expecting me to do real great. I’m not too worried about it.”
Woolridge, who will be making his KU debut, agreed with Releford that tonight will be a blast.
“I don’t feel any pressure. You just go out there and have fun. That’s what it’s all about,” the former Phoenix Sunnyslope High standout said.
Here are highlights of each of the previous 25 Late Nights.
Many of the 6,000 fans at the first-ever Late Night wore T-shirts that read, “Late Night With Larry Brown. Starring the 1985-86 Kansas basketball team … all the way to Dallas.” Right on cue ... the team reached the Final Four in Dallas.
Guest of honor Larry Bud Melman of the “Late Night With David Letterman Show” signed autographs at the satellite union before a huge throng of fans.
Current KU assistant coach Danny Manning and teammate Scooter Barry sang The Temptations’ song: “My Girl.” KU went on to win the national title.
“Later With Roy Williams” drew 10,000 fans. Alonzo Jamison shattered the backboard in warmups.
KU officials charged a $5 fee to gain admission to what was billed as a concert and season-opening basketball celebration. Admission never was charged again.
More than 13,000 fans showed for the late Sunday night/early Monday morning proceedings. Rex Walters, who is now head coach at University of San Francisco, scored 16 and amazed the crowd with violent dunks.
Roy 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. The fans responded by packing the building. It has been “sold out” ever since.
Seven-footer Greg Ostertag dressed up as Frankenstein.
This Late Night marked the debut of freshmen Jacque Vaughn, Scot Pollard, B.J. Williams and Nick Proud, as well as Cal transfer Jerod Haase. It’s about the time recruiting became a major hobby/obsession with fans, who were quite eager to see the newcomers in action.
Baseball Hall of Famer George Brett and golfing great Tom Watson joined former Royals' center fielder Brian McRae and ex-Chief defensive back Deron Cherry as honorary coaches.
Football coach Glen Mason was honored on a Saturday night event, held after KU’s win at Oklahoma during a 10-2 season.
Scot Pollard proposed to his girlfriend, Mindy Camp. She accepted.
A transfer from LSU, Lester Earl wore a black leather jacket in a spoof of 1950s music. He had several dunks in warmups.
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.
Big men Eric Chenowith and Jeff Carey played electric guitar as Nick Collison sang vocals for the Limp Bizkit song, “Faith.”
Drew Gooden sat in a canoe with John Crider as the canoe was pulley-ed across the fieldhouse floor.
Keith Langford, Wayne Simien, Michael Lee, Aaron Miles and Jeff Hawkins serenaded their mothers in a song and dance.
KU senior Nick Collison played Texas Tech coach Bob Knight in one skit, and senior Kirk Hinrich played Missouri coach Quin Snyder in another.
The 1988 title team, led by coach Larry Brown, was introduced at Bill Self’s first, newly-named Late Night in the Phog.
Tuxedo-clad Kansas University seniors Keith Langford, Michael Lee, Aaron Miles and Wayne Simien bowed their heads reverently while grasping KU's 1988 national-championship trophy at the conclusion of a dramatic skit to start Late Night. KU fell in the first round of the NCAAs that season.
For the first time ever, the festivities started at 6:30 p.m. instead of 10 or so according to new NCAA rules.
The junior class of Jeremy Case, Sasha Kaun, C.J. Giles, Darnell Jackson, Russell Robinson and Rodrick Stewart “waltzed” their way to a dance competition victory over the Jayhawk sophomores, who “tangoed,” and freshmen, who twirled to the “swing” in front of judges Self, Manning and Aaron Miles.
Players were carted to the fieldhouse in a Corvette, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, BMW, Hummer, Avalanche and stretch limousine onto a Red Carpet for interviews with “Survivor” winner and KU grad Danni Boatwright.
Kansas University unveiled its national championship banner to the delight of the fans.
The 25th-annual Late Night included KU one-and-done player Xavier Henry making his hoops debut and dance debut. He wore a huge afro wig during a number. An all-star cast of recruits watched the action, including Royce Woolridge, Josh Selby, Josiah Turner, Doron Lamb and Harrison Barnes. Mario Little may have been best-dressed Jayhawk in a number with slick black slacks, a bright red shirt and suspenders. Jeff Withey wore old short-shorts in a 1988 skit.