Jayhawk fans erupted into cheers at every chance they got Friday night in Allen Fieldhouse. Applause, yelps and the sounds of noisemakers greeted everything from a Simon Says contest to Bill Self's speech about the upcoming season.
Somewhere between the women's basketball players dancing to "U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer and comedian Rob Riggle being carried onto the court on a white throne, the 16,000 fans experienced more than a bit of ridiculousness at the 29th annual Late Night in the Phog, a variety show and practice that served as the opening to the 2013-2014 Kansas University basketball season.
As part of the tradition, members of the basketball teams performed skits, the pep band played, other athletics teams were recognized, coaches and players were introduced and the team scrimmaged.
The stands were full to capacity, and thousands were sent away. As many attendees learned Friday, you can't be too early for Late Night.
"How many places in America can you find 25,000 people waiting to get into a gym that holds 16,000?" Self said as he welcomed everyone.
Crowds of fans amassed outside of the Fieldhouse on Friday, and some began setting up tents near the entrance as early as Thursday night to guarantee a good spot for the festivities.
For many, the main draw was scoping out the new talent.
Tim Richard, a freshman from Kansas City, Mo., arrived at the Fieldhouse around 10 p.m. Thursday. He and five friends set up a tent and slept on the ground to save seats for themselves and 20 friends. Around 4 p.m., much of the group was sitting or lying on blankets along the sidewalk, waiting for the doors to open at 5:30.
"I've never been to Late Night before," Richard said. "We want to get good seats near the front."
The payoff would come, Richard said, when he could see the basketball team's freshmen during the scrimmage.
Later, the lights dimmed in the Fieldhouse, and a video titled "Jayhawks in the NBA" began to play on the big screen. Students, alum and fans, including Richard, cheered as their past basketball idols flashed onto the screen. When team members were introduced before the scrimmage, they watched as the new favorites stepped onto the court as Jayhawks for the first time.
"I want to see Wiggins, and Frankamp and Ellis," said Kyle Winston, a freshman from Prairie Village, referring to highly touted freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Conner Frankamp and holdover sophomore Perry Ellis.
Others in attendance just wanted the experience.
Before the event began, Randy Johnson and Ron Weber and their sons, Kansas University sophomores Kaleb Johnson and Reece Weber, chowed down on barbecue. Randy Johnson had provided the food as a thank you to Ron Weber for saving his spot in line.
Johnson, a Lawrence resident, said he was looking forward to his first time at Late Night.
"It's the first time I've been here, and I've lived in Lawrence since '97," Johnson said. "I'm looking forward to the skits and to the scrimmages. I'd like to see the incoming freshman class; I like the buzz they're generating."
Weber, who traveled from South Dakota for the weekend, said he took his spot in line at 10 a.m. By the time he arrived, a sizable crowd was already gathered near the entrance.
Fans stepping into line around 4 p.m. found themselves near the Burge Union, as the line stretched down Naismith Drive and around Irving Hill Road.