KU men’s basketball boot camp gets underway

Kansas head coach Bill Self watches as the players rapidly shuffle across the court during Boot Camp in the practice gym on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 just after 6 a.m.

The Kansas men’s basketball team is back in the gym for the infamous “boot camp,” the grueling two-week conditioning program that has characterized Septembers past during Bill Self’s tenure as head coach.

KU had its first such practice of the year Monday, and the basketball team commemorated the occasion on social media with a video in which Self, driving to the opening day of boot camp, elaborates on the origins of the Jayhawks’ most excruciating preseason tradition.

He said it dates back to his first head coaching job at Oral Roberts (1993-97).

“I wanted to do something that wasn’t an entire fall of conditioning,” Self said in the video. “I wanted something condensed, I wanted something that got our feet in shape, ready for practice, and basically set a tone that the guys thought whatever was in front of them moving forward wasn’t going to be near as difficult because they had already been through the hardest thing.”

The difficulty has resonated with players over the years, and clearly continues to do so; while Self notes that boot camp is “not as hard as what kids think it is,” former KU forward David McCormack commented on the Instagram post of the video with a cap emoji, i.e., slang indicating that he doubts the veracity of that claim. To which current KU center Hunter Dickinson responded, in turn, with a crying-laughing emoji of his own.

Junior KJ Adams Jr., a veteran at this point, posted an Instagram video Monday morning of himself and returning teammate Kevin McCullar Jr. eating breakfast with the transfer Dickinson to ring in the latter’s first boot camp.

Self said in his video he sees the boot camp not just as an opportunity for physical exertion but mental strength, as well as team bonding.

“I hope that they walk away from it understanding that whenever it gets hard,” he said, “make it about somebody else, not yourself.”

Self added that the results of the shared experience will be borne out over the course of the season.

“You’re down 7 on the road with three minutes left, and you got to make a run or whatever,” he said, “guys will lean on, ‘Hey guys, this is nothing. Think about what it was through boot camp, and think about what it was when he had already killed us and we’d look up and we still got 27 more ladders to run.'”