The Kansas women’s basketball team kicked off Friday’s Late Night extravaganza at Allen Fieldhouse, both in the entertainment and basketball departments.
Fourth-year coach Brandon Schneider’s squad was the first to hit the floor for a dance-off of sorts, and the grooving and grinding was followed by a 3-point contest and 10-minute women’s scrimmage.
Before any of that took place, however, Schneider grabbed a microphone and officially was the first to welcome the sellout crowd to Late Night 2018.
In doing so, Schneider talked a little about the upcoming season and how, like his time as a head coach at Kansas, he believes things just keep getting better and better.
“If we stay healthy and continue with our progress, guys, we’ll be back in the postseason,” Schneider said.
If that prediction comes true, KU’s defense could have a lot to do with it. In Friday’s 31-12 victory over a group of managers and practice players, the KU women picked up six steals and got out in transition as often as possible.
Senior guard Brianna Osorio led all scorers with eight points, and 10 Jayhawks scored. Senior Jessica Washington, whose KU career has been plagued by injuries, did not play, but she was present for the dancing and on the bench during the scrimmage.
Last year’s team finished 12-17 overall and 3-15 in Big 12 play, but the hope for an improved product, along with Schneider’s optimism, comes from months of hard work on the recruiting trail that took him to 10 states and four countries just this year.
“It didn’t matter if I was in Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri, Mexico City, Stockholm, Sweden or Lawrence, Kansas; I was consistently greeted with the only two words that always make me feel at home — rock chalk,” Schneider added.
2 Chainz charms
The follow-up to Tech N9ne in 2016 and Lil Yachty in 2017 certainly did not disappoint.
After taking the floor at Allen Fieldhouse for what was expected to be four or five songs, Grammy-winning rapper 2 Chainz, decked out in a KU hat, a blue, No. 2 KU jersey and his signature chains rocked the Late Night crowd for 10 songs and more than 30 minutes.
“I’m really happy to be here,” 2 Chainz told the crowd between songs. “Whoever requested me to be here, I really, really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.”
It wasn’t just being in the famed basketball arena that had 2 Chainz hyped up.
“I talked to coach (Bill) Self and coach Self told (his team) to let me score,” he joked toward the end of his show. “And then I got to thinking ... I’m going to put on some shorts after this.”
Both the KU men’s and women’s basketball teams partied on the floor with the famous rap star, and even KU’s coach was more than a little impressed.
Asked who they thought liked 2 Chainz the most, Lagerald Vick and Ochai Agbaji came to an agreement that it was probably sophomore Chris Teahan.
As for whether either of them actually thought 2 Chainz was going to play after the performance, Agbaji said simply, “I thought he was.”
To which Vick responded: “I didn’t. Who was he going to guard, you?”
Self the star
After a three-minute, Matthew McConaughey-inspired video featuring Self talking about Allen Fieldhouse’s soul and looking for his coaching whistle in a car filled with trophies and rings, Self stepped onto the court to address the packed house that showed up for Late Night.
“We tell players before we ever get them that this is one of the biggest dreams of playing here,” Self said of the wild environment. “But there’s not many places in America that can pull this off year after year after year.”
After paying tribute to former Jayhawks Malik Newman, Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham — yep, he still gets as loud of a roar as anybody — for helping KU get to the 2018 Final Four, Self asked a simple question:
“You lose those three guys, and how the heck can you get better? I’m not sure we can. But if it’s any consolation, I think this is the best dancing team that we’ve had in a while.
“It’s going to be a great year. … We’re going to be good. And I think we’ve got a chance to be special. But everybody’s got a role to play and that includes you. Rock chalk Jayhawk.”
Self dodged a financial bullet this year when the two KU students chosen to shoot half-court shots for a $10,000 check from Self misfired on all four attempts. One of them missed the shots himself, and the other picked former KU great Sherron Collins to shoot for her. After coming up short on his first attempt, Collins missed attempt No. 2 a few inches to the right.
Faces in the crowd
As expected, some serious prospects in the classes of 2019 and 2020 showed up for Late Night, with five-star prospects Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, James Wiseman and N’Faly Dante joining four-star shooting guard Cassius Stanley, Chandler and Jonathan Lawson, and current KU commitment Christian Braun, among others, in taking in the action from behind the Kansas bench.
As per usual, the recruits were showered with applause and adoration from the KU crowd as they took their seats.
In addition to the young guys, several notable names from KU’s past also were in Allen Fieldhouse on Friday, including Collins, Elijah Johnson, Jeff Gueldner, Nick Bradford and Jeff Hawkins.
In addition, the Allen Fieldhouse video board displayed messages and memories from former KU greats including Ryan Robertson, Cole Aldrich, Graham, Frank Mason III, Ben McLemore and others.
Even former KU football standout Jacorey Shepherd was back to enjoy Late Night with his brand new baby. And Self gave a shoutout to Gary Woodland and Chris Thompson, former KU golfers currently playing on the PGA Tour.
Self also welcomed new KU athletic director Jeff Long to his first Late Night.
“Everybody who has met him (is) so impressed,” Self said of Long. “We’ve got great leadership and I know the vision that he has is one that’s going to make everyone in here proud.”