When former Kansas guard Brady Morningstar first heard that his friend and former teammate Elijah Johnson was putting together a team for The Tournament, he knew he wanted to get involved.
But with roster spots already spoken for and additional bodies costing the team money, the opportunities were limited.
And then Morningstar figured out a way and it’s been full-steam ahead since then.
“It was a no brainer,” Morningstar told the Journal-World after a two-hour Monday practice. “I was like, ‘Hey, let me coach.’ And he was like, ‘You know what, yeah.’”
Giving Morningstar the whistle and clipboard was easy for Johnson, partly because he knew the team needed a coach that understood it and also because Morningstar has actually been a coach for the past couple of years, working as an assistant coach at Texas Wesleyan for the past two seasons.
“He’s Self made,” Johnson smiled.
For his part, Morningstar said he thought his status as an active college coach — along with his existing relationships with the Self Made players — helped make him more legitimate.
“If you walked into to it like we’re buddy-buddy, that’s not going to get anything accomplished,” he said. “But if we walk in here like we know what we’re talking about, which I believe we do, they’ll respect you and listen to you. I think it’s a cool dynamic to have guys who are the same age as these guys coaching them. And we’re going to put our heads together and try to win a couple games.”
Morningstar credits fellow-former KU players Brennan Bechard, Chase Buford, Brad Witherspoon and Natalie Knight for helping him stay organized. And the five-day training camp, run by Morningstar, has featured practice plans, individual and team drills, offensive and defensive installation and all kinds of communication.
Morningstar, Bechard and Knight will be in Wichita coaching the squad as long as it’s alive.
Morningstar said the general manager skills utilized by Johnson, which allowed the squad to come together with like-minded players all pursuing the same goals helped tremendously in keeping things organized leading up to Thursday’s tourney opener at 6 p.m. against Sideline Cancer at Wichita State’s Koch Arena.
“Part of being a good team is you’ve got to have chemistry and you’ve got to like each other,” Morningstar said. “After that, you can start talking about details and game planning and offensive tendencies and defensive tendencies that we want to do as a team. We’ll put in some set plays, but the best basketball is the simplest actions with your best players. Let them go out there and try to make plays.
“It’s going to be fun out here playing, but it’s a serious deal. It’s competitive. We’re trying to win games. Obviously everyone’s in here to win some money, but it’s also cool to bring some old alumni back and be in that different role of having me, their old teammate, coaching them. It’s just cool.”