Matt Tait: Training camp a key component of Self Made's TBT journey

The Self Made squad comes together to finish off practice on Monday, July 22, 2019, at the KU practice gym.

Station to station they went, running not jogging, knowing that any wasted time could cost them.

The faces and bodies have changed a little since their playing days at Kansas, but the players who make up this summer’s Self Made squad appear to remember how to prepare.

Running through a 2-hour workout Monday morning at KU’s practice gym — a venue that everyone on the team but veteran big man Darrell Arthur actually used while at Kansas — the Self Made squad looked every bit as serious about their task today as they did during their time playing for KU coach Bill Self.

The collaborative efforts of the former KU legends and leaders and their attempts to get everyone on the same page in time for Thursday’s TBT opener — vs. Sideline Cancer at 6 p.m. at Wichita State’s Koch Arena — made this practice session more of a meeting of the minds.

Organized by former teammate and Self Made head coach Brady Morningstar and his run-through-a-wall assistant, Chase Buford, the former Jayhawks talked their way through a variety of scenarios, yelled at and motivated each other like the good old days and did their best to install the offensive and defensive principles they hope will help them make a run during the next couple of weeks.

A few players brought NBA experience. Others have been overseas. And all of them needed the brief training camp to knock the rust off and get their minds and bodies right for what’s ahead.

After one drill in which Buford was particularly physical with the players around the perimeter, Travis Releford walked to the back of the line and uttered, “Damn, he’s playing real D.”

Moments later, Morningstar could be heard calling out Tyshawn Taylor for a sloppy pass.

Not that he needed to. These guys, most of whom are close friends, have no problem getting on one another and holding each other accountable for every misstep.

And that’s an important part of the process because things weren’t all-perfect all the time in there. At least not the way you might expect from a group that includes seven players with Final Four experience, two who won championship rings.

No matter who was talking, everyone was listening. Even Self. And while the Hall of Fame KU coach was tempted to hop onto the court and offer his thoughts in certain situations, he spent the bulk of his time standing near midcourt, watching his former pupils like a proud papa.

At one point, Releford, with a sly smile looked toward Self, who was talking with former KU forward Darrell Arthur, and said simply, “Coach, you’re interrupting practice.”

Everyone laughed.

In those moments when Self did offer his input — try as he might, he could not stay quiet the entire time — you might as well have hopped into a time machine, back to 2008 or 2012, when these guys still played for him. With each lesson, the gym got quiet, all eyes were on Self and these players, many of them now fathers and professional basketball players, were still learning from their coach.

It’s impossible to know how this team will fare in the next couple of weeks at The Tournament. They’ll face tough competition. They’ll be playing a different style of basketball. And, like at all levels, they’ll need a little luck to get through to Chicago, where the eight teams still standing will battle for a $2 million prize.

But if they do fall short it won’t be because of a lack of preparation. These guys got after it during the past week. Now all they have to do is go play.

Comments

David Klamm

I appreciate the article, Matt. I'd love to watch these guys make a run at winning this tournament but I'm not sure they have enough shooters on this team. They should be pretty elite defensively which might be a difference maker in this tournament. Any idea who they might be adding as player #11 or has that been announced?

4 weeks ago

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Matt Tait

It's definitely a different game than college basketball so the shooter thing might not be quite as critical, but it could be. I think the two biggest things are athletes in space making plays toward the rim and defense. Morningstar said the other day that transition defense was the biggest key to the whole tournament... We shall see.

I know Naadir Tharpe has been added to the roster and he can shoot it a little and facilitate a lot. The TBT website no longer has Darnell Jackson on the Self Made roster. I think a schedule conflict may have bumped him out.

So there could be one more player added, too, if Jackson is officially out. Wouldn't surprise me if that's a big name and another shooter.

4 weeks ago

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David Klamm

Tharpe - not a name I would have expected to see. I have no idea if Darnell has been playing or is in shape but I've always been a fan of guys that succeeded above their projections and he did that at KU. I was hoping to see him but if Arthur is on the team he is at a position that they can afford to lose.

4 weeks ago

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Marius Rowlanski

Tharpe making a return? I think it's great. Doesn't he still have a year of eligibility?

3 weeks, 6 days ago

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