Dancing with the 'Hawks: What to expect — and what not to — from the men’s basketball team at Late Night

Men's basketball players Clay Young (left) and Malik Newman (right) work on their dance moves alongside Rock Chalk Dancers Katie Lomshek (left) and Kendall Zellars (right).

Men's basketball players Clay Young (left) and Malik Newman (right) work on their dance moves alongside Rock Chalk Dancers Katie Lomshek (left) and Kendall Zellars (right). by Photo courtesy of @KUHoops

Author's note: This is intended to give some insight into the dancing process at Late Night in the Phog, but don't worry — what you read here is just a taste. There are still plenty of surprises to look forward to.

Clay Young didn’t want to continue anymore.

No, he wasn’t tired. The 45-minute practice paled in comparison to the rigorous work of boot camp and fell well short of a typical three-hour practice his newfound ‘coaches’ participated in. But after a mix-up with choreography led to Young dropping his dance partner, the JUCO transfer was a little frazzled.

“He was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.’ He didn’t even want to finish the dance,” said Keaten Olson, then a KU freshman and first-year member of the Rock Chalk Dancers. “I was like, ‘No, keep going. Keep going.’ ”

As Olson recalled, she was going over Young’s shoulder, and he was supposed to grab her arms. He didn’t and she fell straight toward the ground, laughing as she popped up, ready to get back at it.

Olson, who appreciated the comedy of the moment — and the video, which she’s since saved on her computer — took it all in stride. After all, nobody said the task at hand was going to be easy.

“They’re used to lifting weights, not girls,” she joked.

Some more than others.

The ringleaders —

Devonte’ Graham is expected to have a big role on the men’s basketball team this year, but he might also have the best moves.

Katie Lomshek, a senior Rock Chalk Dancer who worked with Graham in advance of this year’s Late Night, said the senior guard has impressed her in a number of areas.

“I’ve seen him over all four years ... become so comfortable with what he’s doing,” Lomshek said. “Especially since this year with the battle, when blue is competing against us, he’s up in their face, trying to battle back and get us to get more hype for when it's our next song.”

If there’s one thing the dancers agree on, though, it’s that there’s plenty of talent — and excitement — for the routines this time around.

Perhaps no battle will be bigger than the one-on-one match-up of Graham and junior Lagerald Vick, who Olson said was her pick for best dancer.

“Insanely talented at dance,” Olson said. “Honestly, Lagerald Vick is so good. I didn’t really notice him last year, … but Lagerald is on my side. He is such a talented dancer.”

He's also got the cerebral part of it down.

“I started choreographing and he was like, ‘No, no, no, no. You gotta do that part slow because then it really builds up and the fans are going to be so impressed,'" Olson added. "So he was like teaching me dance moves and I was like, ‘Holy cow.’ I think he’s really confident with his dance moves.”

Outside of those two, Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe should be a fun player to watch, though the original plan that called for him to leap through the air and over walk-on Chris Teahan was vetoed.

Big man Udoka Azubuike should also get the chance to show off his moves with a solo performance, as he'll look to make a big leap — at least as a dancer — from his freshman to his sophomore year.

"Our practices have been so fun," Olson said. "Last year it took a while to break them out of their comfort zone. This year, kind of from the start, they were throwing out ideas."

The ideas — (Warning: Spoiler Alert)

Without giving too much away, the theme of this year's dance for the men's basketball team, first suggested by marketing, will be a dance battle between two halves of the team.

Within that, though, there have been plenty of ideas from the players — some good and some bad.

One idea, from red-shirt sophomore Malik Newman, had some promise.

“I don’t know if this idea is going to go all the way through," Lomshek said, "but I know Malik on our side wants the players to walk in with masks. Like a Jabbawockeez mask."

Some ideas, however, are not so great.

For example, an unnamed player suggested his team begin the dance by surrounding the dancers in a circle and wobbling onto the court before backing away for the big reveal.

“The idea didn’t go very far,” Olson said. “It obviously wouldn’t have worked, but I just think it’s so cool how they’re so into it.”

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