Self says first couple of KU practices went well, takes break for Coaches vs. Cancer event
Kansas City, Mo. — With recruits flying in from all corners of the country for their weekend visits with the Kansas basketball program, KU coach Bill Self was at the Grand Ballroom at Bartle Hall on Thursday night to partake in the 11th annual Coaches vs. Cancer Season Tipoff reception.
Self, who has long been a supporter of this cause and others like it, said he was happy to get a break from the early days of practice and Friday’s Late Night extravaganza to join K-State coach Bruce Weber, Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin, UMKC Kareem Richardson and special guest Bo Ryan, the now-retired, longtime Wisconsin head coach to help raise money to fight cancer.
“Yeah, I like doing this,” Self said. “We’ve got a lot going on right now. There’s certainly other places I could be, with five recruits flying in right now, but I think this is certainly a worthwhile cause and I love getting a chance to come out and mingle and see some real heroes that have gone through real life stuff.”
Self has long been involved in the Coaches vs. Cancer initiative, which is a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
More than 500 Division I, II and III college coaches, along with high school and other youth league coaches across the country are involved in the program that has raised more than $115 million to support the American Cancer Society’s mission to “save lives, celebrate lives and lead the fight for a world without cancer.”
Self’s jaunt east on Thursday evening came shortly after the Jayhawks wrapped up their second official practice of the 2018-19 season.
While Wednesday’s practice was admittedly a little more slow-paced and of a walk-through nature, Self said he and his team turned it up a notch on Thursday.
“We had a decent practice (Wednesday),” he said. “But we had a very good practice (Thursday). (It was) competitive and the guys really responded well to keeping it fast-paced since they knew what we were doing since we went over a lot of stuff yesterday.”
That stance came one day after Self — always a critic — said he anticipated Friday’s Late Night scrimmage to be “awful, like always,” because it takes place so early in the season, well before Self and his staff have had enough time to shape the team to their liking.
With that said, Self also conceded that it had been “a good first couple days,” and that all of his players had given good effort to kick off the season.
“Everybody’s about the same right now,” he added. “We haven’t done enough scrimmaging for anybody to stand out yet.”
Toward the end of the night, the four coaches in attendance joined host Nate Bukaty on stage for a little basketball round table that focused on memories of their college days and a look at each of their teams heading into the 2018-19 season.
In addition to a few jokes about former Purdue coach Gene Keady once telling Martin never to shoot a 3-pointer again, and Self ribbing him about how he guaranteed he would've shot better than 0 percent from 3-point range even if he had played more or at Purdue, Self revealed one thing about the 2018-19 Big 12 race.
"Bruce's team is good," Self said of Kansas State. "I picked 'em to win the league this year. I think that they deserve that. They had a great run last year and it sets up what should be a real exciting league race."
As for his own Jayhawks, Self said last year's Final Four team wasn't one of the best he's ever had but was one of the toughest to guard because of how well they could shoot it.
"This year we're going back to being bad shooters but a lot bigger," Self joked. "But I do like our team. I think we're actually as deep as we've been in a long time."
No Border War this year
It’s been one year since Self and the Jayhawks were a part of renewing the Border War rivalry with Missouri for one night for an exhibition scrimmage at Sprint Center that raised $2 million for hurricane relief. But Self said no such reunion was on tap this year, even with the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas.
The reason? NCAA rules prohibit college programs from playing more than two exhibition games in a given season and KU already has dates set with Emporia State and Washburn. Last year’s KU-MU matchup required a special waiver from the NCAA.
“They’re not going to let us have three (exhibition) games,” Self explained. “I don’t want to mislead anybody to think that that could happen, but that’s not on the table this year because of the way the rules read.”
Each of the coaches in attendance on Thursday night took the stage with a “Cancer Champion,” a young person who had fought cancer and lived to talk about it.
Self walked to his seat alongside Joseph Serati, who was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 8, in December of 2012, after more than 90 percent of his body had been infected with cancer cells.
Today, Serati is cancer free, and both he and Self received a huge ovation from the large crowd.
Coaches vs. Cancer honorees
Bo Ryan, who spoke for about 10 minutes at the outset of Thursday’s event, was honored with the American Cancer Society’s St. George Award for his long and dedicated service to the fight against cancer.
Marc Stringer, a high school coach at White Hall (Ark.) High, also was presented with the Norm Stewart Legacy award and Ryan honored both during his remarks.
“To me, what he’s done, I call him the Godfather of Coaches vs. Cancer,” said Ryan of Stewart, who started the Coaches vs. Cancer initiative 25 years ago. “When some of us would worry about whether we would keep our voices during the first couple of weeks of practice, Norm was concerned about whether he was going to be alive. So I say, ‘Thank you Norm,’ for leading the cause and setting the example for all the rest of us coaches.”
Stewart, 83, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1989.