After seven grueling days, the Kansas men’s basketball team has reached the finish line of its annual boot camp.
Barring something unforeseen, the Jayhawks will wrap up this year’s preseason conditioning grind after Wednesday morning’s session.
After Day 1 last week, Kansas coach Bill Self said things had gone “just OK,” and that he expected the Jayhawks would improve as the camp progressed.
Junior forward Jalen Wilson on Monday said that was exactly what happened.
“It’s actually gone really well,” Wilson told the Journal-World. “This is my fourth one now, so I’m pretty good on everything we do and it’s been pretty easy. When I was a freshman, I definitely was (less comfortable).”
Boot camp is always the biggest test for the newcomers, and this year that featured four scholarship freshmen, transfer Kevin McCullar Jr. and walk-on Wilder Evers.
Junior point guard Dajuan Harris, who also is a veteran of past boot camps, said he and Wilson talked about helping the new guys as much as possible long before the event began.
“Oh yeah,” Harris said. “We just tried to make sure we had everybody wake up on time and come in here and compete. Me and J-Wil are just trying to lead the way and help the young guys so they can get through it all.”
The early wake-up calls typically came around 6:30 a.m. and occasionally earlier. Regardless of when the alarm sounded, it was crucial for everyone to be in the gym and ready to go by 6:50 at the latest. Wilson and Harris said newcomers and veterans alike did fine in that area and it was clear that everyone was ready to work each day.
Boot camp is not about basketball. At least not directly. Instead, it’s about the Jayhawks pushing their minds and bodies as far as they can go so that they’ll be ready to handle the practices and games ahead.
Harris said his favorite part of this year’s session was how hard everyone worked. As the defending national champs, the Jayhawks know they have an even bigger target on their backs than normal. They also have fresh memories of what getting to the top feels like and want to do whatever they can to get back there in 2023.
“Even though we’re not doing any defense or basketball drills, we’re just in here working as hard as we can and everyone’s competing in the conditioning drills,” he said.
For Wilson, it’s always been the mental part of KU boot camp that was the toughest.
“With boot camp, you don’t know what’s next,” he said. “But as we’ve been through it, I know every drill, I know what’s next, I know the order. The new guys are like, ‘Man, I don’t know what’s next.’ But you can understand the kind of wide-eyed look, but everyone’s been good. The energy’s been really good. This is definitely up there with one of the best boot camps.”
The next key date for the Jayhawks is the official start of practices in early to mid-October. After that, the Jayhawks will host the annual Late Night in the Phog on Oct. 14 in anticipation of the Nov. 3 exhibition contest against Pitt State at Allen Fieldhouse.
KU reportedly also will face Illinois in a so-called “secret scrimmage” in late October. They played a similar game last season at Tulsa, and the scrimmages are not open to the public or the media nor are statistics or a final score officially recorded.
After all of that, KU will open the regular season against Omaha on Nov. 7 at Allen Fieldhouse.