Few places do the start of college basketball better than Kansas, where the annual “Late Night in the Phog” always seems to bring chills to the faithful. In fact, there were so many of them in attendance that a reported 2,000 fans had to be turned away at the door.
Nevertheless, it was the celebration of the game and a team that won an eighth straight conference title a year ago and made another trip to the Final Four, coming up short in the National Championship. Friday night however, it was about fun and the start of another journey. Jayhawks coach Bill Self, who enters his 10th campaign, reminded fans that it’s a process, but that doesn’t mean big things can’t happen again.
"I think the process worked out okay for us last year," Self said.
After numerous skits warmed the crowd up, the highlight was a series of videos illustrating the tradition at Kansas. The videos have become as much tradition at KU, as the basketball itself. Self felt humbled and honored to have the support he and the team do.
"Nobody gots it as good as we do here in Lawrence, Kansas," Self told the crowd.
Following the videos, the banners honoring the conference championship and Final Four appearance were unveiled to a raucous ovation. Soon, the team was introduced for the first time and it was time for an inner squad scrimmage giving fans a first look at the team.
The Crimson team would win the scrimmage 36-28 behind 11 points from senior Elijah Johnson and senior center Jeff Withey, who scored 10 points and hauled in seven rebounds. Freshman Perry Ellis started along side them. The former Wichita Heights standout, had attended several Late Night’s in the past, but Friday, it was finally time to participate.
“It was great. I was nervous at first, but after the dance, I got pretty acclimated and I felt good, so it was a great experience and I had a lot of fun,” Ellis said.
The Blue team was led by senior forward Kevin Young, who scored nine points and pulled down four boards.
The Blue team was also highlighted by the debut of swingman Ben McLemore, who scored six points on 3 of 8 shooting.
The season looks promising for a team that was picked unanimously to win a ninth straight Big 12 crown. They’ll kick things off October 30th when the Jayhawks host Emporia State.