LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Each year Kansas’ basketball season kick-off, dubbed Late Night in the Phog, promises a festive night filled with musical performances, skits and scrimmages, building excitement to match the lofty expectations for the upcoming season.
However, this year anticipation eagerly surrounded not only an appearance by Snoop Dogg, but also whether Kansas’ recent notice of allegations from the NCAA would dampen the mood.
Just 11 days prior to the 35th-annual Late Night in the Phog, the University received notice of three alleged Level 1 violations, tied chiefly to recruiting and including a responsibility charge against coach Bill Self, garnering national attention.
Following a choreographed performance by the men’s basketball team and Rock Chalk Dancers that brought the fans to their feet, a video captioned “The Bill Self Era” exploded onto the screen, touting highlights of the Hall of Fame coach’s storied career at Kansas, sending the crowd into an uproar.
With 16,300 fans packed into Allen Fieldhouse on Friday night, Self took to the court, directly addressing the mass of students, fans and recruits with nod to the alleged violations.
“I’ve heard from some people that bad publicity is better than no publicity,” Self said with a chuckle. “I actually don’t believe that for a second but it felt good to say.”
Acknowledging the “choppy waters” the program currently faces, Self beamed, amidst “Bill” chants in the student section, that he had never in his 17-year tenure been more proud to coach at Kansas.
“I’ve never felt that we could have more support from an administration than we do here at Kansas. I’ve never felt we could have more support from an athletics department than we do at Kansas,” Self said. “We have the best fans in the world and I never felt we could have more support from our fans than we do here at the University of Kansas.”
Having addressed the impending allegations, Self then turned his attention to his team, speaking highly of the season ahead. Returning several key players and having brought in a highly-touted recruiting class, Self’s great expectations for his program have far from waivered.
“I think your expectations should be off the charts for this year’s team,” Self said.
Many having camped within the halls and on the lawn of Allen Fieldhouse throughout the week for an opportunity to watch the event, students and fans voraciously applauded Self as he ended his roughly four-minute speech.
Following Self’s passionate address, spirits continued to lift as former player Sherron Collins drained a half-court shot to earn two students $5,000 apiece at the expense of Self, sending the entire team into a dog pile on top of the former National Champion.
After the dog pile subsided, the names of the Kansas roster boomed over the speakers as the 2018-19 Jayhawks prepared to take the court for the first time in a short intersquad scrimmage, garnering yet another standing ovation from the rowdy crowd as each player danced onto the court.
Devon Dotson lead the way for Kansas in the brief scrimmage, knocking down 4 of 8 field goals, including two from beyond the arc, in a 12-point outing, followed by David McCormack with 10 points.
To cap off the evening, this year’s cross-generational music guest Snoop Dogg rapped alongside the men’s and women’s basketball teams, dawning a Kansas jersey of his own with “Snoop” across the back as he performed hits including “Smoke Weed Everyday” and “Gin and Juice”.
Ultimately, the looming shadow of recent allegations plaguing Kansas appeared to have no ill effect on the excitement surrounding the high expectations for this Jayhawks team, if anything amplifying the anticipation. With Late Night in the books and practice officially underway, Kansas will open its season Oct. 24 with an exhibition matchup against Fort Hays State in Allen Fieldhouse.
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