Published October 12, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas' "Late Night in the Phog" featured all its normal pageantry with smoke, video montages and skits. About halfway through, however, some technical difficulty threatened to slow down the evening when the lights faded and the women's team scrimmage was paused.
According to the campus fire marshal, someone at the scorer's table hit the wrong switch instead of a buzzer. The women's team soldiered on and continued to score under the emergency lights and played out the final 1:20.
Amid the fog and drone of plastic noisemakers, Kansas unveiled new Big 12 championship and Final Four banners which makes 55 and 14, respectively. A near-capacity crowd welcomed the 2012-13 men's and women's basketball teams for their first practice.
Although this is the opening event for the season, Kansas took time to celebrate last season's accomplishments that included a Sweet 16 appearance for the women, an NCAA championship game appearance for the men and an Olympic gold medal for Diamond Dixon of the track team.
"Even though rosters change at Kansas, expectations don't," coach Bill Self said to the crowd.
This year that is especially true for the Jayhawks who bring in seven freshmen and two redshirts. Despite their youth, they were unanimously voted to win the Big 12 this season. Starters Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey return, but the team is missing two NBA players in Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. With Self at the helm for his 10th season, there is always a positive buzz to start the season.
The team was welcomed to the court by thunderous cheers as three groups performed dance routines including the freshmen threatening to toss Self's son Tyler into the crowd.
The lights faded, Allen Fieldhouse filled with fog and Aerosmith's "Dream On" sent a hallowed silenced over the crowd for the yearly pump-up video. The team and the crowd relived familiar highlights like the final game of the Kansas-Missouri rivalry. In the darkness, the veils were pulled of the new banners and yet another video followed the journey to the championship game.
The excitement and confidence were high as the players stepped onto the court one by one. With the skits finished, and the smoke rising, the fans got their first look at this season's team.
Warmups turned into the usual dunk contest, but once the scrimmage started, the Jayhawks got to work with three of the first four baskets by freshmen. But less than 6 minutes in, redshirt freshman Ben McLemore gave the crowd what they came for with a two-handed dunk. More theatrics followed before the end of the evening.
Kansas showed teasers for two upcoming projects: an ESPN 30-for-30 episode called, "No Place Like Home" about the acquisition of the original rules of basketball, and a film called "The Jayhawkers" about Wilt Chamberlain's time at Kansas.
On Oct. 30, the Jayhawks will have their first exhibition game against Emporia State and then open the season against Michigan State on Nov. 13.