KU basketball players share adventures from Europe
- Aug. 23, 2012
- 0 Comments
The last time the men’s basketball team took the floor in competition as a team, the players watched as streamers fell from the ceiling as Kentucky celebrated its victory in the national championship game.
Losing the last game of the season is always tough. It can eat away at a team in the long stretch from the end of a regular season until practices resume in October. But because the NCAA allows a team to play exhibition games outside the United States once every four summers, the Jayhawks were able to cut their wait-time short as they packed their bags and headed to Europe for a four-game set against the Swiss national team and the AMW French Pro team. The trip was from Aug. 5 to 14.
“Just playing, wearing the Kansas jersey,” senior forward Kevin Young said when asked what he was most looking forward to about the European trip. “Because our last game together ended in a loss, so I think a lot of us returning guys just wanted to get out there and play again.”
The Jayhawks team that traveled overseas looks different than the one seen all last year. Gone is All-American Thomas Robinson. Gone is the unpredictable but nonetheless electric Tyshawn Taylor.
But the new crop of freshmen got an early jump on meshing with the team and learning coach Bill Self’s system.
“We got 10 practices before we left,” senior center Jeff Withey said. “So it’s good for them to get that early start, just because everything is new to them, and the more time they have to work on the offense is going to help them. Those games over there, they can see how the competition is a lot different from high school.”
After experiencing some travel mishaps, the Jayhawks arrived in Switzerland a day late. , “It was really frustrating just because we were so excited to be going to Europe, and then to lose a day of time over there, it just sucked,” Withey said.
“But it happens. We made fun of the freshmen, saying to them it was their fault because they were new. But you couldn’t do anything about it.”
The change in travel plans also forced the team to switch around some of their tourist activities and shorten their pregame preparations. But the Jayhawks still managed to win both of their games against the Swiss national team.
“When we were in Zurich, we would go sightsee in the morning and then have to go right from sightseeing to go and play,” Withey said. “Sometimes we’d be late, so we’d only have 10, 15 minutes to get ready. When we’re actually playing real games over here, we start preparing two hours in advance: we’re at the gym, getting shots up and stuff. When we were over there, we were thrown into the fire.”
In Paris, the team saw the sights that draw tourists from around the world to the city.
“We were only on the second level of the Eifel Tower, and we were already over most of the buildings, and there’s an elevator that takes you even higher, so it was kind of crazy,” Young said.
The Jayhawks lost both games against AMW, but in the second game and the final of the trip, Kansas had the lead at halftime despite the fact that Self sat seniors Withey, Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford, and gave the freshmen extended playing time.
“(The freshmen) are not used to a 40-minute game yet,” Withey said. “In the college game, you’re always playing hard, you can’t take plays off, so by the fourth quarter I feel like they got really tired, and that’s when the other team made their run.”
The freshmen weren’t the only ones who received more minutes. Sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe showed how much he improved from his freshman season, dishing nine assists in the Jayhawks’ first game against AMW. Despite Tharpe’s effort, Kansas lost 74-73.
“I think he is just a lot more confident,” Withey said. “His ball handling is just a lot better than last year, and just having a year underneath your belt, you get a lot better automatically.”
— Edited by Ryan McCarthy