The lockers of Kansas University’s basketball players were decorated prior to Tuesday’s practice in Allen Fieldhouse.
Not with streamers, candy and well-wishes from the cheerleaders like in high school, but with some serious reading material.
“I wanted to take it out as soon as I saw it,” KU junior forward Markieff Morris said of a Sports Illustrated article, with pictures, chronicling KU’s 69-67 loss to Northern Iowa in a second-round 2010 NCAA Tournament game in Oklahoma City.
“I just closed my eyes and sat back and said, ‘Man I don’t want to see that.’ It was a bad feeling. It made me start talking about last year and how bad we felt after we lost and how I don’t want it to happen this year.
“I guess what it means is it can happen, don’t ever take a team for granted just because you don’t know who they are. You have to come out and execute every game,” Markieff added.
An unnamed KU assistant coach approached head coach Bill Self with the idea of sticking the articles in the lockers, perhaps as motivation leading up to Friday’s NCAA opener against Boston University (5:50 p.m., BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.).
“One of my coaches said, ‘Should we remind our guys?’ I said, ‘Yeah, remind them,’’’ Self said. “I’m sure they all read that.”
Self stressed the word “reminder” more than “motivator.”
“I talk about this all the time: What can happen if we get off just a little bit,” Self said. “This year’s tournament isn’t going to be one where people are heavily favored. (In) last year’s tournament — people won’t want to hear this — we would have beat Northern Iowa five out of six or whatever, but they were a good team. If they were in the Big 12, they would have had a chance to win a lot of games. They were a top 20 team we drew.
“Just because the name on the front of the jersey may say directional (school) or say whatever, it doesn’t have any indication of what’s underneath it because everyone has players now,” Self added.
Tuesday’s reading material likely affected some players more than others.
“I didn’t read it, honestly I took it down,” junior Marcus Morris said, noting his eyes first focused on a picture of “the guy (guard Ali Farokhmanesh) making the three he made last year and their team celebrating and me with my head down. To me, I don’t want to see it any more. I don’t want to feel that pain any more. I’ve been thinking about it since we lost so it’s not a reminder to me.”
Junior Tyshawn Taylor said he didn’t read the article but “looked at the pictures. It was actually Farokhmanesh shooting a three in Marcus’ face. I don’t know how that matchup ended up happening,” Taylor said with a smile.
“Basically it’s telling us we got our butts kicked, man,” Taylor added. “We can’t let it happen again. We don’t want to fail like that again. That’s not something you want to have in the locker room after the second round,” he added of tears. “We have to use it in motivation the next couple days and take care of business in Tulsa.”
Taylor said the reading material sparked a discussion with players before practice.
“We just finished talking about it,” he said. “Not a team meeting, but us saying, ‘Look man, this is what happened last year. We all know how we felt in the locker room in Oklahoma City last year and we definitely do not want to feel that way again.’
“I think it’s definitely motivation for us. I just don’t want us to come out there and fear that happening again. We’ve got to be loose, have fun and enjoy this time. We don’t get this time too many more times. We’ve been here last year in this position. We’ve got to embrace it and enjoy it. We won’t play scared or with fear of losing. We are going to have fun, play hard like we have been doing,” Taylor added.
Starting lineup: Self said Taylor would start at point guard against Boston U. Taylor, who opened the season as a starter only to move to the bench for six games, including a two-game suspension, started the second half of Saturday’s Big 12 semifinal victory over Colorado, then started Sunday’s game against Texas. He combined for 35 points and nine assists against six turnovers in the final two games of the Big 12s.
Schedule: The Jayhawks were expected to depart Allen Fieldhouse via bus for Tulsa about 3:15 p.m. today. That schedule, of course, could change depending on the length of a 12:30 p.m. practice, which is closed to the public … The Jayhawks will hold an open practice for fans from 4:25 p.m. to 5:05 p.m., Thursday at BOK Center in Tulsa. Boston’s practice will also be open from 5:55 p.m. to 6:35 p.m.
Recruiting: DeAndre Daniels, a 6-8 senior forward from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., has received a scholarship offer from Duke, Rivals.com and ESPN reported Tuesday. Daniels has long been considering KU, Texas and Kentucky. Rivals says in his new list, he has added Colorado, Florida, Oregon, San Diego State and Tennessee.
Wyoming job: The Wyoming Tribune believes former Oregon coach Ernie Kent is on Wyoming’s list of candidates for its head coaching vacancy. Assistants mentioned as possibilities are KU’s Joe Dooley, St. John’s Mike Dunlap and Florida’s Larry Shyatt.
Tickets available: Single-session tickets for the second-and-third rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at the BOK Center will be for sale at 10 a.m., today, the Tulsa World reported late Tuesday night. They will be sold at the venue’s box office, also online at tulsaworld.com/ncaatickets and by phone at 866-726-5287. All-session tickets for $237 are now available online, by phone and at the box office. They will continue to be available, even after single-session tickets go on sale.