After visiting historic Churchill Downs for their team dinner Tuesday, the top-seeded Jayhawks convened for open practice Wednesday in downtown Louisville’s cavernous KFC Yum! Center in preparation for their Sweet 16 showdown Thursday with the No. 5 seed Maryland Terrapins.
In their light-hearted but spirited open practice, KU guards—especially Wayne Selden Jr. and Devonte’ Graham—looked to be locked in as they made their way around the arc, launching shots from 2 and 3 feet behind the line that consistently swished elegantly through the net. The highlight of the afternoon session was Evan Manning’s swish from half court, nearly equalled by LaGerald Vick.
“We know how it feels to take losses,” says forward Jamari Traylor, referencing opening-weekend NCAA Tournament losses the past two seasons. “We’re just a little bit more focused. When you take a loss, it sits in the back of your mind and you’re going to do anything you can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The Terrapins are coached by former KU guard Mark Turgeon, c’87, who in 1987 became the first Jayhawk to appear in four NCAA Tournaments. As for coaching against his alma mater, the veteran former coach of Wichita State and Texas A&M coach said, “The Kansas thing is not that weird to me anymore, or unique. It was a little bit that way the first time we played them, but being at Texas A&M, we played them a lot. You get used to it.”
Turgeon did, however, disclose that one boyhood sports loyalty will never fade: “I literally can’t go to bed at night,” Turgeon said, “until I get a Royals’ score.”
KU alumni, fans and friends are invited to gather for a pregame party starting at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Cascade Rooms A, B and C. The KU spirit squad, mascots and band will lead a pep rally at 6:15 p.m.
Miami and Villanova open the South Regional’s Sweet 16 action at 6:10 p.m. (Central) Thursday. The KU-Maryland game follows at approximately 8:40.
The two teams advancing to the Elite Eight will play Saturday (time to be determined Friday), with a trip to the Final Four in Houston on the line.
Watch our slideshow below to see photos from today’s open practice, or click here to view the photos on Flickr. All photos by Steve Puppe.