LAWRENCE -- Bill Self stood at center court Friday night inside a packed Allen Fieldhouse and remarked on the spectacle in front of him.
Truthfully, the Hall-of-Fame coach's words regarding Kansas basketball's 34th annual Late Night in the Phog event could've just as easily applied to the national record-breaking run that has become as synonymous with the program as the colors crimson and blue.
"We tell players before we ever get 'em that this is one of the biggest dreams of playing here," Self said, "but there's not many places in America that can pull this off year after year after year."
Year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year, to be more specific.
KU secured its 14th straight Big 12 regular season conference championship last season, a feat celebrated with a banner reveal and raucous ovation Friday night. That conference crown broke a tie with the John Wooden-led UCLA squads of the 1960s and '70s for consecutive conference titles and served as a precursor to last year's Final Four run, the third for KU in Self's 15-year tenure.
To push the staggering conference streak to 15, the Jayhawks will need to lean on a litany of new faces.
Gone are sharpshooters Devonte' Graham, Svi Myhailiuk and Malik Newman. Potential frontcourt forces David McCormack and Dedric Lawson are in, alongside returning bigs Udoka Azubuike, Silvio De Sousa and Mitch Lightfoot. Touted freshman guards Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes, newly eligible transfers K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore, returning contributors Lagerald Vick and Marcus Garrett and depth options Ochai Agbaji, Elijah Elliot, Chris Teahan and Garrett Luinstra finish off the suddenly stacked Jayhawk roster.
Self indicated this year's group has an opportunity to surpass last year's heights.
"Guys, it's going to be a great year. We're going to be good. We're going to be good," Self told the audience. "And I think we've got a chance to be special. But everybody's got a role to play, and that includes you."
SKITS, SCRIMMAGE HIGHLIGHT NIGHT -- Friday's unofficial season kick off included the typical gamut of fun and games.
Self parodied those awkward Lincoln commercials that feature Matthew McConaughey, with trophies and rings packing every corner of his rather large SUV. Players danced to a medley that began with "The Way You Make Me Feel" by Michael Jackson in a display that one might argue caused the King of Pop to roll in his grave. McCormack surprised everyone by joining the KU band on drums for a rendition of "All of the Lights" by Kanye West, the first of two musical performances in an evening that also saw Grammy-winning rapper 2 Chainz host on a lengthy and intimate concert.
Following the fun was the main event, the team's 15-minute instrasquad scrimmage. It was a balanced effort that saw K.J. Lawson leAd all scorers with 11 points and three 3s.
The Jayhawks, who went 31-8 overall and 13-5 in Big 12 play last season, open their preseason slate with a 7 p.m. Oct. 25 home contest against Emporia State and start the regular season with a 6 p.m. Nov. 6 showdown against Michigan State in Indianapolis.
TOP-TIER RECRUITS ATTEND -- As always, a number of high-profile KU targets from upcoming classes were in attendance.
This year's crop included five-star recruits James Wiseman (7-foot, 210-pound center), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (6-8, 235-pound forward), N'Faly Dante (6-11, 230-pound center) and Johnathan Lawson (6-6, 165-pound forward). Wiseman and Robinson are in the Class of 2019, Dante in the Class of '20 and Lawson, brother of current players Dedric and K.J. Lawson and fellow target Chandler Lawson, is a member of the Class of '21.
Christian Braun (6-5, 175-pound forward), a four-star forward out of Blue Valley Northwest who orally committed to the Jayhawks on Sept. 17, was also in attendance.
SELF LAUDS LONG — Self's address included a shoutout to athletic director Jeff Long, saying the first-year administrator will "do more to make our fan base more united than it's ever been."
"Everybody who has met him (is) so impressed," Self said. "We've got great leadership and I know the vision that he has is one that's going to make everyone in here proud."
SCHNEIDER TARGETS TOURNEY — The Jayhawk women served as the opening act of Late Night, dancing in groups to a musical medley that included Rihanna and Beyoncé and holding a 10-minute scrimmage.
Fourth-year coach Brandon Schneider, whose squad went 12-18 overall and 3-15 in Big 12 play last season, was clear with his expectations for this year's team in his address to the audience.
"If we stay healthy and continue with our progress, guys, we'll be back in the postseason," Schneider said.
The KU women open their preseason with a 2 p.m. Oct. 29 exhibition against Emporia State at Allen Fieldhouse and will kick off the regular season at 2 p.m. Nov. 12 against Campbell, also at home.