KU/Team USA’s 12 players plus the injured Devonté Graham, four coaches and six support staff members early this morning were to fly from Kansas City International to Detroit, on to Seoul, South Korea. Then they were to board a train to Gwangju with an arrival time at World University Games Village about 2 a.m., Korea time, Tuesday.
“Detroit to Seoul is roughly 13-14 hours. Coach (Bill) Self is already loading up on movies and those things for the trip,” said Fred Quartlebaum, KU director of student-athlete development. He will work as assistant coach with Jerrance Howard and video coordinator James Cox during the July 3-14 Games in Gwangju. KU assistants Norm Roberts and Kurtis Townsend and director of operations Brennan Bechard remain in Lawrence for the July recruiting period.
“It should be a fun time. I think it will be a great time for us to just bond even on that long flight,” Quartlebaum added.
Each apartment suite in the Village will sleep up to seven members of the traveling party.
“We’re just honored and thrilled to be over there. I’m sure there will be little hiccups along the way (regarding practice gym availability). We’re going to be excited and engage ourselves every single day we’re there,” Quartlebaum said.
The Jayhawks will play an exhibition game against China at 3 a.m., Central time, Thursday, then tip it up for real against Turkey at 10 p.m., Central time, Friday, with that game on ESPNU.
Unlike most college basketball players, Bragg appears taller on the court than in the program, which lists him at 6-foot-9.
“Everyone tells me I look taller in person,” Bragg said after KU’s Friday night exhibition victory against Canada.
Bragg thinks he knows why he hears that so much.
“I continued growing throughout high school and I’m like 6-10, 6-11,” he said.
When he attempts to establish position inside, he can look like a player whose body hasn’t quite caught up with his growth spurt. He’s a little too vertical and too easy for older, stronger players to shove across the lane, as was the case vs. Canada.
“It’s getting there,” Bragg said of his body tolerating the growth. “The hardest part about it is having knee pains. Playing through the pain. I’m still icing them.”
It’s possible Bragg hasn’t stopped growing.
“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s a good question. I’ll keep you updated though.”
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Big 12 / College News
Two days before this year’s N.B.A. draft, Fraschilla landed in New York for meetings and rehearsals concerning Thursday’s broadcast. This is when he became what he calls the special-teams coach, charged with informing N.B.A. fans about players with consonant-filled names from the Baltics, or teenagers from the Mediterranean, or lanky projects from Africa.
And still, as he sat in the lobby of the W New York-Downtown hotel, his mind went wandering.
“I would love to be in Crete this week,” he said.
Perhaps only Fraschilla would know, or care, that a FIBA tournament there in Iraklion, for players under 19, was running concurrently with the draft, the N.B.A.’s biggest summer event. And perhaps only Fraschilla would know, or care, that future N.B.A. prospects were participating.
But the fact that Fraschilla does know, and does care, is part of the unlikely career transformation for a former coach of Manhattan, St. John’s and New Mexico. The oldest of seven children from the Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn, Fraschilla never played overseas, never coached overseas, never spent more than a handful of weeks at a time overseas and never learned to speak a language other than English.
The most significant basketball tournament of the summer is a world away from here in central Africa. They played it against a backdrop of gory violence and human rights violations unthinkable to many Americans, and in the name of something so much more important than a trophy.
Actually, they played it in the name of someone more important than a trophy.
They called it the Manute Bol Peace Builders basketball tournament. Bol died five years ago this month, at age 47, complications from a nasty combination of problems he picked up on another trip to help promote peace and progress in the region of his native country.
He would be so proud of what they did this week in Juba, the capital and largest city in South Sudan. They played basketball there, for peace, the best way they know to honor a national hero.
“This is like a coming out party for people to have fun,” says Matthew Kohn, an American director working on a documentary about Bol. “There are not a lot of opportunities for people to go out and enjoy themselves.”
This is an area of the world that has been set back decades by war, but here, at least this week, teams filled with men from both sides of that brutal conflict came together to play Bol’s favorite sport.
The best part — reason for hope that the sport can be part of the region’s recovery.
This is sports at its best, the kind that bring people together instead of tear them apart. War has been part of what is now South Sudan for so long that grown men cannot remember a time without it.
…This is the cause for which Bol — who made his home in Olathe, and whose son is now a rising high school basketball recruit at Bishop Miege — first gave his energy, then nearly all of his money, and finally his life.
It’s hard to say exactly what he would think of this. He would love it, obviously, but would he be shocked? Could he have ever imagined men on all sides of this deadly conflict coming together, not just to play basketball against each other, but to play basketball with each other?
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