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September 30, 2009

Boot Camp Returns

It wasn't the coaches that warned freshman Elijah Johnson about Boot Camp. Not the veteran players either. It was the boy in the motorized wheel chair that made Johnson stop and think about what was to come.

It was three weeks ago when Johnson was taking a walk around town when the boy rolled past him.

"Good luck with Boot Camp," the boy said as he sped off.

Johnson turned around to respond but the boy was already gone. His message delivered.

"He didn't slow down, look back or anything," Johnson said. "I didn't even know what he looked like. I just saw the chair going."

"So when he said that it kind of hit home then that Boot Camp would be a tough workout."

Four days into Kansas basketball's annual two-week September early morning conditioning program, and Johnson doesn't even speak in complete sentences when asked about his initial impression. Crazy. Tiring. Exhausting. If the Las Vegas native had it his way, next year he would hang some artwork in the new basketball facility to truly describe what the participants are feeling as they go from drill to drill.

"If I could paint a picture, I would have a sign that says 'Welcome to Hell'" Johnson said.

Hell might describe what the team went through last Thursday and Friday. Boot Camp was supposed to begin this Monday and run through next Friday, but when fights broke out last week between members of the football and basketball teams, Self made a quick adjustment to the schedule and started Boot Camp early. Junior guard Brady Morningstar called last week's sessions the hardest two days of Boot Camp that he had ever been through.

"Coach made them tough because he wasn't supposed to be up that early either," Morningstar said.

This week though, the workouts have been back to normal. The same brutal time - 5:45 a.m., and the same brutal workouts.

A normal day at Boot Camp consists of jump rope exercises, drills that focus on defensive fundamentals, and finally, wind sprints. Lots and lots of wind sprints.

Also, it wouldn't be a Boot Camp without the familiar sight of junior guard Chase Buford puking into a trashcan.

Last year, in honor of Buford's almost legendary vomiting skills, the trashcans were renamed "Buford cans," decorated with a picture of Buford's face on each one. This year, Kansas guard Tyrel Reed says they are back to the ordinary blue cans, but Buford is still putting them to good use.

"He doesn't have to run far if worse comes to worst," Reed said.

Between the vomiting though, several players are having great workouts. A few of the players talked about the most were sophomore forward Marcus Morris, freshman guard Xavier Henry, and senior guard Sherron Collins.

For most of Collins' career, the major storyline each Fall has been his battle with his weight. This Boot Camp, Reed says, has been different for the senior point guard.

"With all the issues Sherron had during the offseason with everyone saying he was overweight, he came in with great shape," Reed said.

The workouts usually end a little past 7 a.m., and some players will try to sneak in a nap before going on with the rest of their day. For the unlucky guys like Reed - who has an 8 a.m. Kinesiology class, they get to deal with heavy eyelids.

"The first 30 minutes I am doing fine, but something wears off and I am struggling to stay awake," Reed said. "I probably won't be in the back raising my hand or anything. I am just going to try and get through it."

After today, the players have two more days of Boot Camp this week, then they get the weekend off before resuming their workouts on Monday. While it is supposed to extend to next Friday, the players can possibly get the final day off if Self is pleased with their progress. But no matter how long it goes, Johnson on Tuesday said he had already noticed the conditioning program's impact.

"It might all be mental, but I feel like I have lost weight already."


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