A welcomed return

Posted on Oct 13, 2017 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

Joel Embiid returns to Allen Fieldhouse

Less than a week after Homecoming on the Hill, KU men’s basketball welcomed back one of its most recent stars. In preparation for Friday’s NBA preseason game at Sprint Center, Joel Embiid and his Philadelphia 76ers teammates traveled from Kansas City to Lawrence to hold practice at Allen Field House.

“We looked at it, and we were that close playing in Kansas City we thought it would be appropriate to visit this historic place,” coach Brett Brown said. “The historic perspective of this building, along with Joel’s history here, made it a no-brainer we should drive 45 minutes down the road and experience the building and practice here.”

The Sixers’ practice in Allen Field House gave their lone Jayhawk a rare in-season opportunity to visit the campus he dearly adores.

“I was supposed to take the bus with the team, but I wanted to walk around,” Embiid said. “I wanted to do that just to feel like I stayed for three more years, and I’m definitely going to come back to finish school.”

A secret revealed

The chance to relive his college days led Embiid, ’17, to share a secret about how much time he could have spent on the Hill: “I don’t think anybody knows this story. I actually decided to stay because I love this place so much, but I was kind of pushed to leave. Any time I get the chance to come back I’m going to do that. Stepping on this court, this is where it all started for me, so I’m really thankful.”

The Sixers selected Embiid third overall in the 2014 NBA draft, but the athletic 7-footer has been limited to 31 regular-season NBA games due to foot and back injuries, setbacks that almost led him to quit the game during his second year as a pro. The lack of game experience has not slowed Embiid’s development, due in large part to his capacity as a visual learner.

“It’s a rare skill,” coach Brown says. “He’ll see Dirk Nowitzki do something or Kevin Durant or Tim Duncan back in the day, and the next day it’s in his game and he’s trying it. His spirit is great. We need it to be great.”

Expectations

This year, expectations for the Sixers include a potential playoff spot, which with a healthy Embiid would not be surprising. As he looks to lead his team to long overdue success, Embiid also knows what he left behind just three years ago.

“I miss the culture,” he says. “You know, the fans were amazing over here. We have some Duke teammates who think they got the best arena, but I always tell them, ‘You never been here.’ Sixteen thousand people cheering, you can’t even hear.”

The Sixers and Heat will tip off at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13, in Kansas City’s Sprint Center.

—Dan Storey

Watch our slideshow below for more pictures from the team’s practice, or view the photos on Flickr.

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Young stars a focus for national basketball outlets

Posted on Jan 21, 2014 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

With freshman center Joel Embiid suddenly joining fellow freshman sensation Andrew Wiggins atop most NBA draft-board projections, national basketball writers have begun filling up the Allen Field House press room for men’s basketball’s Big 12 home games, and two notable articles are worth bringing to the attention of fans and alumni who don’t closely follow online sports journalism.

Andrew Sharp, staff editor at Grantland, arrived for Saturday’s showdown against rival Oklahoma State—which features its own young star, sophomore Marcus Smart—and turned in an insightful take on KU basketball history, the allure of Allen Field House, the fervor of the KU faithful, and, most especially, the rare opportunity of watching Wiggins, Embiid and Smart all on the same court at the same time … especially when that court is Naismith Court.

“You can’t walk into Allen Fieldhouse without being a little blown away that an arena like this even exists anymore,” Sharp writes. “The windows at the top of the gym make you feel like you’re in the 1970s. The wooden bleachers make you feel like it’s the 1950s. Then you look up, and the championship banners go back to the 1920s.

“Swaying student sections. Creepy religious chants. Minds being lost. Ears bleeding. That’s how you start a basketball game. This is why I’d always wanted to come to Kansas. … But none of it was ever enough to hop on a flight to the middle of the country and drive an hour from Kansas City to Lawrence. Wiggins and Embiid—’Wiggs’ and ‘Jo,’ as Bill Self calls them—changed all that. Having those guys on the same team this season is what took me from ‘should go to Kansas’ one day to ‘must go to Kansas’ as soon as possible.”

Former Kansas City Star KU beat writer Jason King, who gained national prominence with stints at Yahoo! Sports and ESPN.com and is now lead college basketball writer for BleacherReport.com, last week focused on Wiggins after gaining one of the first one-on-one interviews since the season began.

Wiggins admitted to King that his first few months of college basketball had been challenging: “It isn’t what I thought it was going to be. It’s a lot harder than I expected. Everything was moving so fast for me at first. Coach would get on me for not being aggressive or not running the floor hard every possession. He was hard on me. He was hard on everyone. He doesn’t care who you are.”

Assistant coach Kurtis Townsend told King, “While some of the other star freshmen are plateauing, Andrew is just now taking off. It’s like we told him all along: ‘It’s a marathon, dude. We want you playing your best ball in February and March.’ I think he’s right where we thought he’d be.”

Sharp’s piece for Grantland can be read here, while King’s Bleacher Report article is here.

—Chris Lazzarino

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