By Jack Schafer, Staff Writer
Before spring break the No. 1 seed and Final Four bound University of Kansas basketball team practiced in Newman’s Potter Family Court along with Seton Hall for the NCAA basketball tournament.
Wichita was a host location for the first two rounds of “March Madness,” which brought KU, Seton Hall and six other teams and their fans to Wichita.
The teams played at Intrust Bank Arena, and they needed places close to downtown to practice privately since practices at the arena were open to the public.
Teams also practiced at Wichita State’s Koch Arena and Friends University. Athletic Director Vic Trilli played a pivotal role in getting Newman on the list.
“I am on the executive board of the Wichita Greater Sports Commission,” Trilli said, “and through that, we signed up to be an official sponsor and practice site for the NCAA tournament.”
After the brackets were announced, Trilli got on the phone with representatives from KU and within an hour, practice times were set. Within two hours of the selections being announced, Trilli confirmed Seton Hall would also be practicing on Potter Family Court.
Michigan, another Final Four team, was originally supposed to practice at Newman but because of conflicting practice times with Seton Hall, they decided to go across the street to Friends University. Trilli said Newman was the place that Michigan coach John Beilein really wanted to practice.
Instead of a Michigan representative, Beilein himself contacted Trilli saying that he wanted his team to practice on Potter Family Court. When Michigan was picked to go Wichita, Beilein looked at all the options but felt like Newman was the standout. However, Michigan ended up practicing at Friends University due to a scheduling conflict with Seton Hall.
Trilli said hosting these practices was “something that doesn’t happen every day.”
KU’s practice was private, but that didn’t stop students from being able to see some of the team members.
“A lot of people went through up on top, walking to one end or the other to get to class,” Trilli said.
Junior Marilyn Nguyen was in the training room when the Kansas squad walked in.
“Bill Self came in and greeted everyone,” Nguyen said. “Everyone was so starstruck that no one actually said anything back.”
When Kansas guard Malik Newman walked into the gym, he said he wanted one thing.
“Somebody has got to help me get a shirt,” it’s reported Newman said.
R.J. Allen, Newman’s head coach, brought him one, which made for a great picture.
“Being involved in the NCAA and putting Newman out there as a practice site with two great teams practicing here was a great time. It was cool while it lasted. It was fun while they were here,” Trilli said.