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'This game, it's bigger than us'

Jayhawks relish opportunity to compete in exhibition scrimmage to aid Maui relief efforts

3 min read
The Kansas men's basketball team poses for its annual team photo at KU media day earlier this week at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks will head to Illinois to scrimmage the Illini on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, with proceeds going to benefit the Maui fire relief effort. [Chance Parker photo]

The Kansas men’s basketball team hopes to learn a lot about itself when it heads to Champaign, Illinois this weekend for a Sunday scrimmage with the Illini.

KU coach Bill Self said he wants to see his team get exposed in at least a couple of areas so it can maximize the opportunity to learn and adapt against a NCAA-Tournament-type team.

How teams defend the Jayhawks. How teams attack Kansas offensively. How Kansas reacts defensively. And how well certain lineup combinations operate when they’re on the floor together.

All of that and more will be on the watch list when KU and Illinois tip it off. But this game is about much more than Xs and Os, stats and the final outcome.

The proceeds from the scrimmage will be sent to the Maui relief efforts in support of the rebuilding effort following the fire that ravaged the Hawaiian community that has played an important part in college basketball for decades.

Self said Wednesday that he thinks the game could raise “north of $2 million” for the Maui community.

“This game, it’s bigger than us,” KU senior Kevin McCullar told R1S1 Sports. “Basketball is bigger than us – all of us. It’s going to be great to go out and compete for a great cause and give back to Maui and help them because they’re going through real life stuff and we’re playing a basketball game.”

Though excited to get the season going, KU point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. said Maui would be on the Jayhawks’ minds this weekend, a little more than three weeks ahead of KU appearing in the 2023 Maui Invitational, which will be played in Honolulu this season.

“It means a lot,” Harris said. “They went through a tough time and we’re just giving back. Throughout the years, the people of Maui have given us and college basketball so much and so we’re just trying to give back.”

Self took it a step further when discussing the impact of the Maui Invitational on college basketball.

“It’s iconic,” the KU coach said. “When you look at early-season tournaments, there’s not been one early season-tournament that’s even close to what would have the impact on college basketball like the Maui Invitational, going back to the late 70s. Not one.”

Self, who said he had not yet talked to his team about the game’s meaning, in large part because he didn’t believe he needed to, added: “There's a worldwide tragedy or disaster occurring way too often, but you just go back less than three months and you see people jumping in the ocean and trying to get away from the fire and heat and everything. It's awful. And to think what that community and all the lost loved ones and what they've been through, the perfect scenario would have been if (the Maui Invitational) could still be played on the island, but it wasn't. So, this is the next best scenario.”

McCullar said the Jayhawks would try to honor the magnitude of the game’s meaning with their play.

“We’re going to go out there and lace it up and play our hardest and that’s going to be a super-fun scrimmage for us,” he said.

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