KJ Adams, who made it to his hometown of Austin in time to visit with and support his mother before her passing on Friday, has expressed a desire to be with members of his extended family — the Kansas Jayhawks basketball players and coaches — as soon as he possibly can.
KU coach Bill Self shared that update Sunday while speaking with The Star in Honolulu ahead of the eight-team Maui Invitational.
“If he comes (to Honolulu on Monday as planned),” Self said, “he’ll be ready for game two (Tuesday). But he hasn’t practiced or done anything like that. Who knows how he’ll do? He’ll want to play for her (Adams’ late mother, Yvonne).”
The Maui Invitational, typically held in Lahaina on the island of Maui, was moved to Oahu this year because of the devastating Maui wildfires. It’s set for Monday through Wednesday in SimpliFi Arena, which is located inside the Stan Sheriff Center on the University of Hawaii campus.
Self has not ruled out the possibility that Adams, a junior forward, could play in KU’s Monday evening opener against Chaminade (8 p.m. Central Time, ESPNU).
“Although there’s a chance he could get off the plane and play,” Self said, referring to Adams’ eight-hour flight from Texas, “he wouldn’t be very good (physically), if that’s the case.
“We’ll definitely have a very different team than we’ve had the first three games,” Self added of the Jayhawks’ season-opening victories over Kentucky, Manhattan and North Carolina Central.
Self said KU will “probably go with Johnny (Furphy as the replacement for Adams in the starting lineup), but I haven’t decided yet.” The coach also said forward Parker Braun would likely see more playing time if frontcourt staple Adams is unavailable Monday night.
The Jayhawks “are doing OK,” Self said, referring to the death of Yvonne Adams, who attended several KU games the past two years, as well as the recent 2023 Late Night in the Phog event. She’d become close to many of the Jayhawks players.
“I think the team is doing well,” Self said. “They’ll be excited to see KJ when he gets back. They are in constant communication with him. We’ve been through it before with Thomas’ mother and others. This certainly impacts an entire group.”
Former KU forward Thomas Robinson’s mother, Lisa, died on Jan. 21, 2011, the night before a KU-Texas game at Allen Fieldhouse. Self said the most important aspect of Adams’ mom dying after a long bout with cancer was the fact “KJ went from Lawrence to Austin Friday morning and was able to say goodbye. He got there in time to say goodbye.”
KU’s opponent on Monday is Chaminade, a Div. II team that’s off to a 1-2 start. Chaminade, of course, is the school that defeated then-No. 1 Virginia and big man Ralph Sampson 77-72 in 1982 in Hawaii. That monumental upset was basically the reason the Maui Invitational was created.
Chaminade is 8-98 all-time in the Maui Invitational, 0-4 versus Kansas. Chaminade’s last Maui win against a Div. I school was a 96-72 rout of Cal in 2017. Chaminade beat Texas 86-72 in the 2012 tourney.
“We’ll definitely address that with our players, no doubt about that,” Self said of the Silverswords’ historic win over Virginia. “Today’s practice will be totally committed to preparation for Chaminade.
“It’s nervous (time) because they are playing with house money, nothing to lose. We’ve got to play loose, too. We’ve got to learn to play in games like this. This will be good for our guys. I would say a key is to match their energy.”
If No. 1-ranked KU defeats Chaminade, the Jayhawks would meet the winner of Monday’s first-round game between No. 4 Marquette and UCLA at 9:30 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday.
The third game of the event is Wednesday, with KU playing either No. 11 Gonzaga, No. 2 Purdue, Syracuse or No. 7 Tennessee, all of which are on the other side of the bracket.
“This is the best field we’ve been in,” Self said. “We’ve been here when the field has been great, but not like this.”
The Jayhawks are 17-6 all-time in the Maui Invitational. They’ve won their last six games in this tournament dating to the 2011 championship game. KU has won two Maui Invitational titles, in 2019 and 2015.
“You go 2-1 and you’ve had a great week,” Self said. “Go 1-2 and it might not be disastrous.
“Whoever wins this will have an unbelievable week and a lot of things will have to fall right. A lot of teams will leave here happy with a 2-1 week. Depth will be more a factor in this than maybe even more than an NCAA Tournament game where you get a day’s rest. We are not a very deep team, so this will be a big challenge for us.”