PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Bill Self couldn’t wait to get started Wednesday at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Neither could hot-shooting Kansas rookie Gradey Dick.
Dick scored a season-high 25 points to help the third-ranked Jayhawks beat NC State 80-74 in Wednesday’s tournament opener, giving Self a successful return to the bench after a four-game suspension.
Dick had 18 on six 3-pointers in the first half before going 1 for 8 from the field after halftime. Jalen Wilson added 19 points and 11 rebounds for the reigning national champion Jayhawks (5-0), who blew an eight-point halftime lead and a nine-point second-half lead before grinding it out.
“I think it really just showed what our team’s about and in crunch time, we can come out with tough plays when we really need it,” Dick said.
It also helped, Dick said, to “have a Hall of Famer in our corner” again.
Kansas had imposed the suspension on Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend as part of the fallout from a pending NCAA infractions case tied to the federal investigation into corruption within the sport.
Self was allowed to coach practices, so he remained involved with the team. But on gamedays, he said he got a dose of the helpless perspective of a fan while assistant Norm Roberts led the team. He said he couldn’t even take notes until he watched the game on a replay.
He was ready for Wednesday right from the 7 a.m. wake-up call.
“I usually don’t jump out of bed,” Self said, “but I kind of did today because I was excited about what was getting ready to happen.”
As he emerged from the tunnel, Self was greeted with loud cheers from a boisterous Kansas fan section. He had a slight smile as one fan dangled a Jayhawks national title banner as he walked by and gave light high-fives to a line of about a half-dozen fans who had extended their arms over their railing.
Casey Morsell scored 21 points to lead the Wolfpack (4-1), while Terquavion Smith added 19 points.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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