KU freshman McCormack showed off ‘hidden talents’ at recent Late Night in Phog

By Gary Bedore gbedore@kcstar.com

A spotlight focused on David McCormack as the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Kansas basketball newcomer positioned himself behind a set of drums in the southeast corner bleachers of Allen Fieldhouse.

Holding a pair of sticks while wearing his KU jersey No. 33, the McDonald’s All-American from Norfolk, Va., didn’t miss a beat as he and the pep band performed Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” during a musical interlude at the Sept. 28 Late Night in the Phog.

“I was extremely nervous the whole time. I wanted to make sure I didn’t mess up and kept the pace,” McCormack said with a smile in a recent interview. “I can’t practice too often because of my schedule. I do enjoy it. It’s a side hobby I can do to have fun and enjoy myself.”

Oak Hill Academy graduate McCormack said he was introduced to the drums “when I was 8 or 9. I kind of fell off my sophomore year. The last time I picked it back up was Late Night.”

Though not exactly shy, McCormack wasn’t out to seek attention while jamming at his inaugural Late Night.

“Marketing just came to us and asked if anybody had any hidden talents. It came out I could play the drums. From there we just went with it,” said McCormack, who has heard senior guard Lagerald Vick also is a skilled drummer.

“I’ve been in a middle school band, never in my own type of garage band. I don’t know if I could see myself playing in a band. If I pick it back up, I can play all types of music, though,” McCormack added.

McCormack chose the particular Kanye West tune to perform with fellow KU students.

“They said they were going to turn off all the lights and the spotlight was going to come on. I think it set the mood being Late Night,” McCormack said.

He joined a small group of Jayhawks — Luke Axtell played guitar and sang; Carlton Bragg played piano to name two memorable efforts — to play instruments at Late Night throughout the 34-year history of the event.

“I do think he’s beyond his years on the court from an IQ standpoint, well beyond his years off the court too and the best drum player we’ve had since we’ve been here,” KU coach Bill Self said of McCormack.

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“I think he’s talented,” junior center Udoka Azubuike said. “For a big guy to have a talent like that … I didn’t know he can hit a drum. He was really good.”

Azubuike and McCormack are two members of what could prove an imposing KU frontcourt. Other bigs on the roster: Dedric Lawson, Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa. K.J. Lawson can play guard and forward.

“It definitely will be something we’ll use to our advantage. Size and strength is something we can use no matter who is on the floor in terms of all the bigs we have,” McCormack said. He averaged 13.4 points on 62 percent shooting and 9.6 rebounds a game a year ago at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.

“We can always push each other in practice. Last year, as you know they (Jayhawks) were kind of shorthanded on bigs. Giving Doke a breather is going to be an important role for me and having a big impact on the game,” added McCormack, Rivals.com’s No. 33-rated player in the recruiting Class of 2018. He chose KU over Duke, Oklahoma State, Xavier, UCLA and North Carolina State.

McCormack said practicing against such accomplished bigs every day “has definitely been a challenge. It’s a good learning point going against such athletic and strong bigs. It’s something new, something I’m still adjusting to and it’s definitely helping my game. Rebounding is a challenge every practice. It takes turns between me, Doke, Silvio, Mitch, all the bigs. We’ll have off and on days. It’s too hard to pick one (as being the most dominant).”

The 7-foot, 270-pound Azubuike says he’s been impressed with McCormack’s work ethic.

“He is really aggressive for a young guy. His energy … he always goes hard every time during practice,” Azubuike said. “His intensity is high. It usually takes players a little bit of time to get themselves together. For him, he’s a young guy aggressive and full of energy.”

Azubuike has given some pointers to McCormack regarding playing in the paint.

“He goes 100 percent all the time. He does everything really quick, really energetic. Sometimes you have to slow down and let the game come to you in the paint,” Azubuike said. “Sometimes he catches the ball and wants to do something really fast. Sometimes he can lose the ball because of his energy and intensity. I tell him all the time, ‘You’ve got to slow down, cool down and just let it come to you.’’’

McCormack says he’s looking forward to the start of the 2018-19 campaign — one in which the Jayhawks will be trying for a 15th straight Big 12 title and second consecutive Final Four berth.

“Honestly, anything is possible with this team. Our dynamic is amazing,” McCormack said. “I don’t know how to speak on it except (to say) we have great talent and are tough mentally. There’s a competitive spirit, more pushing each other on, in a positive manner. I’m ecstatic for it,” he added of the season, “really looking forward to it.”

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