In 1955, Chamberlain joined KU. Cherry described how shocked the young teenager was when he first arrived in the still-segregated city of Lawrence, Kansas: After being treated like a star in his native Philadelphia, he now saw places black people were prohibited to enter.
Chamberlain reacted by simply ignoring these signs, eating, and going out wherever he wanted.When he discovered that nobody heckled him, he gave up his antipathy, and as a result black people in Lawrence were eventually treated better.
Chamberlain enjoyed living in Kansas, especially enjoying the rich jazz scene in nearby Kansas City.
At KU, Chamberlain became a player for the Kansas Jayhawks freshman team under future Hall-of-Fame coach Phog Allen, whom he admired, and also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc, where he was the president of his pledge class.
Announced as "looking lighter than his 240 pounds, reach 9'6" up in the air , and a wingspan of 7'2", his debut was highly anticipated, and he delivered: in Chamberlain's debut game for the freshman squad, the freshman Jayhawks were pitted against the varsity Jayhawks, who were favored to win their conference that year.
Chamberlain dominated his older college mates by scoring 52 points, grabbing 29 rebounds and registering four blocks. However, Chamberlain's prospects of playing under Allen ended when the coach turned 70 shortly after and was forced to retire by KU regulation.
Chamberlain had a bad relationship with Allen's successor Dick Harp fueled by resentment and disappointment: Cherry has doubted whether Chamberlain would have chosen KU if he had known that Allen was going to retire.