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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Hinrich, Collison could return

Bulls-Sonics NBA exhibition in works for October

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Former Kansas University basketball greats Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich will return in October to Allen Fieldhouse for an encore performance.

Hinrich's Chicago Bulls and Collison's Seattle SuperSonics are finalizing plans to meet in an NBA exhibition game, likely to be played Sunday, Oct. 15, in KU's tradition-rich building.

"It should be a good, nice event for everybody," KU senior associate athletic director Larry Keating said Tuesday, confirming reports the teams were planning to play the game.

He stressed no contracts have yet been signed.

"A lot of pro teams like to play their exhibitions in various places. The NBA likes to go to different places, sometimes college campuses (where their players were popular)," Keating said.

Native Iowans Collison and Hinrich, who were KU teammates for four years, led the Jayhawks to Final Four berths their junior and senior seasons (2002 and '03).

"I'd think fans would turn out for that," Keating said.

KU has played host to NBA games before, including one between Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls and the same SuperSonics, on Oct. 11, 1997. The Bulls won that game, 101-92.

KU also played host to Utah vs. Philadelphia on Oct. 18, 2001, a game that was supposed to feature Utah's Jacque Vaughn, Danny Manning and Greg Ostertag versus former KU coach Larry Brown's Sixers.

Manning and Vaughn left the Jazz prior to the start of the season, however, leaving just Ostertag and Brown for their return game.

"The Bulls talked to us last year," Keating said, noting nothing could be worked out date-wise for this past preseason. "We talked to them again to try to come up with a date. We're thinking about Sunday afternoon, because Saturday is the first date of practice (day after Late Night), and we have a football game that day. We'd prefer not to do it midweek. Midweek dates are tough."

In the past, tickets for NBA exhibitions at KU have not been placed on sale until the summer before the game. KU's ticket office in the past has helped with the sale of tickets for such games. The Bulls would set the price for tickets and rent the fieldhouse for the day. The NBA teams won't announce their 2006-07 preseason schedules until this summer.

¢ Moody hopeful: The Jayhawks (6-4) take a three-game winning streak into tonight's 6:30 p.m. contest against New Orleans (2-7), which has dropped three in a row.

KU senior Christian Moody, back in town Monday from a 72-hour Christmas break, was asked if the return of the Jayhawks signaled a "new start" to a somewhat rocky season.

"I think the California game was actually a big start for us," Moody said of KU's 69-56 victory over the Golden Bears on Dec. 10 at Kemper Arena. It followed a loss to Saint Joseph's.

"We've continued to get better since then," Moody said. "We do have a lot of practice time coming up to really put things together even more. You could say it's a new start just to feel even more things out with a lot of practice time."

Moody, who made his first start of the season in KU's last game against Northern Colorado, is optimistic about the Jayhawks' chances.

"I think you can tell the team has come a long way since that first game (in Maui, 61-48 loss to Arizona)," Moody said. "Our goal is to get better every day. The last two weeks have been really big for us. We've had a good, re-energizing break and are ready to start up again strong."

Moody said he thought KU's four freshmen were ready to break out.

"Watching the young guys progress has really been great and rewarding," Moody said of Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Micah Downs and Julian Wright. "The seniors ... we feel we've been doing the best we can to help the guys come along. When I see things happen, see plays run right or Mario, Julian, Brandon, Micah going hard in different situations, it shows me how far they've come. I'm excited about our potential, too."

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