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Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Keegan

Keegan: Kansas bolstered by Rush

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Two Brandon Rush remarks from his first interaction with reporters as a Kansas University basketball player grabbed my attention.

Asked to describe his game, Rush needed only one word. He thought it such a perfect one, he used it twice.

"Highlights," Rush said. "Highlights."

Highlights sufficed at his four pre-college stops, including Mt. Zion Academy in Durham, N.C.

To play for Bill Self at KU, Rush will need to perfect more than highlights, highlights. He'll need to learn how to play the passing lanes, passing lanes. He'll need to make the extra pass, extra pass. He must defend, defend, cut hard, cut hard, dive for loose balls, dive for loose balls.

His days of picking up the basketball that was rolled to him at Mt. Zion and turning it into highlights, highlights, are over. May they rest in peace.

If Rush can bring himself to trust Self over self on how to become NBA-ready, he can set himself up for the millions brother Kareem earns. If he thinks he's got it licked and doesn't need to bother reminding himself to play harder every time he thinks he's playing hard, he could be setting himself up for a lifetime of staring into a mirror at a guy who could have been somebody.

A 6-foot-6-inch guard, Rush developed a reputation on the exposure-camp circuit as a streaky shooter with a killer crossover dribble and an abundance of quickness and jumping ability. Defensively, raw and lazy were the words most often used to describe him.

Unlike most freshmen, Rush has the physique of a 20-year-old, which is fitting since he's 20. He does not have the maturity of a freshman coming from a stable high school program. Try telling that to a high school All-American who has been wooed to play for coaches who in some cases just want to glom onto a big name. Try telling someone he has a long way to go when all he's heard is he's going a long way, all the way to the NBA. Wait a minute. Not so fast. Listen to what else Rush said.

"I've never been coached," Rush said.

Stop the presses! A raw athlete who knows he's not yet a big-time college basketball player. He just might be more coachable than most who come out of the me-first, team-second AAU culture. That the NCAA Clearinghouse gave Rush permission to accept a scholarship just days after J.R. Giddens was charged for the Moon Bar incident was a nice coincidence.

Wanting to make it final that Giddens plays for New Mexico now and not Kansas, Self forbid his players from commenting on the criminal proceedings. It wasn't until welcoming Rush to the program that the Jayhawks truly could put Giddens behind them. The consensus among those who've seen both play is, KU has upgraded from Giddens.

Like new classmates Mario Chalmers, Micah Downs and Julian Wright, Rush is willing and able to pass the basketball. A better passer and slasher than Giddens, Rush figures to be better at creating scoring opportunities with the shot clock dwindling.

After such a rocky summer, things are looking up already. Imagine if Darrell Arthur commits next month when he visits for Late Night in the Phog, one year before this marquee: King Arthur and the Fab Four.

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