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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ex-Jayhawks in house

NBA's Simien, Hinrich take in rout

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Miami Heat rookie Wayne Simien wore his old Kansas University letter jacket Saturday afternoon to Allen Fieldhouse.

Not just for sentiment's sake, but for warmth, too.

"I miss this place a lot. I don't miss the cold weather. It's the coldest day of the year, and I'm here. What's up with that?" joked Simien, who attended Saturday's KU-Missouri game with his fiancee, Katie, who hails from Florida.

"The guys are playing hard. They are playing great," Simien added of the Jayhawks, who blew out the Tigers, 79-46, on a day ex-Jayhawk Kirk Hinrich of the Chicago Bulls also took advantage of a break in the NBA schedule to return to his alma mater.

"To be this young and playing like this : it says a lot. They are really playing well right now," Hinrich said. "You knew they'd have some struggles early because they are so young, playing all freshmen and sophomores. They've gotten so much better. It's really impressive."

Simien said he was most impressed with one victory: KU's 73-46 blowout of Kentucky on Jan. 7.

"I really appreciated that win," Simien said. "I see guys from Kentucky every day (teammates Antoine Walker and Gerald Fitch). We go at it every day. I've got the (bragging) rights."

Simien has averaged 2.7 points and 1.7 boards for the Heat, 33-20 and in first place in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division.

"I am very happy with my career. I'm in a great situation with a great team and coach," said Simien, who has logged an average of 8.5 minutes per game in 28 games.

Hinrich is a third-year starter who averages 14.1 points and 6.5 assists for the Bulls, who are 23-29 and in last place in the Central Division.

"There were a lot of expectations this year. We haven't met them yet. Hopefully this time off will be good for us," Hinrich said.

The two players were impressed by the renovations to their old stomping ground, Allen Fieldhouse.

"I love the upgrades, just love them," said Simien, who left his seat behind the KU bench at halftime to shake hands with many of the fans sitting in wheelchairs in the north end zone.

"It's so light in here. I could have made a few more shots in here," Hinrich joked.

KU coach Bill Self spoke with both players before and after the game.

"Wayne is getting married. That was a big shock to me, so I'll announce that to the world: 'Simien is engaged,''' Self said with a smile.

"Wayne's pretty private, but he told me he's getting married in July. I told him I'll definitely be out there (in Florida) for the wedding," senior Jeff Hawkins said with a grin.

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