Kansas University senior guard Jeff Hawkins was eager to get back on the Horejsi Center practice court Thursday - his one-game suspension history.
"Mentally, I'm good," said Hawkins, who sat out Tuesday's 76-61 victory over Baylor as punishment for leaving the scene of an accident Sunday morning after striking another car while trying to cut in line at a fast-food drive-through lane.
"Like I tell everybody, I'm still smiling right now. Everything is OK with me," Hawkins added. "When I stop smiling is when you can start asking questions."
The Jayhawks, who were awarded a day off Wednesday, opened preparations for Saturday's showdown at Texas at 4 p.m. Thursday with Hawkins back on board.
Hawkins, who was cited by police for leaving the scene and not having proof of insurance, has found a bright spot in the wake of the incident which prompted the suspension by coach Bill Self.
"In a way, I will not think of it as a negative, but it was a chance for Jeremy Case and Stephen Vinson to get some minutes in a crucial part of the game," Hawkins said.
"I think we could all be in foul trouble one game and need to call upon them. It was definitely good they could get time."
The police report indicated Hawkins ordered food at the McDonald's on Sixth Street after clipping a woman's car in the pick-up lane. An officer stopped Hawkins as he was preparing to pull out of the lot, the report said.
"Yes, I think I have (been)," Hawkins said, asked if he was portrayed unfairly. "I think it was one-sided, their story versus mine. I didn't get to put out a statement or anything. I'm not going to worry about that. For me that's minor. Us being able to set ourselves up to win the Big 12 Conference and continue to keep playing well is way more important than that little incident. I just put that behind me and try to look forward to help this team in the future."
He declined to give his version of the 2 a.m. incident.
"I'm just saying there's two sides to a story. I think everybody is just hearing one side. The side they are hearing is making me look kind of foolish and bad. That's not the way it all went down," Hawkins said.
"I'm not pointing the finger at anybody. The finger was already pointed at me. What's done is done. The (news)papers came out with it. I'm just worried what I can do to help the team go as far as we can in the tournament, accomplish a national championship, so on and so on."
Of Saturday's game which matches two teams with 11-2 league records, Hawkins said: "We're all pumped up. We know Texas is pumped up as well. I think it's good we're playing a team like Texas before we start tournament play. I think we need a game like this. I think it'd be a real good locker room after the game if we are able to win."
The waiting game: The Jayhawks will travel to Texas after practice today. They'll have a lot of time to kill before Saturday's 8 p.m. tip.
"I would say we'll maybe do something where they just can't sit around the room and watch television all day," Self said.
"Maybe we'll have a mandatory study hall for a couple hours. With pre-game walk through we'll have things to do. I don't think it's bad. It's preparation for the NCAA Tournament."
Tourney on tap: Kansas will play in the eight-team Las Vegas Invitational next season. For the Jayhawks, it means playing home games (against mid-major-type squads) in mid-November, followed by a pair of games the Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving week in Vegas.
Four teams in Pod One will congregate in Lawrence and four teams in Pod Two at another yet-to-be-determined high-level Div. I school. KU will play two of the three teams in its pod over a weekend in Lawrence; the other teams in the pod also playing round-robin action in the fieldhouse.
KU will then play the remaining team in its pod on Friday, Nov. 24, in Vegas. KU would play the strongest team in the other pod on Saturday, Nov. 25, in Glitter City.
The games will likely either be held in a high school gym or Cox Pavilion on UNLV's campus, which seats approximately 5,000 fans. UNLV's Thomas and Mack Center is not available for use.
The only possible holdup is if the NCAA does not rubber stamp the rescinding of the 4 and 2 exempt tourney rule this spring.
"I'm sure we'll have a lot of fans interested in attending. It's a popular destination for our fans," said KU senior associate AD Larry Keating, aware KU had high attendance for a football game against UNLV in 2002.
KU is also looking at beginning new home-and-home series with Kentucky and Arizona, not starting next year, but perhaps the following season if details can be worked out.
The Jayhawks will travel to South Carolina next season with its return trips to Georgia Tech and Michigan State on hold at least a year. KU has talked to Duke about possibly scheduling a series, but nothing is in the works at this time. The Jayhawks will play Northern Arizona at home next season, with no other games yet finalized.