Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Self fan of senior speeches

Hawkins, Moody, Vinson, Niang to talk


A traditionalist, Bill Self likes the way Kansas University's fans yearly honor the departing basketball players on Senior Night.

Before the final home game of the Jayhawk seniors' careers, the players - as well as student managers - are introduced amid a shower of flowers from the stands. After the game, the senior players grab the microphone at center court and take turns speaking to the spectators.

Thus, Wednesday, immediately following a 7 p.m. battle between KU and Colorado, Jeff Hawkins, Christian Moody, Stephen Vinson and former player/current student assistant Moulaye Niang will talk to the 16,300 assembled fans.

"I do like the speeches," Self said enthusiastically Monday. "I think they could be shorter, (so) there will be a time limit put on them. Last year it wouldn't have made any difference what limit we put on them. They'd have each spoken 20 minutes anyway. Hopefully this year they won't go as long, just because you guys (media) complained about deadlines," he joked.

KU's class of Michael Lee, Keith Langford, Aaron Miles and Wayne Simien spoke for a little over an hour combined last year.

This year, the plan is for players to speak about five minutes each.

"I've got a lot of people to thank. I'll try to keep it under an hour," joked Moody, who will have his parents, brother, sister, grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins on hand.

"There will be a lot of Moodys in the house," the Asheville, N.C., native added.

Kansas Citian Hawkins said he wouldn't be nervous during his presentation.

"I'll be talking straight from the heart," he said. "It's not like speech class. In speech class, you get nervous because you've got to memorize what you are going over. I already know what I've got to say."

Hawkins' parents and brother and "a lot of friends who supported me in the past," will attend, plus maybe a former youth coach or two.

Lawrence High graduate Vinson, who has announced plans to marry fellow Lawrence native Anna Harvey in May, will have at least 10 individuals from his fiancee's side in the stands, as well as his parents, brother and sister-in-law and sister, a student at the University of Maryland.

"I think people will be squirming in their seats for the last guy, if I remember right," said Vinson, who likely will speak last. "Hopefully we'll get a chance to thank the people we like and entertain people as well with our incredible speaking ability."

"I had a speech class, and I always went below five minutes. I think in practice I've been way below five minutes. I know the fans would appreciate the below-five. Last year, Aaron had all his cousins - 40 people in the stands. He had to thank 'em all individually. I don't have that many cousins, so mine will be shorter."

Niang, who hails from Senegal, won't have blood relatives in the crowd, just a lot of friends he has met in four years in Lawrence.

"I can speak in front of people, but if I stay there too long I'll start getting nervous," Niang said. "I'll try to make it short and precise."

He said he wouldn't wear the olive-green khaftan he wore to the New Orleans contest on Dec. 29.

"No, no. That brought too much attention. Everybody was asking me about it," Niang said with a smile. "I have different outfits like that, but it brought too much attention. I'll just wear a suit like I usually do."

In the past, players have broken down and cried during their speeches.

"I am not a huge crier," Vinson said, "but I've seen guys who are not huge criers cry on Senior Day, so I really don't know. I guess I won't know until I get up there. Hopefully not. I'd prefer not to cry."

"It'll be hard not to (cry)," Moody countered, "just because this place means so much to me. It feels like I've been here a long time, but not long enough. It'll be a fun night, an emotional night, too."

Self said the three seniors would start the game, likely next to Sasha Kaun and Brandon Rush.

"Hopefully they'll get us off to a great start," Self said.

He said if he could, he would start Niang, but he's on medical-hardship scholarship because of his bad back and can't play.

"By rule we can't do that. If 'Mou' was suited up, he'd start too," Self said.

Max to talk, too: Legendary announcer Max Falkenstien will speak to the fans at halftime. It's his final home game after working 60 years behind the mike.

"I would think he will be very emotional," Self said of Falkenstien. "It will mean so much to him. He's been as good an ambassador for this university and the athletic program as anyone ever has, maybe the best."

Wright honored: KU freshman Julian Wright on Monday was named Big 12 rookie of the week. He averaged 19.5 points off 18-of-22 shooting in a victory over Baylor and loss at Texas. Brandon Rush has won the award twice this season and Mario Chalmers once.

Just one game: Self was asked Monday if KU's 25-point loss at Texas would hurt the team's confidence: "If one game ruins us, then we are soft, good gosh," he said. "It (21-point loss at Oklahoma State) didn't ruin Texas. How can we base the season on one game when we are starting three freshmen and two sophomores? To me, that's something we can't allow to happen. I'll encourage the guys and get on them. I'll be the same way I've always been."

Tickets on sale: A few tickets are on sale for the game at or by calling 1-800-34-HAWKS. They can also be purchased in person at the ticket office.


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