Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Rejected! KU cruises

Kaun's return bolsters Kansas


It took all of one play for Sasha Kaun to re-establish himself as an inside force at Kansas University.

"The first time he touched the ball yesterday, they threw a lob to him just like last year, and he dunked it. We were like, 'Whoa,''' KU coach Bill Self exclaimed after KU's 89-54 rout of Tennessee State on Tuesday at Allen Fieldhouse, a game that featured the somewhat unexpected return of Kaun, who suffered a partially torn patellar tendon in his right knee 22 days ago.

Kaun - in a story that could reach legendary status depending on how far the 2006-07 Jayhawks advance this season - showed he meant business right from the start at Sunday's practice, his first contact workout with the team since incurring the injury.

"It was an (alley) oop. He had his ups. He dunked on Julian (Wright). Go ask Julian about it," Brandon Rush said with a smile after burning Tennessee State for 14 points and 10 rebounds.

So what about it, Julian?

"I didn't know Sasha could jump at the time. I didn't get dunked on, but if you took a picture, I'd probably be in the picture," Wright said, laughing.

Kaun, who in his first game of the season scored seven points with one rebound and three fouls in nine minutes, didn't elect to brag about his practice slam - actually, a pair of slams, one off a feed from Russell Robinson and another from Jeremy Case.

"It was a nice way to get back," Kaun said.

He admitted he had goosebumps Tuesday when KU's fans roared their approval as he approached the scorer's table with 9:11 left in the first half, KU leading 26-14.

It was a surprise the 6-foot-11, 245-pound center would be playing; the decision to use the center came after a late-morning shootaround.

"It was nice. They are great people. They treat you so nice here," the Tomsk, Russia, native said of the fans. "It was great to be back out there. The doctor said three to six weeks. Sunday was three weeks. We thought it was the right time."

Self listened to the doctors, who recommended Kaun play 10 minutes after practicing 60 percent of the time Sunday.

"I thought he looked good out there. I think that (dunk at practice) gave him some confidence," Self said. "He got two fouls on offense, both of them for mauling guys, something we haven't had at all. Not that fouling is good, but at least we had a presence out there physically. He will put a body on somebody. Yesterday's practice was the best we've had in a while just because we had a guy in there who could beat the heck out of somebody."

Audio clips

2006-07 Nov. 21 KU-TSU Hoops

Self said he hoped Kaun would be able to play 15 minutes or so in Friday's 7 p.m. Las Vegas Invitational game against Ball State and Saturday's 10 p.m. contest against defending national champ Florida.

"He's been very diligent with treatments, getting as many as four or five a day," Self said, "busting his butt to get back. For him to get back this quick is a testament to how hard he worked because it could have been a six-week deal."

Kaun said he was "sore" after the game, but that was expected.

"There's no pain," he said. "It's getting better. I'm really looking forward to this weekend."

So is Self.

"He'll be sore, but no more than if he was working out on his own," Self said. "I thought if we had a chance to use him in Vegas, he'd need to run a little tonight to get the nervousness out."

Production-wise, the Jayhawks on Tuesday were led by freshman Sherron Collins, who scored 19 points off 4-of-6 three-point shooting. He had 11 points in a 23-5 run that opened a 31-15 advantage.

Rush and Wright had 14 points apiece, Wright contributing four assists and three blocks. Darnell Jackson scored 11 points with six boards and Darrell Arthur 10 points and two blocks against the outmanned Tigers, who dropped to 0-2.

"I thought we played well early," said Self, whose 3-1 Jayhawks had a 50-19 halftime lead. "Sherron was a big spark off the bench and made some big shots. Still, we are not attacking and getting the ball moving like we should. Guys are still trying to make great plays. I see guys turn down players who are wide-open trying to thread a needle to someone else, and we have to do a better job of that."

But he left the interview room with a big smile on his face 'cause Kaun is back.

"He did a great job tonight with limited minutes," the coach said.


jhawker137 13 years, 2 months ago

I was as excited as anyone when Kaun was shown on the television waiting to get in the game. I was excited to see Kansas put a basketball clinic for everyone. I am excited that they are finally back in good form. I say good form, there are a lot of games left, and two teams that could humiliate Kansas wait in Las Vegas. Ball State beat us last time, and Florida is the Championship defending team. Our guys need to keep their heads about them, and show the rest of the world, what the Alumni already know, the Kansas has the best basketball team in the nation, and no one is going to stop these guys from bring home another Championship. Good luck in Vegas, make us proud!!!!!

cobweb 13 years, 2 months ago

Kaun is a horse. If only Giles with his ability would have played like Sasha.

Shelby 13 years, 2 months ago

Last night's performance was not NEARLY enough to prove to me that this team is capable of competing at the top-10-ranked-teams-in-the-nation level.

actorman 13 years, 2 months ago

Shelby, I think that's a little ridiculous. If they play like they did in the first half, no one can beat them. They had an understandable let-down in the second half. The question is whether they can play a whole game like they did in the first half, and I think they can--especially once Kaun can play his regular minutes.

Scott Black 13 years, 2 months ago

So Shelby, since you are a brilliant basketball aficionado , what does a top ten team look like? Give me specifics...

Roy Scherff 13 years, 2 months ago

I hear you Shelby and I think you are right on it. All we have seen to date is disorganized egotism with random flashes of talent showing through. Bring on the heavy weights and the blue collar programs and get some balance to the credibility award.

Daniel Speicher 13 years, 2 months ago

It's all about a consistent style of play. Yes, if KU has a string of games that show the same athleticism and ball movement that KU showed us in the first half, I believe we have the makings of a Championship team.

It does not matter "who" we play, so much as it is "how" we play. There is no question that there is enough talent on the KU team to take on just about anyone in the nation. However, as every season, it is a question of which KU team will show up to the game.

Consistent work ethic in practices combined with a shunning of egos (egos, which, by the way are not unwarranted... But, sadly very prohibitive to an athlete's ability to focus and make the best decisions on the court) are the keys to a successful Kansas program this season.

I see foreshadowings of greatnesss in nearly every player who gets major minutes on the team... Here's hoping they bring it together to make a run for it all this year.

--Danny Speicher

lee3022 13 years, 2 months ago

An early test in Las Vegas will help the team focus on where they need to be in March. The preseason for me is the preparation for the conference. We all like to think nationally but the first step is to win the conference and the conference tournament. Then we are prepared for the NCAA tournament (if worthy). Right now with two freshmen integrating into the rotation along with three sophomores there is much work to be done and perhaps some failures along the way. People were bummed out last year when we lost in round one of the NCAA again but the amazing achievement was a co-championship in the conference and the conference tournament championship. The loss in the NCAA should make them hungry but there is much to learn about pressure basketball in the tournament and there is also some good old fashioned luck needed there to win out.

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