Monday, November 27, 2006

Ju’ to the rescue

Wright speaks up, posts career-high numbers


Deemed the Most Valuable Player on the basketball court at the Las Vegas Invitational, Julian Wright also was the behind-the-scenes leader for Kansas University's men's basketball team.

Wright, KU's vibrant sophomore forward from Chicago, was the Jayhawk whose voice echoed loudest during an impromptu players-only meeting late Friday night in a Renaissance Marriott Hotel hallway - a meeting that might have sparked the Jayhawks to play with such passion in Saturday night's pulsating 82-80 overtime victory over top-rated Florida.

"'Ju' talks. That's one thing he does. If anything, everybody got mad at him, but he kept talking," KU junior Russell Robinson said.

Robinson said the Jayhawks gathered to talk after exiting a team meeting with head coach Bill Self, who was not pleased with the effort in Friday's listless 64-46 victory over Ball State.

"Nobody got loud except to tell 'Ju' to just shut up," Robinson cracked, adding Wright's main message was "to do what coach Self tells us to do. It wasn't a pleasant vibe. Everyone was pretty upset and angry about how the season was going."

The likeable Wright took to heart Self's edict to play hard from the start against the Gators, who had won six games this season by an average of 40.5 points a game. He admitted he had a lot to say at the players' meeting.


Kansas University's Sherron Collins (4) and Darnell Jackson (32) fly off the bench following a KU bucket in overtime. The Jayhawks defeated Florida, 82-80 in overtime, Saturday in Las Vegas.

"It got pretty loud," Wright said, noting no hotel guests were bothered because the Jayhawks had huddled in a wing where they had all the rooms. "We needed to cut ourselves open as a team and learn what really makes us tick. It was healthy. We're not too good to say something to someone else or, 'We're too cool.' You have to understand sometimes it's good to air things out.

"Obviously, it's human nature to retaliate and say things back."

The Jayhawks would have been an interesting sight for any passers-by in the hallway, the players all sipping bottles of Gatorade to hydrate themselves for Saturday's rugged contest while heatedly discussing their recent poor play.

"I'm not afraid of my voice," Wright said, perhaps joining Robinson as a candidate to be an official team leader. "We have to have better accountability for what we do, and I can't be mad if somebody gets on me when they are trying to help me out."

The players did not leave the meeting disgusted with each other or, as Wright said, mad.

"No, everyone was good," he said. "We got a chance to talk and sleep on it. It's not like we weren't giving each other eye contact as we went to our rooms."

Jayhawks knock off defending champ Gators

For months now, the KU men's basketball team tried to downplay the Florida game, but the Jayhawks finally got their chance to knock off the defending national champs.

As far as Self's meeting with the players, which led to the players deciding to gather, Robinson said: "He laid it on the line and said we had to come out with more intensity and focus if we wanted to come out with a win."

Self has been big on letting the players know exactly how he feels since KU's shocking home loss to Oral Roberts.

"They (players) haven't been real happy with me which would be an understatement," he said, "and I've not been happy with them the last couple weeks. The Ball State game was very disappointing to me because we didn't play like we can - with energy and passion. We challenged them and knew they'd come out with energy and effort against Florida. Tonight there were no thoughts on anything other than Kansas."

He said he'd been confounded by the Jayhawks having spotty effort. He seeks as intense an effort Tuesday night against Dartmouth (7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse) as against the Gators.

"I think 18, 19, 20 (years of age) has a lot to do with it," Self said. "It's ridiculous we can play like this then lay an egg like we did against Oral Roberts. Not taking anything away from Oral Roberts.


Kansas forwards Julian wright, right, and Darrell Arthur, left, battle for a rebound with Florida's Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah. Wright was named MVP of the Las Vegas Invitational after the Jayhawks' 82-80 overtime victory against No. 1 Florida on Saturday.

"So much is maturity. Remember, last year we were up and down, too, until we got to a certain point (after struggling at the Maui Invitational and other early games)."

Wright said the Jayhawks had become more consistent.

"We are getting better. We have had great practices in the last week," Wright said. "Coach has said you can't rely on playing Florida to motivate you. You have to motivate yourself every day."

Perhaps the hall meeting will help the Jayhawks do just that.

Wright a deight: Robinson on Wright's 21-point effort against Florida and defense on Joakim Noah: "It was definitely fun to watch him play like that. Whenever Julian has that much energy, he does a great job."

Wright said Noah (17 points) was tough to handle. "I wanted to match his intensity, put pressure on him defensively. It wasn't just me. Brandon took him, too, and did a good job on him."

Big win: The Jayhawks' win over Florida arguably was the biggest victory in Self's four years at Kansas.

"Well ... I'd say Texas last year in the (Big 12) tournament, winning at Kentucky without Wayne (Simien) were pretty big wins. But the way we've been playing and certainly considering Florida's win streak and everything, I think it probably was the biggest - certainly the biggest regular-season win," Self said.

Loud KU crowd: Self on the intense atmosphere on the court and in the stands for a November basketball game: "It reminded me of two high-level teams playing like it was a game in the Big 12 tournament," Self said. "Our fans (5,000 strong in 8,500 seat arena) were great. One thing we do at Kansas is we travel (well)."

Fans stormed the court after the awards presentation, prompting a reporter to ask Self if that would happen in Allen Fieldhouse.

"No," he said. "Obviously they aren't students at KU. That won't happen at KU. Our administration won't let it happen."

The Jayhawks traditionally have preferred not over-reacting to such victories.

"I'm pleased we get a tradition-rich program like Kansas to storm the court after a victory. It says a lot about our program and how far it's come," Gators' coach Billy Donovan said.

Game plan: KU's coaches prepared for Florida before Saturday, but the players were told to focus on Friday's match against Ball State and nothing else.

"We didn't mention Florida one time to the players until Saturday," Self said. "We talked only about Kansas. This was a morning deal. There was no great X-and-O strategy.

Huge: Robinson paused for a moment when asked if Saturday's win was the biggest of his basketball career: "Probably. I can't think of another now. This is definitely the biggest of my college career," he said after being named to the all-tournament team with Wright and Mario Chalmers. "Just cause there was so much on the line early, so much talk about the game."


WrightStuff 13 years, 1 month ago

Its starting to look more and more as though Wright is the most consistent and toughest match up on the floor. I loved Rush's defensive effort and rebounding against Florida but I think it's time to start recognizing our best players for their complete bodies of work night in and night out. Right now that seems to start with Wright and Chalmers followed closely by Robinson, Arthur, and Collins as far as effort and production on a regular basis. Fact is Wright might be as good a point forward as Magic Johnson was in his college days.

manofleisure 13 years, 1 month ago


Ummm... until Julian runs the break and leads his team to the national championship, lets don't get carried away with comparisons to Magic. I love Julian, but until he has better handle and, more importantly, control, he's not even in the same league with Magic, who, by the way, played point guard at Michigan State.

Julian played one incredible college game on Saturday - that's it. Let's be happy we have him, save the hyperbole and hope he continues to improve.

84Hawk 13 years, 1 month ago


Are you one of those wet blankets who can't let anyone enjoy a big win? I agree with Wrightstuff. Wright has the potential to be as good as Magic. I am so proud of how all of the Jayhawks played against Florida. Great job guys!

wiltstilt 13 years, 1 month ago

the wet blanket had it right... what julian really needs is better control and decision making. athletically, magic was no match for him, but to even put the two in the same conversation is a little ridiculous at this point.

that being said... if he continues to play like he is capable, he will be in the discussion for national POY at the end of the year.

denjack 13 years, 1 month ago

Nice to see others have made to comparison of Julian Wright to Magic. My husband and I went to Michigan State and watched Magic play there. We noticed last year that Wright had a lot of the same qualities as Magic. His no-look passes are phenomenal. Last year the rest of the team wasn't ready for them..this year they are. Like Magic, Wright is thrilling to watch and he will only get better.

speedy 13 years, 1 month ago

to borrow a line from west side story play "you done good buddy boy" great game and effort team.

princess 13 years, 1 month ago

Yeah I was worried about how the court storming looked as well. I am not one for mob crowds anyway, so storming the floor would never be for me, but beyond that I just didn't think that it was very KU like.

bunot 13 years, 1 month ago

ummm....let's not get carried away. wright is nowhere near magic's level. and no, i don't think he has magic's potential either. magic's ballhandling abilities are far superior to wright's. magic could bring the ball down against isaia thomas guarding him. thomas would have pick pocketed wright. julian also doesn't have magic's shooting touch.

a better comparison is scottie pippen. scottie has good ballhandling skills, but he's not going to cross iverson over. he can handle the ball on the open court. julian has the potential to be more like scottie. athletically, they are close. same size, frame and speed. both flourish on the open court finishing off fast breaks.

justdoit23 13 years, 1 month ago

Self said,"Obviously they aren't students at KU. That won't happen at KU. Our administration won't let it happen."

He was talking about fans storming the court!

Administration???????? What!!!!!!

It is the STUDENT who wont do it! not the b'cas of administration!

truefan 13 years, 1 month ago

Yeah that was not our regular fan base. It was a big win for KU, but had that game been in Allen Feildhouse you wouldn't have seen nearly that many people on the court. You may have seen one or two drunk fans being stupid, but the student body would not have run out there. The crowd that stormed the court was KU alumn from years past that finally got to go to a KU game again because it was close to their home. Let them enjoy the court, but if it happens at Allen stay off.

kstrebor 13 years, 1 month ago

I was waiting for them to tear down the goals, march down the strip and throw them in the fountains at the Bellagio. Jesus people have a little class. My dad thinks they should turn a couple hundred German Sheppards loose after a football game at Memorial Stadium after beating team we were favored to beat. How much would it cost to take the dogs with us on basketball road games?

Act like a winner!

By the way, great game! Thriller.

Neom 13 years, 1 month ago

The alumni used to be students only supposed to be more mature, but what an idiotic move being not able to control themselves and gave the gators something to brag about!

Cash_McMogulson 13 years, 1 month ago

Hey, my buddies always hang with Cash McMogulson because I'm a KU fanatic and I'm awesome. I got so bombed throwing down Red Bull and Vodka's on Sat night everytime 'Ju' did his thang. I love the 'players' champagne! If I wasn't such a hard core KU man, I would not be passing up on the tail I would normally be getting about midnight on Sat night.....but that game was worth putting the score on 'hold' for a few hours. I love my life. - Cash McMogulson Real Estate Tycoon Class of '99

deepind 13 years, 1 month ago

KU is ranked #5 behind Florida, in both AP and ESPN polls!

bmkjayhawk 13 years, 1 month ago

I think this is easily Self's biggest win as head coach at Kansas. He's had some pretty good ones, but this one tops the list. In my opinion, the biggest wins of each season thus far:

2003-2004: Michigan St. in Lawrence (I believe they were ranked #3 at the time and this was one of his first games at KU)

2004-2005: Either hosting GT on New Year's Day or going to UK eight days later, both minus Simien

2005-2006: Texas

2006-2007: A young season, hopefully we'll get more just like this one.

Go KU.

rcmr 13 years, 1 month ago

From where I was sitting I wouldn't say the fans stormed the court. Out of about 7000 fans there were about 150-200 that gathered at the corner of the court near the teams bench during the awards presentation. Florida can say whatever they want since only a handful of friends and family were actually there to watch them. An embarrasing turnout for what was the number 1 team.

For those of you who went. Let's hear it one more time for the Las Vegas Tenners!

JayCeph 13 years, 1 month ago

Hey, its a long way from Florida to Nevada.

Albeit, KU had a remarkably strong showing at that tourney, didn't they?

Quick question... I keep reading differing numbers regarding the number of KU fans there. It goes from 7000 to just under 2000. Anyone have any idea what the real numbers were?

HAWKTOPIA 13 years, 1 month ago

Without intensity there is no chance for chemistry. This victory is a big step in the right direction. If julian can lead this crew....onward.

This young team would benefit from a galvanizing player.

Sasha too, would be served by in inside "live wire" like wright.

swjhawk 13 years, 1 month ago

I was at the game. As an "old" alum, I observed that whatever inappropriate behavior that went on was a result of the alcohol sales at the game.

At the same time, the passion of the KU fans is an example to others. We were there to demonstrate the magic of Kansas basketball, which includes the fans traveling to support the team.

I heard several negative comments about Sasha, As an old roundball player, it was obvious he couldn't push off that knee and be effective. He had a poor game but had to play because we needed his height and because Darrell Arthur was in early foul trouble. He played hard. I thought our fans would appreciate that and appreciate what kind of condition he's (not) in. Again, I blame one or six too many beers for their negative comments.

That's the best live game I've seen the Hawks play in almost forever and it was a privilege and a delight to be there. We drove up from Phoenix, tried to fly both sons in from Denver (got one), and a cousin and his wife joined us from Dallas. We'll be in Boulder and in Wacko, too, because we love the Hawks, especially when they play with such heart, every year.

U2freak 13 years, 1 month ago

Billy Donovan was bitter about the win and see what he said: "I'm pleased we get a tradition-rich program like Kansas to storm the court after a victory. It says a lot about our program and how far it's come," Gators' coach Billy Donovan said

Chris Kurtz 13 years, 1 month ago

I think the fans storming the court this time was not that bad. I do think it is silly to do this most of the time though. It started with a few fans and then grew. It was a open arena with not to many people and a different kind of venue. I think it would of been a fun time to be down on the court after the game with the team after one of the most exciting games in quite some time. If I had paid the money for a flight and the ticket price of the game and saw some people down on the court I probably would of joined to, even though I hate to see it usually. Guess I'm a hipocrite. Definetly not something I like to see in the Fieldhouse though. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

As for Wright and Magic comparisons are we comparing Magic in his sophmore year of college to Wright as a sopomore? I think some people are comparing Magic in his pro prime to Wright now. One thing for sure, Wright's got him beat on the phi slamma jamma.

jaybate 13 years, 1 month ago

Julian is NOT comparable to Magic, except that he passes well for a big man.

Think Connie Hawkins, if you can remember back to his ABA days. By the time the Hawk got to the NBA (they black listed him quite awhile for gambling transgressions at Iowa), he had slowed down and relied mostly on his wing span and moves for the forward's equivalent of Wilt's fingerrolls.

Jules has the wing span, the springs, and balletic motion, and the aggressiveness of a young Hawk. The Hawk was a better shooter from outside, though.

Truth be told, Jules is an original. It is his originality that makes him so exciting to watch, even when he lacks polish. We don't know what wonderful thing he's going to do next, because we really HAVEN'T seen his like before. It is originality Jules shares with players like Magic and Connie Hawkins...and our own Wilt. These originals all fundamentally redefine our notions of how their positions can be played.

Original players are rare. Like typical players, they mostly don't mature to greatness, only a few do. Those few have the fire in their bellies needed to become great. Jules seems to have it.

Combine fire and originality and you have a star in the making.

Let's keep our fingers crossed for Jules. Let's hope he has the commitment to excellence and coaching he needs to become not only original and fiery, but great, too.

KU has needed another legend for awhile.

lee3022 13 years, 1 month ago

For those commenting on Julian Wright as if this was something new, welcome to the fan base. Julian was dominant a number of times last year and showed the best potential on the team in my eyes so this game is no surprise. Before the game I went through the matchups and began to realize that Florida had no one to guard Julian. He is too quick for Noah, too strong for Brewer and too smart of all of them. Throughout the game it was Julian talking to his teammates, positioning them and helping each substitute to know what his assignments were. My family know I have been saying since summer that Julian Wright is the best college basketball player in the country.

As for comparisons, I suggest that people appreciate the unique talents of Julian Wright without reference to Magic or other older players because the comparisons that are relevant are to his own potential and to the players he plays against. Saturday he gave us a more complete Julian.

A note also about Saturday for Brandon Rush. He contributed a wonderful game and was excellent on both defense and offense. This team is not going to be statistically dominant individually. It was last years team FG%-against (nationally #2 at 42.9%) that was their highest statistical achievement and I hope that repeats this year.

ralsterKUMed95 13 years, 1 month ago

I for one won't focus on just one player--they each have different talents. Getting all that talent to play together without any prima donnas gets a BIG kudo to Coach. Ask Michael Jordan, it is a team sport. I like to think it is disaster for most of our opponents--they basically have to pick their poison. We play D, get steals-->get transition highlight footage, we have a potent halfcourt offense thanks to Coach's work past two years as Russell and Mario are equally capable of busting a zone now (was problematic in past, even for A.Miles...) and finding someone Shady under the basket, or another Wright player in the right position. Darnell is solid--we have 4 legitimate bigmen. Give Sasha a couple of games or so to work his tempo and timing back. Im beginning to like our 3pt shooting also. We will keep working on FThrows. We all are waiting for Rush to explode offensively beyond even what K. Langford did (as Brandon's dribbling improves)...

Alec White 13 years, 1 month ago

I think it's unfair to compare Julian to Magic because he isn't there talent-wise and he doesn't even play the same position. He hasn't even played small forward yet. I can't stand people saying he should play point after watching him attempt to dribble through his legs in between two defenders against Oral Roberts. Let him develop his perimeter skills so he can become a truly dominant small forward.

tsunami77 13 years, 1 month ago

well Julian is not magic! He cant go coast to coast with the ball- magic can. Julian brings something more and he still looks like hes getting even better with each game. Magic was a sweet player and i dont think Julian will be even close-I think Julian is still finding himself in terms of being fundamnetaly sound. Magic was the total package.

The team as a whole is young and even Rush needs to work on his skills. I look at it this way if Florida wasnt in foul trouble he wouldnt of made those easy lay-ups at the end of the game. Yea Sweet game even if you arent a Ku basketball fan or Gator. In my opinion and i think someone already stated this it was not an upset by no means. Polls dont mean crap right now especially since we only have 3 teams that acutally might give us a challenge before conference. Can KU carry that same intensity they had in the Florida game into every game this season that is the question we should ask ourselves then we wont have another ORU learning experience. peace

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