The 2008 National Champion Jayhawk basketball team was honored Sunday, April 13, 2008 in an award ceremony at Allen Fieldhouse.
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It's all over.
The frenzied celebrations of the last few weeks culminated Sunday night at Allen Fieldhouse, where more than 10,000 fans gathered to pay tribute to the Kansas University men's basketball team.
It was a busy day for Jayhawk fans, many of whom hurried from the victory parade on Massachusetts Street to the fieldhouse, eager to find a prime seat to an event billed as a celebration of the champion Jayhawks.
Tanner Brous, a 2006 KU graduate, arrived with his wife, Allison, around 4 p.m., after watching the parade near It's Brothers Bar & Grill, 1105 Mass. He said between 2,000 and 3,000 people were waiting to enter the fieldhouse, which opened early to accommodate the fans. He said the waiting fans were "mellow" but "on edge," hoping to get the best seats.
"Once the doors opened, the crowd condensed," he said, calling the scene chaotic.
"I thought maybe we had a basketball game tonight when I saw the lines," said athletic director Lew Perkins, as he addressed the crowd.
The Brouses found seats about 10 rows away from the basketball court.
"I've been a KU fan for 20 years, and I've been waiting for this my whole life," Brous said. "It's going to be emotional. I've got the camcorder with me. I just want to see all the seniors."
And it was a night for KU's five seniors, Rodrick Stewart, Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun, Darnell Jackson and Jeremy Case. The players gave speeches, thanking the fans for their support. Later, they were named the recipients of the Danny Manning "Mr. Jayhawk" Award, which is usually given to just one player.
The players were introduced to thunderous applause, with guard Mario Chalmers, the hero of last Monday's national championship, receiving a rousing cheer that shook that stands. The crowd, which filled about 75 percent of the fieldhouse, continually cheered as a video recapping the season played on the scoreboard. The biggest cheers, of course, were reserved for the final moments of the championship game against Memphis.
Topeka resident Brian Kelly came to the banquet with his father. They battled crowds in the line to get in, as well, but that didn't faze Kelly.
"I'm just proud to be a Jayhawker. It's an amazing occasion. It's very historic," he said.
Gratitude was the message of the evening. All five seniors gave thanks to Jayhawk fans, coaches and their families.
Coach Bill Self said, "I don't know if anyone deserves to have this much and be treated this good."
Tricia Beelner, a student in the School of Pharmacy, was soaking in the atmosphere. The native of LeMars, Iowa, said she came to KU as an undergraduate largely because she is a big basketball fan. Sunday night made it all worth it.
"There's no atmosphere like the fieldhouse," she said. "Especially when you're national champions."