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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Keegan

Kansas University’s seniors will have one more hometown go-round

Kansas University men's basketball seniors, from left, Darnell Jackson, Rodrick Stewart, Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun and Jeremy Case, wait to check in on Senior Night in March. Stewart, recovering from knee surgery, will coach his teammates in a barnstorming game tonight at Lawrence High.

Kansas University men's basketball seniors, from left, Darnell Jackson, Rodrick Stewart, Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun and Jeremy Case, wait to check in on Senior Night in March. Stewart, recovering from knee surgery, will coach his teammates in a barnstorming game tonight at Lawrence High.

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KU seniors to play charity hoops game

The seniors from the National Champion Kansas basketball team have one game left on the Lawrence hardwood. It takes place tomorrow night at Lawrence High School as part of the Barnstormers Tour.

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Kansas University men's basketball seniors, from left, Darnell Jackson, Rodrick Stewart, Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun and Jeremy Case, wait to check in on Senior Night in March. Stewart, recovering from knee surgery, will coach his teammates in a barnstorming game tonight at Lawrence High.

These days, two groups of basketball players dominate the brains of obsessed fans of Kansas University hoops.

Group 1: Darrell Arthur, Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers and the intrigue of where they will be chosen in the NBA Draft inspires interesting conversation.

Group 2: Incoming high school recruits Marcus and Markieff Morris, Travis Releford, Tyshawn Taylor, Quintrell Thomas and junior-college signees Tyrone Appleton and Mario Little represent the unknown. They raise so many questions. At this point all anybody can do is guess at answers.

Who will arrive the most ready to play Division I basketball, based on his knowledge of the game and understanding of the effort level required to compete at the big-time level? Taylor.

Who has the highest ceiling? Marcus Morris.

Who has a shot at becoming a lock-down defender? Little.

Which player stands to benefit the most from Danny Manning's instruction? Markieff Morris.

As thoughts of NBA Draft choices and incoming Jayhawks clutter imaginations, the old reliables who formed the blue-collar backbone of the national champions have been having a blast and making a little money forming the latest rendition of the Kansas Barnstormers.

As usual, the KU Class of 2008, even with NCAA championship rings on their fingers, flies a steady path under the radar. Not a first-round draft choice among them. Not much draft buzz, though Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson are candidates for selection in the second round of the draft. Russell Robinson hopes to get a shot to play for pay somewhere. Rodrick Stewart is recovering from knee surgery. Jeremy Case wants to become a coach.

All five contributed to such a memorable Senior Night in their final games played in Allen Fieldhouse. They play for a different team now, one whose brief season comes to an end tonight. Former walk-on Brad Witherspoon, Robinson, Case, Jackson and Kaun represent the Kansas Barnstormers. One more time, they will entertain a Lawrence audience tonight in the Lawrence High gym, also known as The Jungle, a far more upbeat one than Upton Sinclair's.

The Barnstormers take on a team made up of area all-stars: Baba Diallo and John Schneider of LHS, Craig Rosenstengle and Weston Wiebe of Free State, Mike Berg of Baldwin, Eudora's D.J. Fritzel, Gabe Belobrajdic of Tonganoxie, Caleb Denton of Perry-Lecompton, Tanner Swafford of Basehor-Linwood and Lawrence High state champion Danielle Bird.

Obviously, the Kansas Barnstormers are favored to preserve their perfect record. For one thing, the Barnstormers have a prohibitive advantage in the coaching department. Too injured to play, Stewart will coach his former teammates. Radio personality David Lawrence, TV star Kevin Romary and I will coach the area all-stars. Another way of describing that trio: a former football star, a terrific golfer and a horrendous golfer.

In the second half, the Barnstormers will branch out from conventional basketball and try their hands at Harlem Globetrotters-type entertainment.

The basketball won't be at the same level as that played at Allen Fieldhouse, but the opportunity for personal interaction will be greater, the price of admission ($10) more affordable. Doors swing open at 5:30 p.m., when the players will be available to give autographs until 7:15. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30. At one table, "An Incredible Year," Sunflower Publishing's book on the KU basketball season, will be on sale.

Those not interested in autographs might want to stop by to thank Robinson for defining the word teammate to perfection, Kaun for his big game against Davidson, Jackson for keeping Julian Wright's early departure to the NBA from hurting KU, Case for his shooting exhibition on Senior Night, Stewart for filling in early before Rush was ready for full-time duty in the wake of knee surgery and Witherspoon for bringing maximum effort daily in practice.

Tons of tickets, which will be on sale from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at LHS and at the door starting at 5:30, remained as of Tuesday. Here's hoping the place is packed and, for one more night, the spotlight shifts to a special senior class, before minds drift back to thinking about the NBA Draft one minute, the incoming recruiting class the next.

Comments

Gary Bedore 11 years, 6 months ago

You said: "Case for his shooting exhibition on Senior Night" -The one positive thing that Case can be remembered for. He hit some 3's on senior night when we were up by 40. At least we won't have to hear about how he is "the best shooter on the team" every game. Now Teahan will take the reins as the "great shooter" who only gets scrub time.OM Gosh. Don't worry, be happy people. You won the national championship. And Case is a great, great person. No need for 15 superstars on one team. Case will be greatly missed the media, I'll tell ya that.

Matt Kenton 11 years, 6 months ago

You'll have to take a close look at Danny Manning's fingers to find out!Not many people out there have two NC rings... and they're 20 years apart.

Michael Leiker 11 years, 6 months ago

Not a big fan of the three lines of this column...when I think KU basketball, I still think Russ Rob, Darnell Jackson, etc...as well as Mario, Darrell, etc. They won't leave my KU athletics dominated brain for a long long time.

actorman 11 years, 6 months ago

Gary, please don't take the comments of one IDIOT (it has to be in capital letters) to reflect the rest of us. Any TRUE KU fan has immense appreciation for the class and character that Case contributed to the program. One of the things that made that senior night exhibition so special was that it was happening for such a great guy who had worked so hard; it was a celebration of his dedication.As for Nicka, I think we should all give him a huge round of applause. It takes some real effort to find something negative to say about such a heartwarming article and such a dream season. Congrats, Nicka!!! Now get the f**k out of here and don't ever waste our reading time by "contributing" again.

Jonathan Allison 11 years, 6 months ago

Im really gonna miss these guys! They've meant so much to so many people here

not_important 11 years, 6 months ago

I'm guessing they have their rings from the NCAA, but the team rings from the university will probably come next fall. If somebody in the KUAC is thinking, they give them out to all returning players at Late Night and play videos of those players that can't make it back. Clips of each player not in attendance, and then have them record a quick line, like "1,943 wins," "Big 12 champions for 4 straight years," "Three straight Big 12 tournament titles," "School record 37 victories," "13 Final Fours," "Three NCAA championships." Then show Mario's shot, flip to a close-up of the ring on a finger, then zoom out to see Mario who says something like, "We are Kansas, 2008 National Champs!!" Any visiting recruit not ready to sign right then and there can just get on a plane and go home.

nicka 11 years, 6 months ago

"Case for his shooting exhibition on Senior Night" -The one positive thing that Case can be remembered for. He hit some 3's on senior night when we were up by 40. At least we won't have to hear about how he is "the best shooter on the team" every game. Now Teahan will take the reins as the "great shooter" who only gets scrub time.

Kevin Long 11 years, 6 months ago

Have the players got their rings already? I hear there is a whole lot more bling bling on them these days.

mom_of_three 11 years, 6 months ago

We bought our tickets last week for this event, as it is the last time to see the Kansas seniors and it is for a great cause.

Gary Bedore 11 years, 6 months ago

Oops I meant to say: Case will be greatly missed BY the media. I need to get used to posting. Sorry for the typo.

rgreene 11 years, 6 months ago

A friend of mine in the athletic dept. just got his Orange Bowl ring on Monday, which leads me to believe rings won't get distributed until probably the fall.

Rick Arnoldy 11 years, 6 months ago

Case earned his ring pushing the starters in practice. Where's your ring, nicka?

DSommersby 11 years, 6 months ago

What a great group of seniors. These guys are all first class! All contributed in special ways. I was able to catch the Barnstormers in Ottawa and it was a fun show. You should definitely check it out if you can make it to Lawrence tonight! National Champions!

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