Saturday, March 7, 2009

Diligent Kleinmann ready for final home game

Kansas center Matt Kleinmann wrestles for ball control with Jackson State defenders Grant Maxey (32) and Jeremy Caldwell (44) during the first half Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Matt Kleinmann wrestles for ball control with Jackson State defenders Grant Maxey (32) and Jeremy Caldwell (44) during the first half Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008 at Allen Fieldhouse.


GameDay Cram Session: Texas

Lawrence Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan and online editor Jesse Newell talk about what to expect from the Kansas men's basketball team's final conference game against Texas.

Walk-ons will share spotlight in final game

Brennan Bechard and Matt Kleinmann will both start on Saturday against Texas.

Matt Kleinmann, who will graduate with a degree in architecture in May, sometimes has to stay awake studying — and preparing class projects in his chosen field — for days on end.

His personal record for keeping his eyes wide-open?

“I did three days one time. On the third day, I had to present (a final exam in front of fellow students and professors). After that, I think I slept 16 hours,” said Kleinmann, Kansas University’s senior basketball center.

“The first time I pulled an all-nighter (for what architecture students call ‘studio’), I felt like I was on something driving home,” Kleinmann added, smiling.

“You’ve got to be careful if you lie down for a second because before you know it, it can be the next day. If you have enough energy drinks, you can get it done.”

The sometimes sleep-deprived Kleinmann — who along with fellow senior walk-on Brennan Bechard today will play his final home game at KU (both will be in the starting lineup for the 3 p.m. tipoff against Texas) — has found it impossible to remain alert during all of coach Bill Self’s film sessions.

“I think I’ve caught him dozing a couple times,” Self said. “I may have poked fun at him about that. I don’t need to yell at Matt very often. He tries pretty hard.”

Kleinmann, in fact, gives true meaning to the term student-athlete, while acknowledging he’s not quite as smart as word on the street would indicate.

“Greg Gurley (Sunflower Broadband and Jayhawk Network TV analyst) said I’ve got a 4.0 (GPA). I don’t know how that got started. I’m 3.35 cumulative. In the school of architecture, that’s pretty good, but it’s not a 4.0,” Kleinmann said.

“I’ll take it. If he wants to keep telling people I’ve got a 4.0, I won’t argue with him,” Kleinmann added.

As far as his work on the court, Kleinmann, who red-shirted the 2004-05 season, has scored 45 points and grabbed 46 rebounds while playing sparingly in 68 games. He has scored seven points and grabbed 11 boards while playing in 15 of KU’s 30 games his senior season.

“He’s really grasped his role, found a way to help coach the younger guys,” Self said. “He’s been awfully good to be around and certainly impacted our program in a very positive way.”

The 6-foot-10, 250-pounder, who according to his teammates answers to the nicknames “Big Red,” “Firetop” and “Carrot Top,” has given KU’s rotation big men fits at practice throughout the years.

“Daily,” sophomore Chase Buford said, asked if Kleinmann proves an irritant to the other big men.

“Sasha (Kaun) and Matt would really get into it. They were really close (friends), but Matt would give Sasha an elbow, and Sasha would throw one right back. Matt gets under the big men’s skin, that’s for sure.”

Kleinmann said that though Kaun, Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson, Cole Aldrich and Co., have presented him big-time problems at practice, the hardest to guard has been All-American Wayne Simien.

“There are guys more athletic, but as far as understanding how to score, Wayne is the best,” Kleinmann said.

Of course, he’s also a big fan of the 6-11 Aldrich, who takes a 14.9 scoring, 10.5 rebound average into today’s game against Texas (20-9, 9-6).

“It’s ridiculous,” Kleinmann said, asked how much Aldrich has improved since his freshman campaign. “He has matured a lot. He’s confident. He knows he’s one of the better big men in the country and plays like it.

“He can make any shot, get every rebound. He’s gotten so much stronger and has learned to use his strength better. He still has some chicken legs on him. But he’s learned the intrinsic intangibles — angles, thinking one pass ahead.”

“Intrinsic intangibles” are words that come out of very few college athletes’ mouths.

“It’s always funny when Kleinmann tries to be smart or something. Coach probably doesn’t find it funny,” Buford said with a laugh.

Kleinmann is not always teacher’s pet at practice.

“The best story I have about Kleinmann is one day at practice before we played Oklahoma, he thought he was Blake Griffin,” junior guard Sherron Collins said.

“Matt’s out there shooting threes and hitting the side of the backboard. Coach was getting mad, telling him, ‘Matt, just run the offense.’ He does it again, and coach gets mad and made him run about 15 minutes.”

Kleinmann says Self often jokes with him at practice during the course of the long season.

“I’d say I’m his favorite to give a hard time to,” Kleinmann said. “My first two years, I think the coaches got frustrated with me. Sometimes I try to get ahead of the play — I try to make a home-run pass. This year I tried to settle down, but I can’t get it completely out of my system. I would like to say the coaches have enjoyed me, but I’ve frustrated them at times.”

Self actually has appreciated Kleinmann’s effort at practice as well as that of fellow senior Bechard.

“He and Brennan are two of my favorites because they get it. They get their role,” Self said. “They get the fact that when we (coaches) are in a certain mood and want to get certain things done, they help educate the guys that this needs to happen now.”

In other words, they sometimes prevent a decent practice from becoming a bad one by stepping in and leading their younger teammates.

“Matt and Brennan are class acts,” Collins said. “They represent Kansas like it’s supposed to be represented. And they make us better at practice. They foul us too much and foul us hard every day, but that all makes us better.”

Kleinmann — he declined a scholarship offer at Pacific to accept a non-scholarship role on KU’s team — realizes he’s through with organized basketball at the conclusion of this season.

The man assured five Big 12 titles in five seasons has interviewed with a major architecture firm in Kansas City.

If he isn’t offered a job right away, he plans to take grad-school courses at either Washington University in St. Louis or Tulane in New Orleans.

“With the economy ... jobs are hard to find now,” Kleinmann said. “If I take one year to let this (recession) wash over ... I’ll see in a year if the economy is better. Getting an advanced degree might be my best shot. I’m looking into taking some urban-design courses. I think it’d be to my own personal benefit to get out of the KU area a year and see some other places before going to work.”

Self believes some company out there will put Kleinmann to work.

“Matt is smart,” Self said. “He will get a great job, I’m sure. I would trust him to build my house, I’ll tell you that.”

Perhaps Kleinmann will read a short version of his résumé during his Senior Day speech at the conclusion of today’s game.

He’s certain to thank a few family members during his presentation.

One thing is for sure: He’ll be well rested and will be speaking with a clear mind. He was not scheduled to pull an all-nighter Friday night.

“I’m sure it’ll hit me that it’s my last game in Allen Fieldhouse. It’ll hit me pretty hard, I’m sure. I hope I don’t need a Kleenex,” Kleinmann said.


Westfieldhawk 10 years, 10 months ago

Great story about a fantastic young man. He followed his dreams! Played Basketball at Kansas and got an Architecture degree. To accomplish major goals like that is pretty amazing and is a testament to how much work he put in.

I only wonder what his next round of goals will be?

JayViking 10 years, 10 months ago

Nice story. Great humor, great class, great representation of KU basketball. Thanks for all your work, Matt.

Kevin Sontag 10 years, 10 months ago

Thanks, Matt! Remember, you'll always be a Jayhawk, and you'll always be a Champion!

hillsborohawk 10 years, 10 months ago

Matt is a super role model for all young kids (and adults). Knowing thier role on the team and sticking to it, role players make good teams GREAT!
Wish him the best.

Greg Lux 10 years, 10 months ago

Congrat's to Matt and Brennan you represent the finest of our Crimson and Blue tradition.

Rock Chalk

Scott Smetana 10 years, 10 months ago

Met his family on a shuttle bus at the Detroit regionals this Spring. What a ride they've had... they were so proud. Class act! Good luck Matt.

Side note... .I'm HOPING we win, but if the real Texas shows up today and we don't, I'm thinking we can still get a 3 seed and end up in KC if we win the tourney in OKC.

MrPilot 10 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for an unbelievable five years, Matt! You are an incredible asset to the team and will be greatly missed. But you've all still got some work to do. Let's get out there, take the Big 12 outright, win the Big 12 tournament, and do some major damage in the Big Dance! Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

Dale Kroening 10 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for the 5 great years Matt! The guy could have went to smaller schools and played more just because his size, but he chose to stay in state and go to KU as a walkon and gets 6 rings. Nothing but a class act. Good luck in your future endeavors Big Red!

Jared Grillot 10 years, 10 months ago

Hehe... thanks for the write-up, Gary. Matt is most definitely a class act, and don't let him kid you, a 3.35 in architecture at KU is like a 4.0 in some other majors!

Just can't say enough good things about this guy. My family and I wish him all the success he can handle!

LAJayhawk 10 years, 10 months ago

I'm guessing Matt will probably get a pretty high profile letter of recommendation. There is a rather well known guy who has a pretty good idea of Kleinmann's work ethic.............

jedarchul 10 years, 10 months ago

Thanks to Matt and Brennan!!! We're very proud of your representation of our beloved Jayhawks.

PikesPeak... really?!!! The "real Texas?" Sorry, but this is not a Texas team from years past. This is a talented, but fairly obviously mediocre team and they're coming into AFH ... after a horrible road loss... with an outright Big 12 title on the line...on Sr. night!!! Not sure if you've heard, but there's a nation-leading win streak going on in that building that should hit the 40s today. I'm not saying that we can't lose, but if we come out and play OUR game, this one isn't close. Abrams will not see the open looks that Voskul (sp?) did and isn't really effective creating his own shot. Damion James is a matchup problem, but good team/help defense generally renders him ineffective. Balbay at the point... can't shoot and doesn't really see the floor all that well yet. He can drive it a bit but Cole will be waiting. And he has the tendency to get even more frantic and out of control that Sherron Collins on his worst day. And their big men are soft. Coming off the heels of that terrible performance in Lubbock, we will own the paint.

LAJayhawk 10 years, 10 months ago


We've already hit the 40s. mizzou was our 40th straight in Allen. If we win today it will be 41.

DDSF 10 years, 10 months ago

The last time Texas traveled to the fieldhouse, KU managed to win the league outright with a record of 14-2. Kevin Durant put on a clinic (25 in the first half) but the 'Hawks managed to take the crown.

Here's to hoping the result is the same and we get Kleinmann one for the thumb!

Is anyone else a little excited to see a couple of towers starting with Kleinmann and Aldrich? It could be a small preview to next year when we get Jeff Withey.

jedarchul 10 years, 10 months ago

Good to know LA... seems there have been differing totals on different sites... I've seen 39 reported as well as 40, but I like the fact that 40 came against Mizzou... nice symmetry to it. Also, didn't intend to sound pissy in my earlier post, hung over and I think I misread or misinterpreted PPS's comment... thought he was predicting a loss... w/e... It's gametime baby!!!

Rock Chalk!!!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.