‘No harm done’: Boxer Victor Ortiz relishes charity hoops game

Friday, June 17, 2011

Victor Ortiz to finish college at KU

WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz intends to complete his college degree at Kansas University.

Top play of the 2011 Rock Chalk Roundball Classic?

One play in particular at the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic was a favorite former Jayhawks Jeff Graves and Lester Earl.

“Vicious” Victor Ortiz’s agent, handlers and promoters of Sept. 17’s dream boxing matchup between Ortiz and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. had to breathe collective sighs of relief after Thursday’s Rock Chalk Roundball Basketball Classic at Free State High.

Ortiz, the current WBC World Welterweight champion, did not —repeat, did not — get injured while scoring four points off 2-of-12 shooting in the KU basketball charity all-star game. Ortiz’s Cole Aldrich-led Red squad fell to the Tyrel Reed-led Blue team, 114-102.

“I actually did let them know beforehand. They did say, ‘Victor, tape up your hand, tape up your wrist, your ankles.’ I was like, ‘Do you want me to wear a helmet?’ It was fun. No harm done,” the 5-foot-9, 24-year-old Ortiz said with a laugh.

Ortiz, a huge KU basketball fan who was born in Liberal and raised in Garden City, admits it was strange driving the lane against the likes of former KU big men Jeff Graves (18 points) and Scot Pollard (11).

“It felt like monster trucks coming at me,” Ortiz said. “Scot was looking at me. I was like, ‘Gee, he’s huge.’ I was scared. Honest, I was scared. I said, ‘I’ve got to get rid of this ball.’

“I just winged it, man. I had a lot of fun. People were very cool to me, nice around me. I begged them to let me score.”

Ortiz had some hard news to report Thursday. He plans to earn a college degree — at KU.

“I always wanted to go to a university, and this is the university I wanted to attend, but obviously I had a whole different calling,” said Ortiz, who wears the Jayhawk logo on his trunks in the ring. “I still want the diploma, not because I have to have it. I just kind of want it. This is the university I’m going to finish my college at and earn my degree.”

Oklahoma City Thunder center Aldrich hit 14 of 21 shots en route to 31 points for the Red. He had a vicious dunk off a drive down the lane as well as a three-pointer. Former KU guards Brady Morningstar and Russell Robinson chipped in 21 and 20 respectively in a losing cause.

Robinson, who played professionally in Spain last season, has a workout with the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats next week.

“I loved Spain. It was a great experience,” Robinson said, adding, “It’s great to come back and hear the ‘New York, New York’ (chant during player introductions) and feel the energy at KU.”

The starting guard on KU’s 2008 NCAA championship team has let his hair grow out. KU coach Bill Self, in fact, rubbed Robinson’s mop-top before the opening tip and teased him a bit.

“Everybody’s not used to the hair. It’s a new look for me. I’m trying to be a little more mature,” Robinson said.

Former KU guard Reed led the winning Blue team with 33 points. He hit 13 of 18 shots, including six made threes. Graves — who last played in the NBA Developmental League two seasons ago and plans to resume his career overseas next season after battling back from injury — hit nine of 17 shots en route to his 18 points. Former KU guard Billy Thomas hit five threes, good for 15 points.

The Roundball Classic was a benefit for the Souter family of Lawrence and children’s cancer research. Cancer claimed the life of “Baby Jay” Souter at the age of 5.

“I think the fans were the star of the game,” said Morningstar, who hit nine of 20 shots and made three threes inside the packed FSHS gym. “We are a family at KU, and we are proud to come out and support a good cause. It’s the fans who came out and supported it as well.”