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Friday, March 25, 2011

Mario Little biding his time on Kansas bench

Senior forward has played sparingly in tournament, but he’s still enjoying final trip to NCAAs

Kansas’ Mario Little, left, and Elijah Johnson swap condiments as they eat lunch in the team locker room during a break in the at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Thursday, March 24, 2011.

Kansas’ Mario Little, left, and Elijah Johnson swap condiments as they eat lunch in the team locker room during a break in the at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Thursday, March 24, 2011.

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Pregame: KU vs. Richmond

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Kansas takes on Richmond in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

— Though Kansas University senior forward Mario Little has played just seven combined minutes in the Jayhawks’ last two games, it hasn’t stopped him from enjoying his final NCAA Tournament.

“It’s been good. I didn’t play that much, but I’ve stayed optimistic, positive, waiting my turn,” Little said. “It’ll come. So I’m good. I feel good we’re still here and still playing.”

Outside of a six-game suspension earlier this year, Little hadn’t played fewer than seven minutes in any game entering the NCAA Tournament.

Last week against Boston University, though, he played just four minutes. Against Illinois, he was only in for three.

“I’m a competitor. I want to play,” Little said. “But I understand timing and matchups and positioning. So, I mean, I’m happy for where we’re at.”

Normally, a team like Richmond — which plays primarily zone defense — would be a great matchup for Little. The 6-foot-5 Chicago native has made a habit this year of getting into the middle of zone defense before draining mid-range jumpers.

Richmond, however, is a little different, as it plays a 2-3 matchup zone — one that acts more like a combination between a zone defense and a man defense, meaning the middle won’t be as open.

Lately, Little has concerned himself with improving his defense. He has been working on sliding his feet better, an important skill considering he could be matched up against speedy Richmond guard Kevin Anderson if KU’s defenders switch on a screen.

Little also said he and his teammates were preparing themselves for Richmond’s backdoor cuts.

“They’re so sound, and they’re so well coached that once you turn your head, your man could be at the basket already,” Little said.

Three years ago, Little came to KU with high expectations after being named Rivals.com’s No. 1 junior-college player.

It’s been a rough road for much of his time at KU. His first year, he suffered a broken hand and a stress fracture in his lower left leg. Then, after sitting out last season with a red shirt, he was suspended for six games this season after getting arrested on charges of battery.

He returned from suspension on Jan. 12, but in KU’s last six games, he has averaged just 7.5 minutes.

“He’s kept a positive attitude,” KU guard Tyshawn Taylor said. “I think that’s we love him so much, and I think that’s why coach loves him so much, because he’s a good dude.”

Comments

Michael Bratisax 8 years, 8 months ago

Yup...He will get plenty of time today. He will be hard to match up for Richmond, especially when he is the 3rd big on the court.

BCRavenJHawkfan 8 years, 8 months ago

Agree. Illinois was tough for him because the match ups were so much bigger. But like what he can do in some Zone Bustin. He's got that game I call Juco Ballin - scoring in that area as kids we all played in for a game called Around-The-World: down both sides of the lane, at the free throw line, at the top of the circle and down again.

JuanValdez 8 years, 8 months ago

This is a game where he can help KU a lot. Richmond is not as tall a team as say Illinois, and his play at the top of the key can help a lot against their zone.

Lash 8 years, 8 months ago

In big games the backup can be as important as the starters. That's why we're 34-2. Coach has trusted you and TV announcers love you. Look out Spiders Mario is the Orkin man.

Lance Hobson 8 years, 8 months ago

One thing is certain, a player like Little will need to step up for KU against Richmond. Jeremy Case did it agains Villanova in the Sweet 16 in '08, and I'm betting Mario is going to be the guy tonight.

justinryman 8 years, 8 months ago

There is a time when you are signaled to enter a game, and when your name is yelled, step up, take a deep breath, play within yourself and blow the game wide open, just like you did when you came back from suspension.

When the time comes for you to take a seat next to the coaches, hold your head high, get the crowd into the game, be proud that you are a member and a contributor to this team, as your team mates and coaches know what you do for this team.

Here we go!!!!!

omng392 8 years, 8 months ago

My favorite game of Mario is when he went off for 17 against MU this year!!! Keep it up!!!

SDSurferFan 8 years, 8 months ago

At least I have one team left.

SDSU-too much Kemba (lost respect after flop), two technicals (wtf? Weak), 6/13 fts...

Great season, sad ending, future looks good...

Loved the Duke beat down.

Let's go JayHawks!!!

rockchalk_dpu 8 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, security did a horrible job screening fans cause there must have been a sniper in the building the way Kemba crumbled. Moves like that add to my dislike for him and players like Pullen who play an NBA game intentionally drawing contact and then complaining if they don't get the call. Kemba can score in bunches and shoots the ball really well, but I could do without the theatrics.

RCJ

Kye Clark 8 years, 8 months ago

What bothers me is that all too often basketball announcers give credit to the floppers ("Gotta sell it! Great acting job!"). It's becoming soccer-esque with the propensity of these players to flop.

Also noticed at least 3 traveling violations by UConn that weren't called in the final 10 minutes.

But as was mentioned by the studio team in the post-game analysis, SDSU just got too 3 point happy. Agreed though on a great season, hopefully they continue to be a power and force ESPN to occasionally shift their focus off of the east coast.

Lin Rahardja 8 years, 8 months ago

This will be good opportunity for Little... the Spiders will be focusing on collaping whenever the twins touch the ball and extending their zone coverage to our shooting guards. Shoot with confidence, team needs you!

kureignman 8 years, 8 months ago

I don't know too much about a 2-3 matchup zone, but I do know that Rio is our best post player against zones so I have a feeling he will see plenty of time.

Tony Bandle 8 years, 8 months ago

Elijah looks like Eddie Murphy from Beverly Hills Cop.....I hope he shoots like Eddie did too!!!

Slow first half...wear 'em down...pull away in the second.

I would be curious as to how Richmond came up with the nickname "Spiders"? Are the womens teams The Black Widows??

Jack Wilson 8 years, 8 months ago

I had heard the nickname came from some gangly basketball player .. I had thought it was a basketball player, but the link below says it was a baseball player:

http://www.richmondspiders.com/trads/rich-mascot.html

Spiders squish easily, so long as you make sure to step squarely upon them.

Jonathan Unruh 8 years, 8 months ago

Your the man Little. You will get your shot. I enjoy his hustle and energy.

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