Saturday, August 25, 2012

Former KU center Sasha Kaun makes history with Olympic medal

Former Kansas University center Sasha Kaun displays the bronze medal he won with the Russian national team this summer at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Kaun was the first Jayhawk men’s basketball player since Danny Manning to win a medal at the Olympics.

Former Kansas University center Sasha Kaun displays the bronze medal he won with the Russian national team this summer at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Kaun was the first Jayhawk men’s basketball player since Danny Manning to win a medal at the Olympics.


Sasha Kaun and 11 of his closest friends piled on top of each other at the top of the key in Olympic Park Basketball Arena after the final horn sounded in Russia’s 81-77 bronze medal victory over Argentina on Aug. 12 in London.

The Russian National Team members celebrated wildly after assuring their country’s first top-three finish in an Olympic Games since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“I was so happy. It means everything,” said Kaun, a member of Kansas University’s 2008 national championship team. “To be the first team in Russia history to go and win a medal is unbelievable. The way basketball has grown in Russia is fantastic,” added the 6-foot-11, 255-pound center from Tomsk.

The 27-year-old Kaun, who has three years remaining on a contract with CSKA Moscow that pays him over $1 million a year, averaged 7.8 points and 3.6 rebounds for Russia, which amassed a record of 6-2 and became one of the surprise success stories of the entire Games. Just to make the Olympics, Russia had to place in the top three in a 12-team qualifying tournament in early July in Venezuela.

The Kaun and Andrei Kirilenko-led squad went undefeated at that event and qualified with room to spare.

“It was different. You play so many games in a short period of time,” Kaun said of earning an Olympic bronze medal compared to claiming NCAA gold. “In the Olympics, you play for 14-15 days. It’s tough mentally and physically. The NCAA Tournament is six games. It’s a different format. The Olympics ... only a few get a chance to play in the Olympics.”

Kaun became the 10th KU men’s basketball player of all time to earn a medal and first since Danny Manning (also a bronze) in 1988.

“I am so fortunate to be considered with Danny. To be the first since Danny is phenomenal,” said Kaun, whose inside presence was vital in the victory over Argentina and its power forward deluxe Luis Scola.

“As soon as we won, I got texts. I heard from all the guys (on KU’s 2008 title team). The coaches all texted me. They were in Europe (Paris playing exhibition games).”

Kaun also was supported by a handful of KU fans who made their way into the London arena.

“There was a guy there who had a sign,” Kaun said. “After we got our medal, I posed for a picture (with KU fans) with him and his son. I think once you become a Jayhawk you are always a Jayhawk. I’m very proud to be part of the organization. It’s big.”

Kaun has not been able to squeeze in a trip to Lawrence this summer. He and wife Taylor (former KU soccer player Taylor Blue) recently moved into a house in Evergreen, Colo., which will be their new offseason home.

“My wife’s parents have always been here (Colorado). They have a house in Steamboat. I spend Christmas with her and her family,” Kaun said. “We love the area. The weather is great in the summer. We’re not too far away from Kansas as well.”

Kaun and his wife will return to Russia today for training camp for the upcoming season.

“This season will be tough,” said Kaun, who has had precious little recovery time. “I’ve had three or four weeks off all summer.”

He said it is still possible he’ll someday play in the NBA.

The Cleveland Cavaliers own his rights, but right now he has too good a deal in Russia to consider a return to the USA.

“I’m very happy to be in a good situation,” Kaun said. “I’m really blessed.”

Wherever he is ... he continues to keep track of the Jayhawks. Kaun and his wife last year flew from Russia to New Orleans to watch KU play in the NCAA title game versus Kentucky.

“Our coach gave us 2 1/2 days off, so I came up to Taylor and said, ‘Do you want to go see the game?’ It was crazy because literally we made that decision seven hours before the flight (departed),” Kaun said. “I called to see if we could get tickets and then we went and booked the ticket and got on the plane. It was an unbelievable experience to be there and experience it as a fan rather than a player. To support the coaching staff, the players and the team, I am really glad that I did it.”

Of the upcoming season, ’08 KU graduate Kaun said: “Last season was great. They’ll have a good team again this year. I expect them to do great things. Coach (Bill) Self is phenomenal. Last year, everybody in the preseason was like, ‘I don’t know how they’ll do.’ They won the Big 12 again and made the championship game. The coaches and players always do a great job at KU.”

This, that: KU commit Conner Frankamp, a 6-0 senior guard from Wichita North, won Friday’s three-point shooting contest at the Under Armour Elite 24 game in Venice Beach, Calif. Julius Randle, a 6-9 senior forward from Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, who is considering KU and others, won the slam dunk competition. After the competition, Randle told that he would definitely make a recruiting visit to KU. The Under Armour game will be contested at 6 p.m., today, Central time, on ESPNU. ... Tyler Roberson, a 6-8 senior forward from Roselle (N.J.) Catholic, will visit KU on Sept. 7-9, reports. ... Chris Jones, a 5-10 sophomore point guard from NW Florida State College, will visit for the Oct. 12 Late Night in the Phog, reports.


Scott MacWilliams 8 years, 3 months ago

Way to Rock the Russian Chalk, Sasha!!

It's always great to see all the Jayhawk alums tearing up the hardwood, but Olympic Bronze is amazing. Nice add to your 2008 NC ring, no doubt.

And we love especially that you made the trip to 'Nawlins to see the 2012 edition of the Jayhawks put the squeeze on Calimari and Kenstinky. A few missed bunnies, and we'd had another ring.

We'd love to see you here in the NBA, but it sounds like you'd have a hard time finding a better deal over here, at least for now...

And you're right, you are a Jayhawk forever, even in Russia!
Love ya, Sasha!!

gimmetheclaw78 8 years, 3 months ago

Seriously, can we ban this idiot? ^ Get a freakin life, man.

Way to go, Sasha!

april28 8 years, 3 months ago

What a great young man and what a great life he has built for himself. He deserves a house in the mountains since he has to spend 8 months a year in Russia!

notigers4me 8 years, 3 months ago

Way to go Sasha. Way to represent yourself, your country, and the Hawks. We are all proud of you.

Kenneth Johnson 8 years, 3 months ago

Two of those ten players who won medals, actually won two (Al Kelley won in '52 and '60, while Bill Hougland won in '52 and '56).

It might be mentioned that, in addition to the 10 men's players that won medals as players, there were three other former KU men's players who won medals as coaches (Adolph Rupp in '48, Phog Allen in '52 and Dean Smith in '76), and Darnell Valentine was selected for the 1980 team, but the US team decided not to participate because of the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan.

And, then there's the fact that Lynette Woodard won a gold medal in 1984

Patrickulating 8 years, 3 months ago

I'm not old enough to remember this, but I don't see Al Kelley on the list of players in the '52 Olympics. It looks like his brother, Melvin "Dean" Kelley, was on the '52 team, and he's also a Jayhawk.

This brings the count to 11:
Charlie Hoag '52 Bill Hougland '52 & '56 John Keller '52 Dean Kelley '52 Bob Kenney '52 Bill Lienhard '52 Clyde Lovellette '52 Al Kelley '60 JoJo White '68 Danny Manning '88 Sasha Kaun '12

Also, former coach Larry Brown won as a player in '64.

Michael Bratisax 8 years, 3 months ago

Brown also won a gold as an assistant coach and a bronze as a head coach. Not sure if coaching is included in the official count.

Patrickulating 8 years, 3 months ago

Add: 1960, Arthur “Dutch” Lonborg (team manager) 1960, Dean Nesmith (athletic trainer) 1964, 1968, 1972, John McLendon, Asst. Coach 1996, Marian Washington, Asst. Coach

JHAWK34TRUTH 8 years, 3 months ago

" once you become a Jayhawk you are always a Jayhawk "

So true. Jhawk nation wish you the best!

Rock_Chalk_NYC 8 years, 3 months ago

Exactly! Please end the "Former Jayhawk" headline once and for all! But I love Kansas um, university of Kansas. Lol

REHawk 8 years, 3 months ago

Sasha, the Jayhawk Nation was cheering for you. You have been a true prince for Jayhawk Hoops. Best of all good things for you and Taylor. Come back to Lawrence often.

Mike Wingate 8 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Michael Bratisax 8 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Michael Bratisax 8 years, 3 months ago

No due process? Habeas Corpus? I formally request a meeting with a mediator. What happened to First Amendment rights? Land of the meek? Home of the rave? Wish I remembered what I said so I could repeat it. Just wait until the ACLU hears about this!

Ron Prichard 8 years, 3 months ago

So if we support Romney and KU basketball, we are pathetic, overweight ex-jocks, backward, lame losers? But if we support Obama and KU we aren't?

Why, I do think we have ourselves a genius here, Ethel. Post of the day, I tell you!

Maybe we could be from Missourah and have Akin or McCaskill represent us. Two winners there. Or maybe Texas where the judge in Lubbock thinks civil war will break out if Obama is reelected. Or maybe any number of other states that are as politically screwed up as the next.

theend 8 years, 3 months ago

Well.....How inspiring!!! I was on the fence....but after reading this comment I will certainly vote for Obama now!!!

jaybate 8 years, 3 months ago

Since 8 of 10 of my teams from 6th to 10th grades football and basketball teams won championships, and finished second the other two times,with good but not the best talent, I have been fascinated by how teams win a lot. After an injury knocked me out of football, and my teammates in football went on to win two state championships, I was forced to conclude I was not the key. :-)

Ask what the ingredients of winning teams are and having "all the pieces" is one frequent answer.

But ask what are the pieces and answers get varied, but usually include: talent at every position, every game MUA talent at two or three positions, depth, the right schemes offensively and defensively, avoidance of injury, some luck in matchups and timing of good shooting streaks, and good chemistry.

Ask what makes chemistry and things get fuzzy. Unselfishness. Love. Upperclassmen and young turks. Leader types. Impact types. Glue types. Instant energy subs. Driven types. Keep it loose and fun types. All these things combine to give chemistry.

But at the top programs with the top coaches many, if not all of the above, are assembled rather skillfully each season, yet few can consistently win place or show most seasons.


Hunch: Every team needs a few "winners" on the floor, plus a coach that is a winner.. Guys who actually have the gift of knowing how to win. KU's 08 team had two: Mario and Sasha. Guys that know how to win win wherever they go, and go wherever they can win. It is two sides of the same coin. They have earnestness and seriousness and insight into winning others lack.

So: why don't coaches always include two winners on each team?

I believe winners exist, just like geniuses do, but they are hard to identify.

There are a few winners, and a lot of players who look like winners, but really only won because they were playing with some winners.

Put another way, not everyone with a ring is a winner.

As a school boy, I had two coaches that could and did identify winners. One would have played on exceptional talent alone. The other was an average talent. But because our teams had these two winners, we always had an edge over more talented teams that lacked such winners. Winners by themselves cannot overcome a team without talent, but they rarely play for such teams anyway. They play to win. Literally.

Winners cannot always push their teams to win place or show, but the dead give away there are winners aboard is the team that plays significantly above its apparent talent level on a consistent basis.

Winners find ways to win, when talent and execution are not enough.

I am increasingly convinced that the reason some less talented teams win rings, or finish unusually high is only partly a product of matchups and talent levels and so on.

Its the winners that are tipping the scale.

ParisHawk 8 years, 3 months ago

You left out Sherron. In the Championship win, his steal and 3 turned the situation from "there's still hope in theory" to "hey, we can pull this one out!"

No question, when Self said "believe!" no one got the faith more than Sherron.

Yet two years later "his" team exited early.

Was he a winner in '08 and a loser later?

jaybate 8 years, 3 months ago

Wow! you are a weird one. You fooled me for awhile. :-)

ParisHawk 8 years, 3 months ago

Not an ex-jock, not a Romney supporter, not a Kansas voter...but I did flag your comment for removal. Your type of comments are an embarrassment to the people and views you claim to support. I suggest you find a more appropriate forum and a calmer, more respectful style.

Jack Wilson 8 years, 3 months ago

While it is a nice article on Kaun, the most interesting tidbit came at the end:

"Chris Jones, a 5-10 sophomore point guard from NW Florida State College, will visit for the Oct. 12 Late Night in the Phog, reports" -- Another one of Self's point guard backup plans (along with Frank Mason) to Barber and Jackson. There was news a while back that the unranked Mason received a KU offer (surely conditional).

We have pretty high expectations for our 2013 class .. Self says he wants a point guard and a post player. But how would you feel about Greene, Frankamp, Jones or Mason (PG), and, say, Junior Etou (PF - ranked 107), who we have also made an offer to (in case we don't land Lawrence, Shephard, Randle, etc.)?

Would make things look a touch different, wouldn't it?

Jack Wilson 8 years, 3 months ago

So, what were Marshall's comments about KU? You can't leave us hanging like that ...

Jack Wilson 8 years, 3 months ago

Thanks for inside info. Your brother hit the nail on the head.

The "KU rule" .. my view is that if it's a rule, then don't violate it. If it's not a rule, then, well, it isn't a rule.

It would seem to me that the best thing WSU could do would be to become an ally of KU. They aren't in the same league (literally and figuratively), and don't recruit the same players. Ellis was never going to WSU. Befriend KU, get KU to play them (even if it's at KU three straight years), work together. Many opportunities for that. Lifting KU may lift WSU. Self has great pull with recruits and sending a couple 3 stars WSU's way could do wonders for WSU's program. But what can Marshall do for Self? Same thing. When he gets the ear of a top recruit he won't get, pumping up KU may help KU. I have always felt that a strong WSU brings attention to the state of Kansas and the midwest. That means KU, and that is good for KU. But maybe I'm way off base here.

Alohahawk 8 years, 3 months ago

Congrats Sasha on climbing so close to the top of one of sport's highest pinacles by winning the Olympic bronze medal. Add Mario's win in the NBA Championship and it has been a very good year for the 2008 KU BB team's alums. Sort of puts icing on the cake for that team's phenomenal success.

Add that to this past season's Jayhawks, competing in the NCAA championship game, and KU has some pretty good bragging rights for 2012. Past or present, KU's legacy of success can't be disputed.

KU may have placed fifth overall in ESPN's "50 in 50 Series", in which they evaluated the success of college BB teams from the 1962 season to the present, but it should be noted that during the Williams/Self eras (actually since 1988 I think they said), only Duke has out performed KU. Duke accumulated just one more point than KU during those seasons. And as of the 2007 season, KU has more points than any college team.

Final summation. From the above information KU's recent success stories can be attributed to one thing. A Big Rock Chalk salute to Head Coach Bill Self and his great coaching staff.

Jack Wilson 8 years, 3 months ago

The best answer comes from coach Self on Frankamp. Self said he wanted a "point guard" to replace EJ in the recruiting class. And we have Tharpe, who is clearly a PG and Frankamp coming in. It seems that Self views him not as a pure point guard out of the box -- at least it seems that way. Self had rarely talked about "point guards" in the past, meaning needing one by name.

Don't worry about where Frankamp would play. If Frankamp doesn't play, all that means is that we have better players than Frankamp. It would be no surprise if he wasn't a rotation player his freshman season, right? But that wouldn't mean he's not a player. Frankamp looks to be a terrific four year-type player. Tyrel Reed-esq, but better. Someone compared him to Kieton Page.

The 2013-14 rotation at the 1/2 if we get Barber - starters: Barber and McLemore. Backups Tharpe and Frankamp. White starts at the 3, and Greene backs him up there or displaces Frankamp for some minutes at the 2. But don't forget about Adams. A wildcard. And if McLemore is a OAD, things open up quite a bit. Hope that's not the case.

If we get any other point guard recruit, I doubt he starts. Though Demetrius Jackson could. But he'd have to displace Tharpe in Tharpe's junior season. Barber may be the only first year guy that will be able to do that.

Alohahawk 8 years, 3 months ago

I see Frankamp in the role of a K. Heinrich (or similar to Stephen Curry, who played mostly off the ball because of his shooting abilities.) He has a good BB IQ and is capable of playing the point if it becomes necessary (good ball handler, seems to know his limitations and has shown he can find open teammates for an assist), but his true value lies in his three point shooting. At the same time in their careers, Heinrich may (?) have been a better defender (HK has certainly acquitted himself well in the NBA as top-notch in that category.), and most assuredly, Frankamp's minutes at KU will depend a lot on how well he performs that role against Div. l players. But one most also admit that his performances during AAU and international competitions has left little doubt that he can hold his own against his peers. Frankamp's winning the 3 point competition this weekend just adds that much more to his growing reputation with the recruiting gurus. He may not be ranked in the top 10, but I doubt there is a college coach anywhere who doesn't envy Self and KU for acquiring his services.

Michael Bratisax 8 years, 3 months ago

At first, I completely disagreed but after thinking about it, you very well could be right. Connor can obviously shoot from just about anywhere, has good BB intuition and seems open to being coached which is often the downfall of many really good players. All that remains is how far he can improve against D1 competition. Really looking forward to seeing him on the court wearing his Jayhawk uniform.

Jack Wilson 8 years, 3 months ago

I agree completely, which is why Self's specific reference to needing a "point guard" to replace EJ, when discussing recruiting, surpised me. I would have chalked it up perhaps to a slip of the tongue, but he said it twice.

Marcia Parsons 8 years, 3 months ago

It's hard to tell. Self will play him where he makes the biggest contribution. As for Sasha, I enjoyed the article. I was especially happy to hear that all the 2008 team sent him messages of congratulations. I love the way all the former players stick together.

duanep5ku 8 years, 3 months ago

Sasha congratulatons on the Olympic's.,and best of luck t you this year.

As to the supposed questions on this site would the fans be happy with Chris Jones. I myself would not mind at all if he came to KU if we don't get Cat Barber or Jackson.

The kid is a former 4 star and it has already been reported by some so called experts that Chris would be ready to contribute now probably more then option A,B would. So why not take him if He decides to come here. I know we the fans may always want the higher ranked kids but you can only recruit them. Where they choose to go nobody knows and the why.

I do trust that Self can coach and fill the gaps as good as any coach that has been at Kansas in my lifetme of following the team. So Yes I will not be to worried about the team or the coach for the next few years, but with that said it still depends on if we land a good rim protector for 2013. Kansas fans the positive with combined Classes we have two good recruits coming in next year. Conner,Greene. Conner is a shooter not sure where he will play at Kansas. pg or sg but just find him a spot and let him shoot. B,Green a highly ranked kid, small forward type. So thats two ranked incoming and best of all we should still have Anrio Adams, Andrew White. Perry Ellis should be here still. Ben Mc, hopefully will stay another year, maybe. Kansas is solid in most area's for a few years or should be okay at 1,2,3 spots. I only hope we land a decent Rim protector and we should be good.

REHawk 8 years, 3 months ago

Roy and Bill certainly have the Jayhawk hoops program on a fine twenty five year roll. Fan support is terrific, and recruiting is well above average for a downhome midAmerica site which runs a clean operation. Sustaining a winning championship level program involves a host of varied factors. Tradition speaks volumes for the continuity of such annual success. At Kansas, coaches and players are supposed to win; and recent administrators have not diminished that enthusiastic sense of yearning for steady victories on the basketball court. Sasha speaks well of the tradition, camaraderie and excited expectations involving Jayhawk basketball. What a dandy phenomenon: a young kid from the Soviet Union arrives in Florida to receive an education and hone sports skills commensurate with his size; matriculates to KU, where he continues to develop, earns a degree and eventually plays a key role in the winning of a national title; then returns to his home country to help lead Russia to a bronze medal in the Olympic games. Someday he will likely encourage some other budding young European star to follow in his very footseps. Maybe his own daughter or son....

Alohahawk 8 years, 3 months ago

Sasha Son, Sasha Son, Sasha Son Son Son. How does that Sade song go?

JHAWKSWAG 8 years, 3 months ago

I used to always pass by Sasha in the tunnel after Sphar & Eaton that leads you up the steps toward Lindley. During the 08 tourney I passed by him a day or two after we beat UNC. I made my best announcer impersonation and yelled out SASHA KAUN...for it to echo throughout the tunnel. Ended by a leaping high five, such a nice guy he represents the KU brand well.. Rock Chalk!

jaybate 8 years, 3 months ago

"The Place to Come for Answers"

OakvilleJaybateNightmare: Dear jaybate, women call me Nano. What can I do?

jaybate: Nothing. Next.

jaybate 8 years, 3 months ago

"The Place to Come for Answers"

OakvilleJaybateNightmare: Dear jaybate, how come Oakville makes more money than me, posts smarter and funnier than me, does not not stay up late to watch ads for vibrators as I do, and his women do not nickname him Nano?

jaybate: Because life isn't fair. Next.

(Note: all posts are fictions aka iBorges truffles. No malice.)

jaybate 8 years, 3 months ago

"The Place to Come for Answers"

OakvilleJaybateNightmare: Dear jaybate, how come I have dreams about Oakville and you forcing me to wear black latex basketball warm-ups and do push ups for you?

jaybate: Because you need more hierarchical structure in this horizontally networked world. Next.

(Note: all posts are fictions aka iBorges truffles. No malice.)

Tony Bandle 8 years, 3 months ago

Who says you have to go to sleep when you go to bed?? When you have a wife that's 12 years younger you have certain, shall we say, obligations to fulfill!!

jaybate 8 years, 3 months ago

"Some Things Less Tedious than an OakvilleJaybateNightmare Post"

• filling out consumer satisfaction surveys

• watching a planning commission meeting on a local access channel

• removing cat hair from a shirt with strands of double stick tape.

• pushing back cuticles with paper clips during a PTA meeting.

• counting dust bunnies with a cellphone app called iAbacus.

• stirring artificial sweetener into weak coffee with a plastic fork.

• cleaning an electric toothbrush.

• talking about an intermittent short in a car with a "service technician."

• reading the instructions for a flashlight that you have already turned on.

• trying to pick up 15 fine pencil lead shafts dropped on a hard wood floor with gaps between the planks.

• reading about trace elements in any personal hygene product.

• recalling lectures on public speaking given by uninteresting persons.

• checkin Restaurant checks for tabulation errors.

• random fact intuition.

jaybate 8 years, 3 months ago


Great Plains Frack'n Crack Industries (GPFCI) has found coal under Allen Field House and plans to start fracking under the Monarch of the Midlands soon. In exchange for the right to inject water to fracture the coal layer and trigger catastrophic subsidence, GPFCI pledges to donate enough harvested coal gas to make the field house scoreboard energy independent by 2020.

Just jokin'.

AFH will be spared. :-)

REHawk 8 years, 3 months ago

jb, you really had me sweating it out for a few moments there. Frack'n Crack already injected suspicious smelling fluids beneath the structure of Paige Arena, and we know how that turned out!

Curtis Stutz 8 years, 3 months ago

Is anyone still holding out hope that Randle will end up a Jayhawk?

REHawk 8 years, 3 months ago

That business of recruiting fits well into Mr. A. Pope's ditty: Hope springs eternal in the human breast/Man never is but always to be blessed. Bill Self's heavy cross to bear lies within the realm of all those "to be" possibilities. Until those cherished dribblin' dreamers actually sign on the dotted line, fans, coaches and players are in suspension, swinging from a short and very high rope. Even after the signatures, many recruits wave a quick goodbye. Acts 1 and 2 of the collegiate hoops drama....

Carl Anderson 8 years, 3 months ago

Way to go Sasha. You are correct: Once a Jayhawk, always a Jayhawk. The word is "family"... and you're in. Best Wishes for continued success.

Tim Bingaman 8 years, 3 months ago

Congrats Sasha!!!! It has to feel great.

Such a great and loyal Jayhawk. I've seen you at move KU games than any alum... ever.

Might I suggest that you put some padding on that wooden beam in the background. Concussions are a serious issue, sir.

All the best! Timmy the Jayhawk!

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