Texas A&M; assistant basketball coach Kyle Keller considered bringing his entire family to Allen Fieldhouse for today’s 8 p.m., ESPN Big Monday battle against Kansas University.
“My wife (Chaunsea) and I thought about it, but I think my daughter would root for the Jayhawks more than the Aggies,” Keller said of 5-year-old Kenzie. “I’m afraid she’d go for Thomas (Robinson), Tyshawn (Taylor) and those guys more than our team. She loves those guys,” Keller added with a laugh.
Kenzie Keller became a huge KU fan the past three seasons — which her dad spent serving as video coordinator on Bill Self’s KU coaching staff.
“The roots are deep. My daughter felt so comfortable around those kids,” Keller said. “She watches Markieff (Morris) on TV with the Phoenix Suns. She loves him. It’s hard not to,” Keller added. “The community embraced all of us while we were there. KU is a special place. There aren’t many places like it.”
Self, who like Keller is an Oklahoma State graduate, said he’s looking forward to a mini staff reunion tonight.
“We’ll all be excited to see Kyle. He did a great job for us for three years,” Self said. “We’re going to have to be very good, because he’ll have every call. Everything that we do, he’ll know. We better be prepared.”
Or as KU center Jeff Withey said ... “Coach Keller was a great coach at Kansas. He’s one of my favorite guys to be around. He knows our offense. It’s going to be tough, but I think everybody in the Big 12 knows our offense because we’ve been in it so many years.”
Keller said his knowledge of Self’s system “doesn’t matter. Coach Self has those guys so tough-minded and disciplined ... he makes it work. He’s really talented at what he does. He’s the best.
“I told our guys that he (Self) is like Bill Belichick (New England Patriots’ coach). He figures out what your weaknesses are and attacks you. He’s like the Green Bay Packers — like Vince Lombardi.”
“Lombardi would run ‘Packer sweep left.’ He’d say, ‘We’re gonna line up and come at you, and you’ve got to stop it.’ That’s what coach Self’s teams do. They just grind it out. It doesn’t matter if you know what’s coming, they still score. It hasn’t been fun trying to prepare for them, that’s for sure.”
It has been a trying season so far for the Aggies (11-7, 2-4), who were picked to finish in a tie for first with KU (16-3, 6-0) in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll.
Not only did freshman Jamal Branch transfer to St. John’s, but soph forward Kourtney Roberson has been limited to nine games because of a broken foot. Also, junior forward Khris Middleton (12.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg) has been battling persistent knee problems. He re-injured his knee in Saturday’s 81-75 home overtime victory over Oklahoma and is questionable for tonight (he did make the trip to Lawrence).
“We’ve had so much adversity from a health standpoint, from players to coach, who has gone through a lot,” Keller said.
First-year coach Billy Kennedy was diagnosed with early stages of Parkinson’s in the preseason.
“It’s not gone the way we’d like it to go, but we have so many games to play, we’re excited about the opportunities we have. Our ceiling for us hasn’t come close to being reached. We feel our best ball is definitely down the line,” Keller added.
The Aggies average 62.8 points per games and allow 59.2. Junior guard Elston Turner averages a team-leading 13.7 points per game. Senior forward David Loubeau averages 10.5 points and 4.4 rebounds. Junior forward Ray Turner leads the team in rebounding at 6.5 per game.
“They are capable of beating any team in the league,” Self said.
This, that: KU, which has won the last six meetings, leads the all-time series 17-1. ... KU beat A&M; in the Big 12 tourney semifinals in 2008 and ’10. ... Prior to Texas ending KU’s school-record 69-game homecourt winning streak last season, Texas A&M; handed Kansas its previous home loss on Feb. 3, 2007. ... KU is 7-1 against Texas A&M; in Allen Fieldhouse. ... Self is 9-3 versus A&M;, 9-1 while at KU. ... Kennedy has yet to coach vs. KU.