Monday, July 23, 2012

Underrated: Staff picks for most overlooked Jayhawks

According to the J-W staff, 20 of the most underrated Kansas University athletes are: 1. Milt Newton. 2. Marilynn Smith. 3. Gabe Toomey. 4. Angel Goodrich. 5. Willie Pless. 6. Isaac Byrd. 7. Kevin Pritchard. 8. Scott Huffman. 9. Mark Williams. 10. Michael Center. 11. Bob Allison. 12. June Henley. 13. Wayne Simien. 14. Chris Harris. 15. Mario Kinsey. 16. Xavier Henry. 17. Jim Bausch. 18. Ron Warner. 19. Eric Chenowith. 20. Bill Whittemore.

According to the J-W staff, 20 of the most underrated Kansas University athletes are: 1. Milt Newton. 2. Marilynn Smith. 3. Gabe Toomey. 4. Angel Goodrich. 5. Willie Pless. 6. Isaac Byrd. 7. Kevin Pritchard. 8. Scott Huffman. 9. Mark Williams. 10. Michael Center. 11. Bob Allison. 12. June Henley. 13. Wayne Simien. 14. Chris Harris. 15. Mario Kinsey. 16. Xavier Henry. 17. Jim Bausch. 18. Ron Warner. 19. Eric Chenowith. 20. Bill Whittemore.



Journal-World File Photos

According to the J-W staff, 20 of the most underrated Kansas University athletes are: 1. Milt Newton. 2. Marilynn Smith. 3. Gabe Toomey. 4. Angel Goodrich. 5. Willie Pless. 6. Isaac Byrd. 7. Kevin Pritchard. 8. Scott Huffman. 9. Mark Williams. 10. Michael Center. 11. Bob Allison. 12. June Henley. 13. Wayne Simien. 14. Chris Harris. 15. Mario Kinsey. 16. Xavier Henry. 17. Jim Bausch. 18. Ron Warner. 19. Eric Chenowith. 20. Bill Whittemore.

The question regarding what makes an athlete underrated brings different answers from different people.

For some, it can refer to a player who contributed a lot but was lost in the shadows of bigger names. For others, it can refer to a player who achieved a certain degree of notoriety but never got the full credit he or she deserved. And for others, it can refer to players whom people rarely talk about, athletes who achieve greatness behind the veil of near anonymity.

Many of the names on the lists below won championships, went pro or remain talked about to this day. But, at least for our staff, all of the following athletes were underrated in one way or another.

Matt Tait

Bill Whittemore — In my mind, he is, without question, the most underrated QB in KU history. Had Whittemore not come first, Mark Mangino may never have had the opportunity to recruit Todd Reesing. Beyond that, Whittemore often is credited for kick-starting KU’s resurgence under Mangino and is one of the most down-to-earth dudes you’ll ever meet.

Kevin Pritchard — The former KU point guard never really received much fanfare, but he played a huge role on KU’s 1988 national championship team and provided stability, scoring and leadership on Roy Williams’ first couple of KU teams.

Isaac Byrd — An incredible athlete with blazing speed and great natural instincts. Those traits not only helped make Byrd a threat on the gridiron, but also from his spot in center field with the KU baseball team. Drafted out of high school by the San Diego Padres (and again after his junior year of college by the St. Louis Cardinals), Byrd turned down the offer to play pro baseball and, four years later, was drafted in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans. He played six seasons in the NFL and was in the starting lineup for Super Bowl XXXIV. At KU, he earned MVP honors on both squads and was a first-team All-Big 8 pick in baseball and a second-team All-Big 8 selection in football.

Chris Harris — Let’s see, as a true freshman, Harris started on an Orange Bowl championship team and, after his college career ended, he became a starter in the Denver Broncos’ secondary as a rookie. During each of the seasons in between, many people thought Harris was nothing more than a decent player. Turns out Harris’ freshman year was more indicative of the likable defensive back’s true talent.

Andrew Hartsock

Mark Williams — Quick history lesson: Back in 1994, Asheiki Preston was KU’s staring QB. He was hurt, and, after being told Preston was out for the season, coach Glen Mason yanked Williams’ red shirt. Preston quickly returned, and Williams hardly played the rest of the year. Then in 1995, Williams completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,957 yards — in a running offense — and led KU to a 10-2 year. There’s no telling what this guy would have done in two full seasons.

June Henley — He wasn’t KU’s best running back, but he still holds the school records for career (823) and season (302) rushing attempts, season (17) and career (41) rushing TDs and, oh yeah, career rushing yards (3,841).

Ron Warner — I remember the knocks on Warner, primarily that he wasn’t great against the run, but off the corner he was a beast. He might have been a one-trick pony, but at that one trick — making life difficult for opposing quarterbacks — he was one of the best. His 14.5 sacks in 1997 are still the school record.

Mario Kinsey — OK, I know the critics might accuse me of smoking some of the substance Kinsey was busted for possession of in the offseason, but Kinsey was talented enough to earn the starting quarterback job as a freshman and land a walk-on invitation from then-coach Roy Williams to the men’s basketball team. He never did much in either sport (though his 1,215 passing yards as a red-shirt freshman in 2001 wasn’t too shabby), but he obviously was a wicked athlete. After departing KU, Kinsey went on to play hoops at two other colleges and had a short career in the American Basketball Association.

Tom Keegan

Jim Bausch — A relative novice to the decathlon, he won the Olympic gold medal in the event in 1932, was a two-time All-American in football and also lettered in basketball.

Bob Allison — If you’re scratching your head saying, “The NASCAR legend went to Kansas, and isn’t he known as Bobby, not Bob?” you’re proof of the extent of just how underrated the former Jayhawks slugger remains. Allison, who died in 1995 at the age of 60, was American League Rookie of the Year in 1959 and was an All-Star that year and in 1963 and 1964. OPS (on-base plus slugging) rates as the single most revealing statistic for a hitter, and Allison led the American League in it in ’63 and ranked in the top 10 five times. He ranked in the top 10 in home runs in eight of his 13 seasons. At Kansas, Allison also played fullback for the football team.

Angel Goodrich — Anyone who hasn’t seen this basketball magician play needs to do so during her senior year or live to regret it forever. She deserves to play in front of huge crowds every night.

Marilynn Smith — One of the original 13 LPGA tour players in 1950, Smith won 21 LPGA tournaments, including two majors, and finished in the top 10 on the money list nine times. As a teenager, she won three consecutive state amateur championships.

Jesse Newell

Xavier Henry — He is often lumped with Josh Selby as a one-and-done disappointment, but the truth is, Henry was spectacular offensively in his one year and gets overlooked because of the Northern Iowa loss.

Eric Chenowith — Most KU fans were so focused on what Chenowith wasn’t that they didn’t appreciate what he was: a top-five rebounder and a top-three shot-blocker in KU history.

Wayne Simien — Simien’s senior season in 2005 was one the best offensive seasons for a KU player in the last decade, but he’s not often mentioned with the greats because of a short NBA career and missed final shot against Bucknell.

Gabe Toomey — I loved watching Gabe Toomey’s aggressiveness on the KU football team, but injuries and perhaps some misuse of him by the KU football coaching staff shut down his KU career too soon.

Gary Bedore

Scott Huffman — Olympic track pole vaulter whose Huffman Roll revolutionized the sport. An outgoing guy, Huffman should have received even more publicity than he did during his KU days.

Milt Newton — Was very important piece of the 1988 national title team.

Michael Center — Great tennis player and coach.

Willie Pless — Linebacker got some attention, but was lost in the shuffle a bit in the CFL, where he was one of the league’s all-time greats.


Doug Cramer 3 years, 4 months ago

Xavier Henry and Eric Chenowith ???

Don't know about that Jesse.

The one that comes to my mind is Russell Robinson. Glue guy that provided chemistry and spectacular defense on the 2008 national championship team.

Mangino_Maniac 3 years, 4 months ago

Russell Robinson and Richard Scott! Another name... Jon Cornish.

jhox 3 years, 4 months ago

Scott definitely should have been on the lists.

ku1otaku 3 years, 4 months ago

Thank you, Jesse! I have been defending Xavier Henry since the loss to UNI. The guy had a great freshmen year that is often overlooked because of the team's shortcoming in losing early in the tournament. I'm glad to see someone else can look past the bitterness of an early exit from the tournament and truly value a players contributions.

milehighhawk 3 years, 4 months ago

Another vote for Richard Scott!

Xavier & Chenowith....really?

Go deep & give me an Alonzo Jamison or Eric Pauley at least, man!

Ross Cargo 3 years, 4 months ago

Top 5 in rebounding and blocks? Then yes, Chenowith before Pauley. Richard Scott was special. Scott and Pless were two guys who produced far beyond the stature they were given.

Flopshot1 3 years, 4 months ago

Larry Brown (football), Leroy Irvin (football), Willie Pless and Jim Bausch were the first names that came to my mind.

I'd also throw in the following...

Cliff Wiley Al Oerter and Bill Nieder All of the old-time distance guys...Cunningham, Santee, Mills, Ryun

I'm not a track guy at all, but I don't think Hawks today realize just how good the track teams were... Over 250 all-americans and maybe 20 olympians (guessing at this last number). So toss in the two coaches that built the bulk of those teams...Easton and Timmons

Ross Cargo 3 years, 4 months ago

You're right on the track tradition, but I wouldn't say most of the guys you listed were underrated. Oerter is very well known for winning four gold in the same event. For the longest time, he was the only guy to do it. Carl Lewis finally matched him. Wiley and Bausch are perhaps two of the underrated. Alley too. I believe he was bronze in the Javelin. Scott Huffman is a good one as is his teammate Pat Manson who cleared 18' 20 plus years in a row and had the American Indoor record for a bit.

Micah Mandy Haase 3 years, 4 months ago

A little of topic here but I ran across a website that is trying to produce a Wilt Chamberlain film but needs to raise the money to help out first... It only has 10 days left and no where near the 50k it wants but maybe it just needs exposure???

Not sure if this has been posted before but sorry if it has been?

Feel free to spread the word.

jhox 3 years, 4 months ago

Willie Pless would have to top my list. The NFL screwed up big time in passing him over. To this day, I can't understand how he was overlooked.

Mark Williams would be my number two guy. I was just talking with someone about him two or three weeks ago. If he could have just gotten back that wasted junior year he may have challenged for first team All American honors.

jhox 3 years, 4 months ago

Another name just came to player John Douglas. He was a juco transfer who averaged over 19 ppg as a junior and was all Big 8. His scoring dropped as a senior on a more stacked team that included Darnell Valentine, but he did go on to play in the NBA. I think he had like 46 points once at Iowa State.

A couple of others from that era who are often forgotten include Tony Guy and David Magley. Both did a little NBA time.

Robert Brown 3 years, 4 months ago

Those guys bring back some memories. I had forgotten John Douglas. Tony Guy is a good pick. He was on fire in the 1981 NCAA tournament when KU upset #3 Arizona State who had several future pros.

Ross Cargo 3 years, 4 months ago

Magley should have been on the list the other day when they were discussing who to play horse with. That guy could shoot the rock. If there had been a three point line for him, Guy and Valentine, KU would have really done damage that year.

Martin Rosenblum 3 years, 4 months ago

Matt Kleinmann. That's right, I went there! You can't practice at 7 ft. if you're 6-8 or 6-5. Matt stuck it out all of those years with few appearances in games. He helped all of the "greats" in practices and wasn't a cry-baby. Eventually, he "earned" a Natonal Championship ring.

Mark Wooden 3 years, 4 months ago

I don't know if I would agree as underrated but if KU would of had the early goers and recruting classes like the last few years, Kleinmann would of been the first Jeff Withey. No disrespect to Jeff b/c he has worked his ass off but if the Morris twins don't go pro he doesn't get many minutes if any.

Robert Brock 3 years, 4 months ago

Richard Scott - the dude was amazing at posting up bigger defenders in the low block, sealing them off, and scoring! Bigs at KU should be shown highlight reels of RS in action.

mikehawk 3 years, 4 months ago

Richard Scott is the first name I think of. Interestingly, he is the most thought about, mentioned, and highly regarded of the "the most underrated," There are a great many of us who fell in love with Richard's game and still appreciate what he could do around the basket. You had to see him play as the smallest big I've ever seen. Had he not won a national championship, Chris Piper may have been on this list. Travis Releford may be a future member of this group in years to come.

WiltdaStilt 3 years, 4 months ago

How about Brandon McAnderson...He was huge for '08 Orange Bowl team...Plus he was a hometown kid!

flyingfinn 3 years, 4 months ago

Totally agree...watched him in person when my son was at KU and he was a beast

Ross Cargo 3 years, 4 months ago

Agree with McAnderson. I'll give you another from the same team. McClinton. Wow that guy gave us consistent push and disruption. He too was a beast.

VaJay 3 years, 4 months ago

Ok, how about NOT Mario Kinsey! You've got to be kidding Andrew! You're other picks are great though, especially Mark Williams - he was a stud.

I'm going to go with Chris Piper. He did a lot of the dirty work in '88. I think the term "overlooked" applies to those like him, more so than some of the famous ones above.

Gary McCullough 3 years, 4 months ago

I agree with Pipe for most underrated. Look at the old film from the 87-88 season and you see him directing traffic, making sure everyone is in position, setting pics, and making sure Danny and Milt weren't getting hard fouls. He wasn't the most talented member of the team, but might be the smartest in terms of BB IQ.

Pbbut 3 years, 4 months ago

How about Tom Kivisto? As a senior, he led a bunch of juniors and sophomores to the NCAA Final Four in 1974. I believe he was the number six scorer on the team but we were going to be loaded the following year because everyone else was back. The 74-75 team was good, but lacked the chemistry that the Kivisto led team.
Others who come to mind, Delvin Williams, Pierre Russell, and Clint Johnson.

jaybate 3 years, 4 months ago

Steve Towle, linebacker, SMW, KU, Miami Dolphins

The one of us in my kiddy league football that made it all the way to the NFL.

Hit like a ton every step of the way.

Larger than life the way all linebackers should be.

And a sharp mind behind the testosterone and muscle.

Also took on air over some railroad tracks on a 750/4 Honda with a hottie on back and they both lived to tell the tale.

Hi ho Steve Towle!

jaybate 3 years, 4 months ago

jhox, thx 4 the JDoug Recall. He was a player! Would have been a great Self Baller, too!

jaybate 3 years, 4 months ago

Karl Salb, Steve Wilhelm, Doug Knop: most insanely good trio of weight men in college track ever. Salb also dominated in football.

Micky Baker 3 years, 4 months ago

No LT. Levin or Tony Sands? <<< played on teams that beat Oregon and Oregon State in back to back years in the late 1980s. Also set the then all time single game record in the NCAA's with 395 yard rushing against Mizzou on 52 carries or something like that. Dorian Brew? Drafted by the Miami Dolphins, two big ints against Oklahoma in Norman, one returned for a TD in a 38-17 Kansas win over then ranked 15th rated OU a week after beating number 2 rated Colorado in Boulder.

Eric Vann, 98 yard run against OU in 1996, from scrimmage. Eric Vann was also the star of the Aloha Bowl in 1995 vs. UCLA, which was only because of a 3 way tie for 2nd in the Big 8 in 1995.

I agree with Isaac Byrd. He played for the Titans for some time.

Mark Williams and June Henley on the 2007-08 team with Dorian Brew on the other corner from Talib, KU would have played for the NC and probably won it with one or two other players on KU's defense from the 1995 plus Dana Stubblefield.

Jon Cornish helped Kansas lead the Big 12 in rushing in 2006, or was it 2005?

As far as some of the basketball players, Mitt Newton and Kevin Pritchard as well as Bill Whittemore.

Andrew Holmes 3 years, 4 months ago

Looks like someone has been watching the 1995 KU Football Highlight Video. Talking about the OU game in '95 you have to add in Ashaundai Smith with that brillant diving catch on 3rd and 24 (Here's the link

Picking four guys I have to go: Sasha Kaun: He was the saving grace in the Davidson game. Kerry Meier: Dude was a stud and was the possession guy. Don't know how many 3rd down conversions he made but helped keep the D off the field. Gary Woodland: Slowly building a name for himself on the PGA tour though he has struggled this year. Mike Rivera: Not themost talented guy on the field, but seemed to make the plays when they counted and brought the toughness that the football team needed.

Jesse Johnson 3 years, 4 months ago

I disagree about Xavier Henry being overlooked just because of the UNI loss. The truth is he was only spectacular offensively up until conference play. He was completely useless throughout conference play and the tournament. He was very good before that though.

ku1otaku 3 years, 4 months ago

Really? 13 ppg and 4 rpg in conference play for a freshmen wing who played in the same starting line-up as Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich (meaning he was the 3rd option) is completely useless!?!? Come on, take the glasses off and give the guy the credit due. He was solid ALL year. His disappoint came in the tournament.

jaybate 3 years, 4 months ago


I was there for that team and it is without doubt the most underrated team in KU history since 1960.

What people always forget is it was a running team much of the time. Kivisto, Greenlee, and Morningstar 1.0 didn't pass the eye test even back then, but they ran every chance they got that season, Tom quit shooting at pg and dished to Roger and Dale, who were dead eyes from 20-24' and were good jumpers, too. Inside the team was strong, also. But by then, Ted's first real fast-paced team could not reverse the 10-year mind set of Ted being a plod ball coach and since they could not hang a banner they are largely forgotten, as maybe the two Cole/Sherron driven teams, and the two Morri driven teams may quickly become. Time and history are cruel, often unfair, and even more often unwise task masters. Ask the great shoe string All American: B.H. Born.

Jack Wilson 3 years, 4 months ago

Jeff Graves: He stepped in when Simeon was injured and was a main force in our run to the title game in 2003.

HawkTronic 3 years, 4 months ago

Vince Labosky. National Champion javelin guy in the late 80s. Won a national championship and isn't even in the KU HOF.

ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 4 months ago

Is GB trying to keep his answers under 140 characters?

Josh Galler 3 years, 4 months ago

mens basketball

Milt Newton Scooter Barry Mark Randall RIchard Scott TJ Whatley

Kyle Cornish 3 years, 4 months ago

I second the Steve Woodberry vote! That was totally what I was about to write.

Thomas Matlock 3 years, 4 months ago

I would have never put Xavier on the list. More effort was put into him than was ever gotten from him. He could have been a difference maker if he hadn't been so indifferent.

Jayhawk_TNT 3 years, 4 months ago

Defintiley "Taco" Jon Cornish, "Big" Pekka Markenen, Christian Moody

NebraskaJayhawk 3 years, 4 months ago

Others have already mentioned...but wow....Richard Scott, man. I've never seen anyone use their body like RS. That guy got more easy shots under the bucket than anyone in NCAA history...hands down. Too bad he couldn't hit free throws...we'd have another championship banner hanging.

temjay 3 years, 4 months ago

One game wonder ...... Clint Normore. Wouldn't have beaten Billy's Sooners without him.

mikehawk 3 years, 4 months ago

Clint Normore. The miracle of the Miracles. There will NEVER be another "one game wonder" (not underrated, not overrated, plain just not rated) like him in such a pressure packed situation with Danny on the bench with fouls. If you haven't watched that game in the last 5 years, and you are bored like I am waiting for basketball, go back and take a look. The short britches make it difficult to watch, but arguably, the most exciting first half, and game, in NCAA championship history.

Ross Cargo 3 years, 4 months ago

David Jaynes getting no love? Mike Norseth? I'll throw those names out there. Jaynes was fantastic.

TKELuke 3 years, 4 months ago

I hate to agree with Tom but Jim Bausch is my number one. How can we just turn our backs on one of the greatest athletes to ever attend KU. He should probably have a freaking statue at memorial stadium.

latigo 3 years, 4 months ago

I think of TJ Pugh. The guy did whatever was needed. Rebound. Score a bit. Take charges. The guy he was guarding always seemed to score below his average. Another was Jeff Carey. A good roll player who rarely made mistakes. If your regular big was in foul trouble you could put Carey in and not worry about him blowing things.

kranny 3 years, 4 months ago

Leroy Irvin-Started all 4 years for the Jayhawks, 4 time all pro in 11 seasons, 35 career INTs in the NFL, played in 2 pro bowls, was basically THE defense for KU in the late 80s. Played DB but hit like Butkus. I remember watching him against Mizzou. Had like 20 tackles.

jpm34ku 3 years, 4 months ago

Alonzo Jamison, Ryan Robertson, "Tough" Tony Sands, Kenny Gregory, Scooter Barry.

sassykansan 3 years, 4 months ago

Eric Chenowith? Seriously? I just threw up in my mouth a little. I would put Rex Walters, Richard Scott, Kenny Gregory, Ryan Robertson and Nick Bradford on the list. Also, I could come up with dozens but seriously don't think Eric Chenowith would still make my list.

Woody Cragg 3 years, 4 months ago

Christian Moody is probably the one that quickly comes to the forefront of my memory as being waaaaay overlooked by virtually everyone with eyesight, also so was Chris Piper of the 88" NC squad, but just not as much. Douglas was damn good too, & thanks for stirring up the old names for us old timers.

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