Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Column: Kansas-Florida thriller in Vegas riddled with NBA talent


— The last time Kansas University and Florida met in a basketball game, it was played in an arena inside a hotel-casino, the Orleans in Las Vegas.

I’ll never forget naively wondering why the man wearing a Jayhawk sweater was red in the face, on his feet, assailing the referee with an acidic tongue over a call in a game against Ball State that KU led by 18 points with less than a minute to play. What could it possibly matter to the man? The game long since had been decided. Relax.

Then it hit me like a nose-squashing Joe Frazier left hook. The man had placed a wager, no doubt not a small one because his never-empty pockets are oh-so-deep. Kansas was favored by 20.5 and defeated Ball State by 18 points. He returned to his hotel room unhappy that night about his wager and over how sloppy his school’s team looked in defeating a weak opponent in lackluster fashion. He didn’t need an airplane to fly home because the following night was more than any supporter of a young team could expect.

That’s the thing about young teams. When you least expect it, they fizzle, and just when you start to think they aren’t as good as you think, they put on an amazing show.

Kansas started a freshman, three sophomores and a junior for the games against Ball State and Florida in that two-day basketball doubleheader. Quite experienced compared to the squad Bill Self had start the second half of Saturday’s three-point loss at Colorado. That lineup had four freshman and a sophomore and could be the five to start both halves tonight.

Six-point underdogs against Florida one night after looking flat vs. Ball State, KU won, 82-80, in overtime.

KU was one year shy of winning the national title. Florida was the defending national champion on its way to a successful title defense.

No school had ever had three players chosen in the top 10 of the same NBA Draft. Florida became the first when center Al Horford went first, and forwards Corey Brewer (seventh) and Joakim Noah (ninth) quickly followed. Reserve forward Chris Richard and starting guard Taurean Green went in the second round.

KU’s Julian Wright went an unlucky 13th in that 2007 draft. Brandon Rush, the fifth lottery pick taken from that game, went 13th in 2008. Florida’s Marreese Speights went 16th, Darrell Arthur 27th. Mario Chalmers, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun were chosen in the second round.

It’s interesting to look back and see just how much talent was in that game against the Gators. Twelve players who played in that game went on to play in the NBA. KU center Kaun was drafted but opted to play in Russia, where he has greater earning power.

A look at the dozen who play or played in the NBA, ranked according to career points heading into Monday’s games:

  1. Al Horford (5,712); 2. Corey Brewer (3,965); 3. Joakim Noah (3,879); 4. Mario Chalmers (3,244); 5. Marreese Speights (2,755); 6. Brandon Rush (2,646); 7. Darrell Arthur (1,771); 8. Julian Wright (907); 9. Darnell Jackson (308); 10. Chris Richard (135); 11. Taurean Green (25); 12. Undrafted Sherron Collins (17).

Looks as if the NBA scouts in attendance that night did a pretty nice job of evaluating, although Chalmers was picked way too low, Wright way too high.

Some day it will be interesting to look back on last month’s United Center doubleheader to see how the scouts did in evaluating Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins of KU, Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood of Duke, Kentucky’s Julius Randle and several others from all four teams who kicked off an interesting college basketball season with the Champions Classic.


Asad Zoberi 5 years, 11 months ago

Not to nit pick the last conclucion paragraph talking about scouts evaluationg talent from the Champions classic has not much to do with the KU-FL game from 2007 nor the upcoming game IMO.

Ron Franklin 5 years, 11 months ago

Asad, I enjoy reading your posts, but it's a tad oxymoronic to criticize somebody's piece, while having a comment with multiple errors.

The article is about the NBA talent on the floor during the first Florida-Kansas game in 2007, and how LOOKING BACK on it it is amazing the talent that was there, and what has become of that talent. Tom ties it together by incorporating the talent pool that was on the United Center floor and how we might LOOK BACK on that in several years as we are now looking back on the amount of talent that was on the Orleans floor that night.

Alex Berger 5 years, 11 months ago

Not to nit-pick your nit-pick of his nit-pick, but was oxymoron the word you wanted? I don't think that word means what you think it means. Maybe irony?

Kye Clark 5 years, 11 months ago

Also nit-picking the details here, but the article makes it seem like Horford went first overall. He was the first player chosen from the pool of players in the game, but overall he was the 3rd pick.

Ron Franklin 5 years, 11 months ago

Agreed. After reading it, I thought Horford went #1 overall in 2007, but then I distinctly remembered it was another Bust chosen #1 that year, while #2 stole the show.

Phil Leister 5 years, 11 months ago

"Florida became the first when center Al Horford went first, and forwards Corey Brewer (seventh) and Joakim Noah (ninth) quickly followed."

This isn't nitpicking. This is just terrible writing. This sentence clearly implies that Al Horford was the first pick in the draft, simply because Keegan told us that Brewer was drafted 7th and Noah was drafted 9th. Why not tell us that Horford went 3rd, as he did?

Poor writing on Keegan's part.

Waylon Cook 5 years, 11 months ago

Why do I click on the Keegan articles? I know I am going to lose brain cells everytime.

5 years, 11 months ago

I was at this game and remember it well. Rock Chalk chant was echoing through the tunnel from the arena back to the casino. Great game!

Scott Newell 5 years, 11 months ago

Dear Tom, When you finish an article, just delete the last paragraph. It's always a random thought that doesn't fit with the rest of the column. Do this and you might win a Pulitzer next year!

Randall Uhrich 5 years, 11 months ago

What a convoluted train of thought. I never did figure out what he was talking about.

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