The 11th month on the calendar always packs powerful potential for sports entertainment on the University of Kansas campus because it’s when the fall and winter seasons overlap.
Even by November standards, a stretch of slightly less than 24 hours starting Friday night and ending Saturday featured KU athletes reaching amazing heights.
We don’t have enough space to mention all the athletes who generated thrills in a span of 23 hours and 17 minutes, starting with the basketball team’s tipoff against Siena, continuing with the volleyball players hoisting a Big 12 title trophy, and concluding with the Jayhawks defeating Texas on a football field for the first time since 1938, the year ballpoint pens and toothbrushes with Nylon bristles (replacing hair from a hog’s neck) hit the market.
So let’s just pick one jersey number out of the air to show that even limiting it to the accomplishments of athletes wearing an identical number, it was an action-packed weekend for local sports fans. Since we’re in the 11th month, we’ll pick No. 11. Call it The 11 Experience.
In chronological order, a sampling of thrills supplied by Jayhawks wearing jersey No. 11:
Josh Jackson, basketball: His quick jumping ability enhances his ability as a scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker, but it’s when Jackson is on his feet that he does his best work, specifically making passes and stealing them.
With terrific passers of the football in the crowd — Alex Smith of the Chiefs, human KU record book Todd Reesing and recruiting target No. 1 Peyton Bender — Jackson showed extraordinary vision in setting up teammates for buckets early in Friday’s 86-65 victory against Siena in Allen Fieldhouse.
Foul trouble limited Jackson to 21 minutes, time enough for him to produce 11 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and a steal punctuated by a dunk.
Neil Armstrong famously summed up the signature moment of the Apollo 11 mission with the words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Jackson’s blocked shot came on one giant leap for man.
Ainise Havili, volleyball: Even though the KU volleyball squad took a one-game lead in the standings with two games remaining into its match against always-tough Iowa State, its shot at its first Big 12 title still was very much in the air. Here’s why: All-American Kelsie Payne did not play Saturday because of a sprained ankle and the Jayhawks’ final match is this coming Saturday at third-place Baylor, which has an 11-2 home record.
With Payne not available, it was imperative that fellow All-American setter Havili to make all the right calls on where to steer the offense to compensate for the loss of one of the nation’s best attackers. Havili answered the call with an all-around performance that even by her lofty standards was exceptional. She led the team on both sides of the net with 50 assists and 20 digs, an in the process brining out the best in fresh in freshman Jada Burse (16 kills) and junior classmate Madison Rigdon (15 kills).
Havili’s a volleyball genius.
Steven Sims, football: He made two of the biggest plays in the game, one of which pulled Kansas within a field goal, the other of which allowed the Jayhawks to maintain possession to make Matthew Wyman’s overtime-forcing field goal possible.
After Khalil Herbert ran it in from the 1 for a touchdown with 2:48 left in the fourth quarter, Beaty relied on his Texas high school football connections, dialing up a play he stole from a recruiting trip to land current TCU quarterback Kenny Hill for Texas A&M.;
Beaty saw Southlake (Texas) Carroll High run the play in overtime against Tulsa Union High.
“I was like, ‘Man, I’m stealing that.’ ”
The play had Sims, a wide receiver, running a reverse with the option of throwing or running.
“My mindset was to run the ball the whole time because I felt like I was going to make a bad throw and I didn’t want to make a bad throw,” a smiling Sims said afterward. “I trust my feet more than I do my arm, so I just ran.”
And scored two points.
Then on the final play from scrimmage of regulation, Sims ripped the ball out of the hands of Texas defensive back Kris Boyd to enable Kansas to kick the game-tying field goal.
Sims also caught seven passes for 79 yards.
Mike Lee, football: The freshman safety known for putting his body in harm’s way to make punishing hits, put himself in the way of a Shane Buechele pass for an interception that led to Wyman’s game-winning field goal. Lee returned it 35 yards, looking for a second as if he was going to take it all the way to end the game.
The steadily improving Lee also made 11 solo tackles and broke up a pass during his huge day.
Jackson, Havili, Sims and Lee combined to make The 11 Experience an amazing one for fans of KU sports.