Monday, January 27, 2020

Notebook: Christian Braun honors Kobe Bryant during first career start at OSU

Oklahoma State guard Chris Harris Jr., right, takes a shot over Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. Kansas defeated Oklahoma State 65-50. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

Oklahoma State guard Chris Harris Jr., right, takes a shot over Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. Kansas defeated Oklahoma State 65-50. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)


Stillwater, Okla. — In his first start as a member of the Kansas men’s basketball program, KU freshman Christian Braun brought a little extra help to the court with him on Monday night.

Wearing his usual white Adidas high tops, with three blue stripes, Braun used a black Sharpie to write the words, “RIP Gigi #2, 1-26-20” on the outside heel of his left sneaker. On the other shoe, Braun wrote, "Mamba Mentality."

The writing was a memorial of sorts for NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, who died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday afternoon.

Several KU players, including Braun, jumped on Twitter on Sunday shortly after the news broke to express their sadness over the death of Bryant, a player whom so many young basketball players spent their childhood idolizing.

Shortly before Monday’s game, in which third-ranked Kansas defeated Oklahoma State, 65-50, the public address announcer recognized the legendary Los Angeles Laker and “Gigi,” along with junior college baseball coach John Altobelli, who also died in Sunday’s crash along with six others.

“We would like to send our thoughts and prayers to the families of Kobe Bryant and John Altobelli,” the PA announcer said as photos of all three people filled the video board above center court. “... We realize the impact an event like this will have on so many.”

Tributes ran deep at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Monday night.

In addition to tipoff coming just 30 hours after Bryant’s passing, Monday marked the 19th anniversary of the tragic Oklahoma State plane crash in Colorado that killed 10 members of the OSU basketball program in 2001.

One by one, “The 10,” as they’re affectionately known around here, were named and recognized before a moment of silence was requested for all of the departed.

Former KU walk-on Garrett Luinstra’s father, Brian Luinstra, who served as a team trainer for the Cowboys in 2001, was one of those honored.

In addition to the pregame tributes, the KU-OSU game was moved off ESPN and onto ESPN2 so ESPN could re-air the final game of Bryant’s career during which he scored 60 points with former Jayhawk Tarik Black on the Lakers bench and former Jayhawk Jeff Withey playing for the Utah Jazz against him.

“The Kobe news, I think, shook everybody,” KU coach Bill Self said Monday in a pregame interview with radio voice of the Jayhawks, Brian Hanni. “It shook people that didn’t know him. … Our players loved thinking of Kobe as their Michael (Jordan).

“There’s no other sport, maybe soccer worldwide, that you can have somebody that can impact a community or a nation or the world in a way a basketball player can. It’s played worldwide, you play without helmets on, you play enough games where fans can get to know you, individuals are marketed instead of teams. And certainly he was at the height of this generation as far as being admired and looked up to. And deservedly so.”

Asked after the game if he thought it was tough for his players to focus on Monday's game given the death of the basketball icon, Self paid his own compliment to Bryant's fierce mentality and the competitive nature for which he was known.

"I think if you really respected Kobe, and what he stood for, you know you're supposed to play and play a certain way," Self said. "So I didn't see it as a negative for our guys."

Jayhawks still 3rd in polls

The top seven spots in the Associated Press Top 25 men’s basketball poll remained unchanged this week, with Baylor, Gonzaga and Kansas rounding out the top three and receiving all of the first-place votes.

Kansas also was ranked third in the USA Today coaches poll, which also had Baylor first and Gonzaga second.

The gap between the Bears and Zags actually increased this week. A week ago, Baylor received 33 first-place votes to Gonzaga’s 31. Baylor, which last week became the seventh different team to climb to the No. 1 spot in the AP poll this season, stayed on top and received 44 of the 64 first-place votes.

Gonzaga, which Baylor jumped a week ago despite the Zags not losing, stayed strong in the No. 2 spot and received 19 first-place votes. And Kansas remained in the bronze medal slot, picking up the lone remaining first-place vote after knocking off Kansas State and Tennessee at home last week.

KU now has been ranked in 213 consecutive AP Top 25 polls, bringing the Jayhawks closer to eclipsing UCLA’s all-time record of 221 consecutive weeks in the AP Top 25.

Azubuike honored

After another big-time week in which he used his size and skill around the rim to lead the Jayhawks to a pair of victories, KU center Udoka Azubuike on Monday was named the Big 12 Player of the Week.

Azubuike posted back-to-back double-doubles in wins over Kansas State and Tennessee and averaged 14 points, 12.5 rebounds and four blocks per game last week for the third-ranked Jayhawks.

Azubuike entered Monday’s game at Oklahoma State leading the nation in field goal percentage at 78.1% and leading the Big 12 in rebounds per game at 9.6. He also ranks second in the league in blocks per game (2.5) and double-doubles (8).

The honor was the first Big 12 Player of the Week nod in Azubuike’s Kansas career and the fourth weekly honor received by a KU player this season.

This and that...

KU now leads the all-time series with Oklahoma State, 117-59... Kansas leads 38-35 in games played in Stillwater and 36-35 in games played at Gallagher-Iba Arena... Self is now 6-7 against his alma mater at Gallagher-Iba Arena and 21-13 against Oklahoma State overall, including a 20-10 mark while at Kansas... KU’s win made the Jayhawks 6-1 or better in the Big 12 Conference for the 14th time in the Self era... KU now has won five in a row on the road and is 5-1 in true road games this season... KU is 9-2 this season in games played away from Allen Fieldhouse... Legendary OSU coach Eddie Sutton was in attendance at Monday’s game. While being introduced to the home crowd during a first-half timeout, KU assistant coach Jerrance Howard stood facing Sutton and applauded throughout the timeout.


Brian Wilson 1 year, 1 month ago

Braun looked awesome and it will be hard to put him back on the bench. IMO, KU maybe finding its lineup....Dot, Ag, Moss, Braun, and Az with Garrett, Enaruna and Mac coming off the bench.

Tim Marshall 1 year, 1 month ago

Swap Garrett and Moss and I think you're on to something here.

Creg Bohrer 1 year, 1 month ago

Yeah I don't know why some people don't like Garrett's game. You take him out of the starting line up I bet we've lost at least 3 maybe 4 more games. He's the heart and soul of this team.

Robin Smith 1 year, 1 month ago

Yeah, he's the best player on the team, and that's said knowing full well that we have the best PG and best C in the nation.

Dale Stringer 1 year ago

I don't think he is the best player. He is the most important/vital player most nights.

Bryce Landon 1 year, 1 month ago

Braun sure had a Mamba Mentality tonight, that's for sure!

Daniel Cummings 1 year, 1 month ago

First off, let me state, I love Devin Dotson. His vision, speed and toughness are fantastic but in truth, we were a better team last night with Marcus at the point and Devin watching from a seat on the bench.

Mike Greer 1 year, 1 month ago

With Silvio essentially out for the season and the lack of success of the two bigs lineup, I'd be surprised if Coach doesn't change to a four and one starting lineup for future games. It's obvious he needs Mac to relieve Dok, there is no other big option. It certainly appears Braun has earned a position as a starter. Moss is a 3 pt. threat from the bench, but is still a bit late on defense. More upside, imo, to starting Braun.

Barry Weiss 1 year, 1 month ago

I would go with Devon, Marcus, Ochai, Braun and Dok as the starters. Braun even led in rebounds last night. That kid really hustles!

Robert Brock 1 year, 1 month ago

Garrett is a terrific defender and ball-handler. Gotta play him.

Jim Chastain 1 year, 1 month ago

I agree with a lot of what has been said here about Braun. I love his game and think he will be a memorable Jayhawk for years to come if he continues along this trajectory. The thing I'd want everyone to notice, though, is how much better we are defensively with Garrett and Braun in the lineup. Braun can get blow byes when he's trying to defend a much quicker guard but he is one of those guys who is always in the right position. That's why he gets rebounds and steals -- just like Garrett. This team (overall) is so much better than recent teams on the defensive end of the floor and it has a lot to do with those two guys.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 1 month ago

Was that the same Cowboy team that was down by two with 20 seconds to play against Baylor.

Dale Stringer 1 year ago

If we break it down to quarters (which I am against), then YES, that was the Oklahoma State team that barely lost to Baylor that played in the second quarter.

Robert Robinson 1 year, 1 month ago

I've got high hopes for Braun. This year and years to come. The dude can shoot!

Mike Greer 1 year, 1 month ago

Dane, you took the comment right out of my head. The cowboys have not won a conference game, yet they beat A&M soundly, and many of their conference games have been close. They are not as bad as this game and their record looks.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.