The year was a pretty big one for sports photography because it is the year in which we released Jayhawk Decade. By compiling my own work with the work of current staffers Mike Yoder, Richard Gwin, and former staffers Thad Allender, Scott McClurg and John Henry, along with commentary from sports editor Tom Keegan, we released the 144-page coffee table book, which showcases our best KU basketball images from the Bill Self era, on the day of Late Night. Here's a link to another blog I did about the images from the spreads of the last home stand against Missouri in Allen Fieldhouse.
First things first, football. If you're a KU football fan and are just tuning in for the first time this year and you haven't caught a lick of Matt Tait's coverage, just look at this first image of Charlie Weis being doused in the glory of Gatorade and know that the Jayhawks won all their games and crushed former conference foe Missouri 200-0 for the school's first-ever BCS national title.
Move along now. Nothing more to see here.
For the rest of you who have followed along all season I won't rub your noses in the past, but I will say that a team that shows little to no ability to complete a pass is not any more fun to cover than it is to watch. The team showed improvement compared to the season before and it was fun to see them finally snap their conference loss streak of 27 games by beating West Virginia.
On just about every team I cover, high school or college, I can quickly identify my go-to guys or girls that can't help but wear the emotion of the moment. On this year's team, I looked no further than big #98, Keon Stowers, who had me at hello.
From the moment he yanked off his helmet after catching an interception against South Dakota (the first game), I knew he was my man.
Most sports photographers would agree that baseball is the most challenging to shoot. I second this idea for the simple reason that it's difficult to get into a rhythm when so little can happen for so long and then CRACK, a guy hits a walk-off home run while you've been lulled to sleep.
Covering baseball this year, however, proved to me the importance of staying awake long enough for the unpredictable moments like a squirrel running across the field during a KU/Wichita State baseball game at Hoglund Ballpark.
I'm not usually crazy about static images of athletes staring off into space unless they have blood or dirt on their faces, however, there always seemed to be something striking about Dixon's gaze in this image and thus, I'm including it.
The KU basketball team said goodbye to several seniors in Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey but also one-and-done freshman, Ben McLemore.
I've always liked the image of McLemore leaving a press conference with family members after his announcement that he would enter the draft. I've shot this sort of deal more than once. It always feels like you're watching a young man realize that this is the moment when he not only commits to real-world responsibility but also bids farewell to youth. In McLemore's case, and Xavier Henry's too, I walked away with the impression that this reality had not fully set in until they were sitting behind microphones at a table and all the lights, cameras and attention were on them.
From everything I've read, Ben McLemore has turned quite a bit of heads with his play during his rookie campaign. Likewise, the Jayhawks bounced right back by signing another likely one-and-done in Andrew Wiggins, who helped pull the Jayhawks past the Duke Blue Devils with an big, early-season win in Chicago.
One of the weirdest environments (but cool, not complaining) I've ever shot a game was Imperial Arena in Paradise Island, Bahamas during the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. It's basically a big ballroom (think of your senior prom) converted into a basketball venue. The ceiling looks to be only about 20-feet high and when the action stops, red, blue and green spot lights start swooping around the players creating this dance-party-like atmosphere.
Now, if I'm going to anoint Keon Stowers as my photo-friendly poster child for football, the award on the basketball side goes to……………drumroll……….Frank Mason. Big things are expected from Wiggins and other freshmen Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden, but of all the newcomers, I like Mason's intensity, hustle and a playing style that strikingly resembles former point guard Sherron Collins, who may be my all-time favorite, if I've never mentioned that before.
Cheers to all and to all have a wonderful 2014!