My MVP for the Jayhawks in Rome? Believe it or not, it's Brian Hanni
There have been a ton of thunderous dunks from Udoka Azubuike, several sweet jumpers from Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman and Svi Mykhailiuk and the surprisingly solid play from true freshman Marcus Garrett.
But the moment of the Kansas basketball team’s trip to Italy thus far might have come Thursday night after the Jayhawks’ 92-61 victory over Players Group. And it was not even delivered by a KU player.
One of the unexpected and more pleasant bonuses of traveling over here to cover KU’s four-game exhibition tour of Italy — other than the obvious fact of merely coming to Italy in and of itself — has been my seat for the first two games.
Situated at a makeshift table and seated in a plastic lawn chair — both objects were absolute dreams considering the set up when I first walked into the gym on Wednesday — I have posted up about five feet from second-year voice of the Jayhawks Brian Hanni, who has been calling the games both on radio back home and for the FloHoops.com live stream of KU’s games.
I’ve known and liked Hanni for a long time and it’s so cool to see someone enjoy and appreciate their job and do it with such passion the way he does and always has.
But what he did Thursday night was a new high, at least in my eyes, and it went a long way toward bringing B-Hanni a little more street cred than he might’ve already had.
First, let me set the scene for you.
Riding back to the team hotel on one of the four KU buses, Hanni plopped down toward the back and began the process of detoxing from his latest call.
While that might sound dramatic, it’s not. Hanni puts a ton of work and effort and energy into each broadcast — a feat that was magnified significantly by having to do these games from across the Atlantic — and taking a few minutes to just breathe and relax and get away from the game can be both beneficial and necessary.
From my observations, Hanni’s chosen method of detox, at least on a team bus setting, is Twitter, as he scrolls through dozens of messages, some about the game, some about him, some about the outside world, while sliding into postgame mode.
On this particular night, though, the meditation after the madness was made at least a little more difficult by an impromptu rap battle unfolding in the final couple of rows of the bus behind Hanni between some of the teenage children of KU staff members.
After scrolling and listening, reading and somehow not reacting for a good 20-25 minutes, the bus was approaching the hotel and Hanni decided to act.
Leaning across the aisle, seemingly just to say hey, Hanni went into full Emimen mode from 8 Mile and began to do something that nobody saw coming.
Kicked back in his seat, spitting rhymes over his shoulder, Hanni unleashed a couple of lyrics that ended the battle and delivered a new king of the back of the bus.
I don’t have the recording — rumor has it Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine are trying to get their hands on it — but this, to the best of my recollection, was the freestyle rhyme that Hanni hit them with.
“Hey, man, your game is kinda lame and your rhymes are kinda weak... A record deal for you? That’s lookin’ pretty bleak.”
There was more. And I wish I would've known it was coming in time to record it. But that was the hook and the line that allowed Hanni to drop the mic.
Immediately, the back of the bus exploded. Even the young rappers who were the target of Hanni’s unexpected moment absolutely loved it.
As they did, the entire first 15 rows of the bus turned around and tried to find out what had just happened. The Italian tour guide who was sitting in the front of the bus facing back even thought something was wrong and asked if the bus had hit a tree.
But it was her that was wrong and Hanni who was oh so right.
Don’t expect to hear him drop any lyrics during his upcoming KU broadcasts. But while you’re listening, just know that he can.