Their 9-0 start has brought plenty of joy to Kansas basketball fans at Allen Fieldhouse so far this season, but on Wednesday morning the KU women’s basketball team was handing out smiles in a new setting.
Roughly twelve hours after the men’s team left Walmart following its annual holiday shopping outing, the Kansas women’s basketball team made its annual trek to Lawrence Memorial Hospital on Wednesday morning to visit patients, hand out gear and spread some holiday cheer.
According to KU Assistant Athletic Director for Trademark Licensing, Paul Vander Tuig, who started the hospital visit tradition 27 years ago, roughly 85-90 companies donated items for the Jayhawks to give away to patients this year.
The Kansas players and coaching staff split into groups to tackle as many floors and wings as possible, giving away four full carts of KU clothing, posters, ornaments and other memorabilia to LMH patients.
“It’s the holidays and it’s just a really great time of the year,” freshman guard Chandler Prater said between visits on Wednesday. “I love kids so I was happy to stay in the baby station all day, but it’s just really awesome to see the mothers and their babies and put some smiles on peoples’ faces.”
KU coach Brandon Schneider, who has been a part of the tradition for the past five years, said Wednesday that his teams always have looked forward to these types of holiday outings.
“None of us like hospitals,” Schneider said. “But our players do a terrific job with this every year. To be able to bring some joy and light to those who are ill or injured I think helps our players understand the importance of servanthood and giving back and is really valuable.”
KU’s women’s team, which is off to a 9-0 start, received one vote in this week’s AP Top 25 poll, marking the first time this season that the Jayhawks had factored into the voting.
Schneider’s squad will travel to St. Louis for a 1 p.m. clash on Sunday before returning home to close out non-conference play on Dec. 30 against Wofford at Allen Fieldhouse.
The lights came on around Thanksgiving (if not sooner) and will stay up for another couple of weeks, but after the usual build-up and anticipation, Christmas has come and gone.
Just like that, weeks worth of picking, purchasing and wrapping presents is now a thing of the past – at least for another 300-plus days.
I hope those of you who celebrate the holiday had a wonderful day with friends, family and loved ones and that, sprinkled in there among the gifts, goodies and overeating, you had an opportunity to remember the true meaning of Christmas.
My moment came in the form of a gift from my aunt, who, in honor of my late uncle (who passed away one year ago) paid off the layaway bill for several families in the Denver area. She then wrote a letter to each of us in the family and explained that the families had been taken care of in our honor and through my uncle's inspiration. He once did that for her gift, years ago, and she always said it was one of her favorites.
I now know why.
Anyway, in keeping with the theme of great gifts, here's a quick look back at the top 10 moments given to Jayhawk fans during 2013.
Enjoy! And, once again, Happy Holidays!
1. Women's track and field brings home a national championship — There are tons of good things on this list and most of them drew a lot more attention than this, but it'll be hard to argue with putting this No. 1 because hanging banners is what it's all about. The women's track team, which was loaded with talented athletes and wonderful people, dominated in Oregon last spring and brought home a trophy that inspired a billboard on I-70. Big-time stuff.
2. Andrew Wiggins picks Kansas — Recruiting is no joke around these parts and the day of Wiggins' announcement was full of the usual bag of mixed emotions. Many feared he would pick Florida State, North Carolina or Kentucky. Others were certain he was Kansas-bound. When the time came for Wiggins' announcement, he told a gym full of supporters in Huntington, W.Va., that he would play his one season of college hoops in Kansas. It's been a Beatles-esque run of Wiggins-mania since then and the 6-foot-8, 200-pound Canadian forward currently leads the Jayhawks in scoring at 15.5 points per game. Wiggins was merely the headliner of a class that included Joel Embiid, Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp and Frank Mason. It also should be pointed out that the recruiting crazies went nuts again in November, when top-five big man Cliff Alexander picked Kansas.
3. Make it 9 straight Big 12 titles for Bill Self — The unprecedented streak of consecutive Big 12 regular season titles continued in 2013, as Self's Jayhawks held off serious charges from Oklahoma State and Kansas State to win it again. Just in case anyone disputed whether the Jayhawks were really the champs, KU went ahead and won the Big 12 conference tournament title, too, dispatching K-State for the third time in the semifinals to put the icing on the cake.
4. KU football snaps conference losing streak — After 27 consecutive losses in Big 12 play, a streak that dated back to the 2010 season, the KU football team finally broke through with a dominating, 31-19 victory over West Virginia at Memorial Stadium in November. The victory set off a wild celebration on the field between the players and the fans in the stands and, as is customary with big wins, the students ripped down the goal posts and sent them swimming in Potter Lake.
5. KU volleyball makes 1st ever Sweet 16 — Inpsired by the disappointment of getting so close and coming up short last season, a senior-heavy KU volleyball team finished second in the Big 12 Conference for the first time ever and followed that up by winning first- and second-round matches at Allen Fieldhouse to advance to the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles. Although the run ended there, this team, which featured All-American Caroline Jarmoc, Big 12 setter of the year Erin McNorton and Big 12 coach of the year Ray Bechard (who won the honor for the second year in a row), will likely be remembered for a long, long time over at Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
6. Sweet 16 times 2 for KU hoops — For the second year in a row, the Kansas basketball programs each reached the Sweet 16, with the men falling to Michigan in a heartbreaker and the women getting back to the Sweet 16 for a second time after being one of the last at-large teams put into the tourney field.
7. Another No. 1 seed for the KU men — Despite their shocking loss to Michigan, the men achieved a heck of an accomplishment at the Big Dance's outset when they earned a No. 1 seed for the 11th time in school history and the fifth time in 10 seasons under Bill Self.
8. Tier-3 TV deal puts KU in more homes — Although it produced some anger locally, KU's partnerships with Time Warner Cable and ESPN3 brought to homes across the country 70 live KU events, more than 600 hours of shoulder programming and several pre- and post-game shows highlight KU sports. “This is the backbone of providing Jayhawk fans with access to all of our sports in a way that they've never experienced before,” athletic director Sheahon Zenger said of the deal.
9. KU football lands more transfers — In May it was Nick Harwell, the all-time leading receiver in Miami (Ohio) history who said yes to KU coach Charlie Weis. And just last week it was Florida tight end Kent Taylor. Weis' experience and coaching pedigree continue to attract big-time talent and, although the ones who have made their way to Lawrence thus far have not been stars, it might just be a matter of time before a few of them pan out.
10. Professional Jayhawks continue to make noise — Whether it's Gary Woodland on the PGA Tour, Chris Harris with the Denver Broncos or a record number of former KU basketball players in the NBA, 2013 was a good year for Jayhawks on the professional map. Woodland won a tournament title again, Harris is a key part of a defense on a team with the best record in the NFL and others like Ben McLemore (Sacramento Kings), Aqib Talib (New England Patriots), Darrell Stuckey (San Diego Chargers), Xavier Henry (Los Angeles Lakers) and many, many more are doing their part to represent their school well at the highest levels.