Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Current Jayhawks staying put


Keith Langford says he'll finish his college basketball career where he started it -- at Kansas University.

"I mean I owe it to the sophomores -- 'The Five,'" said Langford, a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard from Fort Worth, Texas, who Monday had said he might follow the lead of KU coach Roy Williams and leave Mt. Oread in the wake of Williams' decision to take over as coach at North Carolina.

Cooler heads prevailed Tuesday and it now appears all five members of Langford's incoming class -- Langford, Aaron Miles, Wayne Simien, Michael Lee and Jeff Hawkins -- all will remain Jayhawks. Nobody on the roster, it seems, plans to transfer, so all players but seniors Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich will be back to play for a new coach next season.

"It's the first thing we all agreed on," said sophomore power forward Simien, who was one of the leaders at a team meeting held after Williams' emotional farewell to the squad Monday afternoon.

"We talked after coach left that we're all staying," Simien added. "A lot of us got on the horn and talked to some of the recruits, some of the incoming guys like Omar (Wilkes) and David (Padgett). We're not trying to put any pressure on those guys, just hope they make the best decision for themselves. We're still going to be a good team regardless. Hopefully those guys will come in and be part of what we're trying to accomplish."

At least two of the four recruits, who need to receive what is called a "mutual release" from letters of intent to be declared immediately eligible at another school, are likely to wait until the new coach is hired before they'd decide whether to bail on KU.

Jeremy Case, 6-1 of McAlester, Okla., said Monday he'd be coming to KU. J.R. Giddens, 6-4 of Oklahoma City, also will be here.

"J.R. respects Roy's decision and is fine with Kansas. He's happy. He's coming," Giddens' mom, Dianna, said.

Back to the current players, the Jayhawks, who finished national runners-up a week ago Monday night in New Orleans, voted unanimously to cancel the parade which was set for Thursday. The team awards ceremony will be held as scheduled at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lied Center.

"We don't want to be in a parade float pouting," Simien said. "Parades are supposed to be fun."

Who should replace Roy Williams as KU men's basketball coach?
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KU coach Williams will be at Thursday's banquet and awards presentation.

Langford said he's welcome.

"Most definitely," he said. "He's a part of celebrating the team. Coach Williams is part of the team. He brought the team together. He's part of the team as much as anybody. The banquet is celebrating the 13 guys and coach Williams."

Simien paused about a second before answering whether Williams should attend the banquet.

"Uh, yeah," Simien said. "It's going to be real awkward to say the least. I'm not real sure if we're going to all be over it. I'm sure time is the greatest healer. In time players will say it's the right thing (Williams leaving). Right now emotions are still running high for players, fans. It's definitely going to be awkward at the banquet."

Simien was asked Tuesday if he regretted Monday's angry statement in which he said he "literally gave my right arm for that man."

"They kind of gassed it up more than what it was," Simien said of the media perhaps exaggerating the depth of his anger. "I don't remember crying and I don't remember storming out of Allen Fieldhouse, anything like that. It's just something I felt like saying. Maybe it was in the heat of anger a bit, but it's what I really felt."

Simien said the bottom line is it's tough to reconcile the fact Williams said he declined an offer from North Carolina three years ago because of love for his players, this time abandoning his players.

"It's hard to swallow. It's hard to see what's different," Simien said. "Keith, Aaron and myself and other guys don't want to think about that, but it enters your mind."

Simien also was bothered seeing Williams coaching up his new players at his introductory news conference shown on TV in Lawrence Monday night. Williams at times looked from the podium to his new Carolina players indicating how hard he'd work for them and they in turn, for him.

"Seeing him first with his new team, his new guys just a couple hours after crying in the locker room with us, that was tough," Simien said.

Simien said the players were happy to have met with interim AD Drue Jennings on Tuesday. The Jayhawks want a say in their new coach.

"Obviously I would like someone who has KU ties," Simien said. "I don't want to see too many changes but right now the players are real concerned with the fact we're hurt, voicing our opinions, making sure we have some say in who is coming in, not having the athletic director make the decision for us."

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