Darnell Jackson has relished every minute spent on the basketball court the past several weeks.
"It's where I take my stress out," said Jackson, Kansas University's sophomore power forward.
He has been stressed and saddened since May 29, when his mother, Shawn and grandmother, Evon, suffered serious injuries in a car wreck while visiting relatives in Las Vegas. Evon died June 7 at the age of 62 from injuries sustained in the wreck. Shawn suffered broken arms and a broken leg.
"It's been hard, real tough," said Jackson, who attended the funeral of his grandmother Saturday in his hometown of Oklahoma City.
"It's been tough flying to Vegas, going to school, worrying about my mom and grandmom," he said.
Jackson has made three trips from Lawrence to Nevada since the crash. Last weekend, his mom was proclaimed fit enough to be moved to Oklahoma City, where she'll begin rehab that Jackson said should have her back at work in the communications field in a year.
"My mom is doing fine now. She's going to be OK," Jackson said.
He misses his grandmother greatly.
"Every time my mom and grandmom talked to coach (Bill) Self, my grandma used to say, 'Boomer Sooner,'" Jackson said. "I'm going to miss that a lot.
"I miss her just talking to me, smelling the cigarettes and Pepsi on her breath, cause my grandmom used to smoke. I'm going to miss that a lot."
Jackson, who has his grandmom's name tattooed on his left arm, will miss her encouragement.
"I will dedicate next season to my grandmom. She will not be there to cheer me on," Jackson said.
Jackson said heart-to-heart talks with KU coach Bill Self, assistant Tim Jankovich and director of basketball operations Danny Manning had helped his recovery. Self and Jankovich were in Oklahoma City for the funeral.
"All the coaches have helped me a lot," he said. "There were more than 100 people at the funeral. It touched me a lot, the people that came and supported my family."
One KU teammate attended the funeral: J.R. Giddens, who is recovering from a stab wound in his right calf sustained in a May 19 melee outside Lawrence's Moon Bar.
"J.R. is doing well. I talked to him after the funeral," Jackson said. "His spirits are high. He's working on therapy getting his leg right. He's walking (without crutches)."
Jackson is looking forward to Giddens' return to the team, though Self has yet to make any final decision about the junior's future as a Jayhawk.
"I'm just waiting for him to come back. He was our energy guy at practice," Jackson said. "I miss him a lot. I can't wait for him to get back in action."
As far as Jackson's improvement ... "it's coming; it's coming," the 6-foot-8, 240-pounder said. "I want to start for coach Self next year - help coach win games."
Of the KU team, Jackson quipped: "We're gonna be young and dumb ... but we're gonna be real good."
It's official: KU sophomore C.J. Giles on Monday formally was invited to USA Basketball's Under 21 national team trials July 21-23 in Dallas. Trials will be used to select the 12-member Under 21 team that will compete in the FIBA world championships Aug. 5-14 in Australia. In all, 21 players were invited, including Oklahoma State's JamesOn Curry and Oklahoma's Taj Gray.
Miles workout: Former KU point guard Aaron Miles worked out Monday for the Atlanta Hawks. It was his 13th workout for NBA teams in preparation for the draft, set for a week from today. He'll work out Wednesday in Minnesota and Friday in Dallas.
KU visitors: Two juniors from Columbia High in Decatur, Ga., last weekend made unofficial visits to KU's campus. They are: Lance Storrs, a 6-5 guard, and Jeremy Price, a 6-9 forward.
"Lance and Jeremy were very impressed with the Kansas program," Storrs' stepdad, Harold Thompson, told rivals.com. The two are being recruited by several SEC and ACC schools at this time.