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Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Keegan

Keegan: Moody still gets the chills

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He remembers the first night he played a basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse the way he'll remember it for the rest of his life, which is to say every detail, right down to the stitches.

"The part that stands out for me is sitting at my chair and looking at the home jersey, just like in disbelief that I was a part of this historic program and getting a chance to put on this jersey," Kansas University senior Christian Moody said. "I was rubbing my fingers over the part that spelled out 'KANSAS', and the threading. When I put it on, it was, I'm not kidding, the softest material I'd ever felt. I think it was some kind of new dry material that Nike put out. It felt pretty cool putting that on."

They all say it's special, because it is. Not everyone says it as well as Moody, a two-time academic All-Big 12 Conference pick.

"It was like a mystical feeling, because part of what makes that lettering so special is the past players that have played here and the past coaches that have won here," he said. "I had images of the retired jerseys going through my head and the championship banners, the Final Four banners."

What else were you thinking about as you ran your fingers over the letters, Christian?

"About Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, Raef LaFrentz, Nick Collison," he said. "Wilt's behind-the-back pass to the guard running down the court. That's the type of stuff that goes through your head. You see the images of Danny cheering or Danny getting the and-one against Oklahoma or Danny doing an up-and-under move, or Nick throwing a back-door pass to Kirk (Hinrich). It's weird how those flashes just go through your mind when you're feeling how special it is to be standing in the gym or looking at your jersey with 'KANSAS' on the front."

Moody will run through the fieldhouse tunnel as a Jayhawk for the final time tonight, when he makes the 34th start of a career he figured would be all about watching and cheering back when he ran through the tunnel the first time.

"It was when we played EA Sports, and Brett Olson was in front of me," Moody said, noting it wasn't difficult to remember that because the players line up by height. "It feels like you could put up an imaginary wall and as soon as you pass that barrier, it's like a sound barrier almost, where all those people yelling just hits you at once, there's like a burst of energy that comes from the crowd and you're running, and as soon as you pass that barrier, you almost feel like you're floating. You're in a different world when it's you and your team running through that tunnel in front of incredible fans and you're running into that place that is full of all that tradition."

When does the wall vanish and the gust of sound slam you?

"It's right below that little scoreboard that's above the door," he said. "That's where it opens up and you start to see how big the fieldhouse is. As soon as you get to that point you feel like you could jump through the roof, the energy's so great."

He remembers the butterflies of the first layup line.

"A layup is a layup, but I tell you, I did not want to shoot a jumpshot during warmups," he said. "It would have been an airball."

Tournament thrills await. First-hand fieldhouse chills are gone forever for Moody after tonight.

"It seems like I've been here a long time," Moody said. "Just not long enough."

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