Sunday, March 1, 2015

Man of faith: Basketball, Bible study highlight senior walk-on Christian Garrett’s KU tenure

Christian Garrett, a walk-on senior for the Kansas University basketball team, raises his hand in worship during a bible study group with his mother, Cynthia Garrett, right, and his stepfather, Roger Charles, on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, in their Lawrence home.

Christian Garrett, a walk-on senior for the Kansas University basketball team, raises his hand in worship during a bible study group with his mother, Cynthia Garrett, right, and his stepfather, Roger Charles, on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, in their Lawrence home.


Christian Abraham Garrett sits in the spacious living room of his parents’ stately 6,813-square foot Alvamar home, eyes closed, left hand pointing skyward.

Next to the Kansas University basketball senior guard are his mom, Cynthia Garrett, and stepdad, Roger Charles, who, along with about 50 KU students — athletes and non-athletes alike — sing reverently with Christina Reynolds, worship leader at Kansas City, Missouri, International House of Prayer. She on this particular Thursday opens the Garrett family’s weekly worship service/Bible study striking sweet-sounding chords on a finely tuned grand piano.

“In the secret, in the quiet place

In the stillness you are there;

In the secret, in the quiet hour I wait

Only for You, ’cause I want to know you more.”

Family dog Levi, a tiny Pomeranian/Bijon mix, is as cordial as the human hosts, snuggling on the laps of strangers during the two-plus-hour service, which includes a prayer from Christian and on this night inspirational testimony from Cynthia.

“I am reaching for the highest goal

Then I might receive the prize.

Pressing onward, pushing every hindrance aside,

Out of my way, ’cause I want to know you more.”


Christian Garrett, a walk-on senior for the Kansas University basketball team, raises his hand in worship during a bible study group with his mother, Cynthia Garrett, right, and his stepfather, Roger Charles, on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, in their Lawrence home.

Some of the most memorable moments in Christian Garrett’s four years at KU have taken place in Allen Fieldhouse, where he will start his first college game — and play his last home game against West Virginia on Tuesday night — and in his parents’ abode, where the weekly Bible study has attracted more than 100 individuals on a given night.

The services, which often include longtime Lawrence pastor Leo Barbee, tend to start late, 9 p.m. or so — college students are night owls, you know — with students being known to remain for fellowship hours after Cynthia and Roger have gone to bed.

“We have all different types of people who believe different things. People just come,” said Christian Garrett, who started the group prayer service his freshman year with teammates Jeff Withey and Jordan Juenemann. Current KU players Landen Lucas and Perry Ellis are frequent visitors, along with others who might stop by.

“Everyone is at different stages of life, with different beliefs, but all are coming to seek God, seek the Lord. I will never, ever deny what Jesus has done in my life. It’s cool to see people encounter the same thing,” Christian said.

Cynthia Garrett, who has worked as an author, actress, talk-show host and creator of sitcoms in her native Los Angeles — she’s about to embark on a new talk-show project — and Roger Charles, an architect, visit with their student guests one-on-one and in group discussions.

“We have an open door. Sometimes kids have exams, so they come in and out,” Cynthia said.

All are welcome.

“They say you judge a life well-lived by the fruit of that life, and all of these kids are my fruit. I tell them to reproduce well because I get credit in heaven for all the fruit on their trees,” Cynthia said, smiling.

“I’m in love with all the boys. Through the years, so many have stayed close to us,” Cynthia added of the Jayhawk basketball players. “For instance, Tarik (Black, Los Angeles Lakers) does Bible study on Facetime with my husband every week. When he was in Houston (to open season with Rockets), he and Dwight Howard and a couple other guys would do Bible study with my husband every Thursday night.

“Another one of the kids (who had left KU) called me a year ago and said, ‘Mama Cyn, I trust you. I want to live my life for Jesus Christ, but I don’t know what that means, would you help me?’ That was like ... I cried,” she added.

Her favorite, naturally, is her own son, the former Florida IMG Academy guard who chose to walk on KU’s team on Jan. 23, 2011, over finalists North Carolina State, Alabama, Stanford and Harvard.

“He is awesome. I do think Perry (Ellis) may be close to perfect, though,” Cynthia said with a smile. “I’m proud of him (Christian). He’s a good kid and really strong young man. I didn’t live this way in college. I was much less focused and a lot less disciplined. I am impressed with his friends and the people he’s brought in our home the last four or five years.”

“I want to know you

I want to hear your voice

I want to know you more.

I want to touch you,

I want to see your face

I want to know you more.”

Cynthia and Roger have been supportive parents. They’ve attended almost all of KU’s basketball games the past four seasons.

That’s home AND away.

“My mom got sick one time, might have missed one game,” Christian Garrett said. “Or she might have had to go home (to California) and see family, something like that. They’ve pretty much been to every one. That’s something they felt they had to do, which is pretty cool.

“I think part of it is my mom really wasn’t there a lot to watch me play basketball growing up. She was really busy. I think this is kind of her enjoying that period most parents get to have with kids at a younger age.”

Cynthia simply loves the players — she and some other moms have cooked meals for the Jayhawks on occasion the past four years — and the games.


Kansas players Cliff Alexander, left, and Christian Garrett celebrate during a timeout after a Jayhawk run against Washburn during the second half on Monday, Nov. 3, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

“Christian and KU basketball have provided me with the most enjoyment I’ve ever had in my life, and that says a lot because I’ve done a lot of things, walked a lot of red carpets. This is the best. It’s fun. Oh my gosh, traveling to watch KU has been so fun,” Cynthia Garrett said.

Of course, it’s even better when her son does enter a game. As a walk-on, Christian has played in 34 games in his career, logging 64 precious minutes.

“As the year kind of started closing down, I was like, ‘Man, it sucks. I didn’t reach my goal of playing here a lot,’” Christian Garrett said. “But there’s so much more to it than that. My life has changed. I’ve been able to be used in a lot of people’s lives. I played for a dream school that had everything I could ever have desired.

“I played for one of the best coaches, one of the best programs, been around the best people, gone to one of the best schools. My whole life changed as a person. I’ve grown as a man here. That’s priceless,” added Garrett, who re-dedicated his life to God his junior year of high school and said he continued to grow in the faith here.

“Hungry, I come to you

for I know you satisfy

I am empty, but I know Your love does not run dry

And so I wait for You”

Garrett, who had scored two points in an exhibition win over Fort Hays State his junior year and plenty of points for Athletes in Action on an overseas tour two summers ago, chalked up his first basket as a Jayhawk with 1:56 left in an 86-54 victory over Texas Tech on Jan. 10 in Allen Fieldhouse.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound guard used a crossover dribble through the lane to break free for a left-handed floater. Connecting on the short shot meant a lot to the fans, who gave him a loud ovation, and his teammates, who mobbed him after the final horn.

“That was cool. It wasn’t the biggest thing to me. I see it differently,” said Garrett, who played meaningful minutes at IMG Academy and a pair of Los Angeles high schools and at various camps he attended during the summers — such as the John Lucas camp in Houston last summer — to improve his game.

“The love and support for that (basket) was cool. I definitely appreciate how much people love all of us here,” Garrett added.

Garrett felt that love on his official campus visit, Jan. 22-23, 2011. He arrived on the day of KU’s home loss to Texas — a game played just hours after KU players and coaches gathered in Thomas Robinson’s dorm room to console the player about the death of his mother.

“I was like, ‘Whoa, this is a lot,’ but it was great to see how close the team was, how much a family it is,” Garrett said. “That even more solidified my feelings about this place.

“The next day I went to church services with Coach T (assistant Kurtis Townsend), and the message that day was, ‘If God opens doors, you have to go through them.’ That was pretty clear to me. That has to be God (speaking). At the end of the day, I was, like, ‘There’s nowhere as good as this.’ I brought one bag with me, and I stayed with that bag,” added Garrett, who, fully qualified for college, accepted a Sunday morning offer from coach Bill Self to join the team as a walk-on.

It was hoped KU would also land Garrett’s best friend, IMG Academy’s DeAndre Daniels, who ultimately decided to attend UConn and now plays overseas.

Self says the bottom line is he has thoroughly enjoyed working with Garrett, who also was an IMG teammate of KU junior Jamari Traylor.

“Christian has been great for our team, great for our program,” Self said. “He’s been a great ambassador and representative of what we’re trying to do. He is our spiritual leader, without question. Although I haven’t been to one of his services, I’ve listened to him many times within the confines of our team.”

“Broken, I run to You

for Your arms are open wide.

I am weary, but I know Your touch restores my life.

And so I wait for You”

Garrett, who will graduate in May with a minor in business and major in sports management, is happy to report his parents plan to stay in Lawrence next school year, while he does his best to land a job playing basketball somewhere overseas.

KU sophomore forward Lucas will be sure to stop by on Thursdays to worship with Roger and Cynthia, whom Lucas calls, “a mom to the team, somebody definitely nice to have around.”

“I’ve been to their house many times. There are powerful people there. It’s awesome to go over there,” Lucas said. “If you go over there, he (Christian) and a lot of other people will lay hands on you and pray for anything you need.”

Lucas loves the fact Christian Garrett is an inspiration around all of KU’s players, no matter their level of faith.

“He will always reach out to people when they are going through things,” Lucas said. “If somebody has an injury or anything, he’ll always reach out. He’s a good person, a person of great character and a strong believer in his faith — a great kid, one of the best.”


Mike Wilson 7 years, 9 months ago

This story is just one more of the MANY reasons I am a fan of Kansas Basketball. Nothing to do with wins and losses, but probably more important in a lot of respects.

Congrats to Christian on his senior night, tomorrow!!

Page Butler 7 years, 9 months ago

I really enjoyed reading this article. Thank you for a well written and inspirational piece.

Justin Kruse 7 years, 9 months ago

What a great inspiration for his teammates and others! Enjoy tonight, Christian!

David A. Smith 7 years, 9 months ago

It really does amaze me how many men of faith have impacted the KU community. Keep serving the Lord, Christian...and have a great night tonight.

Doug Longstaff 7 years, 9 months ago

Christian's mom is an amazing woman. See this piece on her, that also has early video of Christian. Video states that she's the step-sister of Lenny Kravitz. Didn't know that.

Former VH1 VJ, also hosted the Jerry Lewis Telathon.

Bert White 7 years, 9 months ago

@Doug Thanks for the video share, was pretty interesting. @Gary Thanks for the article, it was well written and entertaining to read.

Christian is the type of person I love to see affiliated with the team and KU in general. I mean to go from averaging double digits in points at IMG to not even getting double digit playing time (when your official bio on the school's site says you "redshirted" your first 3 seasons, you probably didn't play much ), being recruited by schools like Alabama, Stanford and Harvard and opted to be a walk-on at KU. It's encouraging to see someone not give up, whine, show their frustration, ect... instead they work through the adversity, stay positive, and even keep the ideal of playing pro ball alive. Definitely a breath of fresh air in the era of one and dones. And to top it off, another great example of a KU basketball player that managed to improve the Lawrence community by bringing his tag along parents whom sound like genuinely decent people, icing on the cake.

I can honestly say those two points vs Texas Tech were 2 of the happiest points that I cheered on while watching the game on TV, just because I respect anyone whom joins via a walk-on roll and the fact that the past 2 years I've been waiting/hoping that he wouldn't end his career her scoreless. Good luck tomorrow, hopefully you'll be able to put a few more points on your resume.

Hal Urbanek 7 years, 9 months ago

Really glad Christian and his family get so much from their religion. Really doubt if he was a Muslim or a Buddhist or from some other religion he would get an article written about his faith. Please can't you keep this commentary area secular as it should be.

Aaron Paisley 7 years, 9 months ago

Articles like this come out every year about the KU seniors. It's a mini-biography of Christian's time in Lawrence and have been written about KU's seniors leading up to senior day every year. His religion is a big part of his time in Lawrence and his parents are filling the team parents role that other players parents have filled throughout the years.

Next year, there will be similar articles detailing Evan Manning, Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor, and possibly Hunter Mickelson's (if he's still here) times in Lawrence before senior day.

Kurt Eskilson 7 years, 9 months ago

It's Senior Night tomorrow and Christian is a senior … so he's naturally going to get a lengthy feature article. And since his faith is the most important thing to him and his family, that's going to be the centerpiece of the article. Plus, the fact that his ministry includes other players we all know and appreciate makes this angle even more newsworthy. Simple as that.

Jay Scott 7 years, 9 months ago

It's sad that something certain people don't understand makes them so angry.

RJ King 7 years, 9 months ago

I disagree, Hal.

“We have all different types of people who believe different things. People just come.”

The point of the article was how Christian and his family have reached out to others and established a place where anyone can feel safe, cared for, and aspire to a stronger faith and character - within their own beliefs.

If another player had created a setting where others could freely attend, share, and connect through music, art, volunteerism, or even another faith, I am certain the story would be told.

To me, this is less about a specific religion, and more about personal growth, nurturing, and character building among young people who are working to find clarity and direction.

That, and yes of course - it's senior night.

Janet Olin 7 years, 9 months ago

I really like the articles before Senior Night, especially those about players who are not high profile. This was well written about Christian and his family. The YouTube clip about his mom was also interesting, surprising. Good luck, Christian! Hope you get to score tomorrow and thank you for representing the university and team with such class.

Cheryl Townsend 7 years, 9 months ago

Great article. Well written and interesting. We can really see the awesome young man that Christian is and what his parents mean to students at KU and to players. Thank you for writing this and for sharing this awesome young man with us. I had no idea he had offers from those great basketball schools and chose to be a walk on. I remember that game with Texas and have never been so proud to be a KU alumni as I was during that game and afterwards as the entire team and parents stood with T Rob after the tragic loss of not only his young mother, but his grandparents. KU was truly family for him.

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