Jamari Traylor has traveled to some exotic locales in his five years at Kansas University — Bahamas, Switzerland and South Korea internationally — to go with a plethora of U.S. cities, such as Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta.
Of all the flights he has boarded, none may prove as meaningful as today’s charter to Chicago, site of Tuesday’s 9 p.m., Champions Classic battle against Michigan State in the United Center.
Traylor, who is from the Windy City, is fired up that he gets to play a game in his hometown in his final season in college.
“I like going home to see my mom, all my aunts and stuff. It’s good to play in front of the home crowd,” said Traylor, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward. “I never played in the United Center before the last game (KU’s 94-83 win over Duke his sophomore season). It’s a cool feeling. It’s good to go back there.”
Traylor, who knows every nook and cranny of the South Side after surviving homelessness and living on the streets for a time in high school, actually plans to anchor himself back in Chitown after his pro career is over.
“Definitely,” he said, asked if he has a love for his place of birth. “What I want to do when I’m done playing ball ... I want to start an organization for kids back home, to help them find somewhere they can play ball and stay off the streets like somebody did for me.”
Traylor had four points, one assist, one block and one steal while playing 13 minutes in KU’s victory over Duke in 2013 in Chicago.
“As far as feeling different ... it’s just another game, but I’m at home. I guess it’s different,” Traylor said.
The opponent is a familiar one. KU is 2-3 versus Michigan State in the 13-year Bill Self era. The Jayhawks topped MSU, 61-56, in the finals of the Orlando Classic last season in Florida. Traylor scored six points with one rebound while playing 15 minutes in that game. Perry Ellis had 17 points to lead the Jayhawks, while current senior Denzel Valentine scored 14 points with seven boards for the Spartans.
“They are a good team. They can prepare us for postseason stuff,” Traylor said. “They are a quality team, a well coached team. Any time you go against good competition, it’ll make you better. I feel going against one of the best teams (ranked No. 13 to KU’s No. 4 rating) will help you get better.”
A year ago, KU had a horrific night in the Champions Classic, where the Jayhawks are 1-3 all-time. Kentucky hammered the Jayhawks, 72-40, in Indianapolis.
“As you could see, that’s not even in my head anymore,” Traylor said, acknowledging he forgot KU last met UK in 2014.
“It’s always good competition. It’s always good to learn,” Traylor said of the Classic.
Next year, KU will play Duke in the Classic in New York to complete a second full cycle of games between the fab foursome of KU, Kentucky, Duke and MSU.
“You know you are going to play a good team no matter what,” KU coach Self said. “It’d be nice to win at a higher clip than what we’ve won so far. It’s great. All college basketball fans ... their eyes are on that night. We get a chance to be showcased. That will be fun.”
Collins in NBADL: Former KU guard Sherron Collins is playing in the NBA Developmental League for the Texas Legends, a team affiliated with the Dallas Mavericks based in Frisco, Texas. Collins, who is listed at 5-foot-11, 220-pounds, scored two points, with no assists and a turnover while playing five minutes in the Legends’ 105-95 win Sunday at Oklahoma City.
Maker update: Thon Maker, a 7-foot senior center from Orangeville Prep in Mono, Ontario, who attended Friday’s KU-Northern Colorado game, wants to make an official visit to KU this season, his guardian, Ed Smith, tells Zagsblog.com.
Self on Sunday watched Maker score 29 points as his high school team lost to Sunrise Academy, 76-72, at the Tornado Allen Showcase in Wichita. Maker, who is not ranked by Rivals.com because it was unknown if he’d be in the Class of 2015 or ’16, has a list of KU, Kentucky, Indiana, Arizona State, Notre Dame and St. John’s.