Traditions Night: Junior Naismith steals the show

Posted on Aug 25, 2016 in Alumni News, Campus News, and News

Junior Naismith with Chancellor

A star is born

When Naismith’s original rules of basketball finally made their way back home to Kansas this year, a budding basketball fan dressed as James Naismith was on hand to witness the momentous occasion. We profiled the pint-sized impersonator, dubbed Junior Naismith by adoring fans, back in February here on the KU Alumni Association blog, where he (and his dad, Chris Leiszler, c’01) talked about the experience of being featured on ESPN College GameDay and skyrocketing to internet fame.

Turns out, that was merely prelude to what would come next.

The young lad, 7-year-old Harrison Leiszler, reprised his role in a video skit for Traditions Night to kick off the academic year. Alumni can count on Junior Naismith to capture your hearts, among other things, as he revisits the new home of the original rules in the DeBruce Center to stake his claim to the original rules of basketball. We won’t give anything away, except to say he steals the show.

“An experience our family will never forget”

We spoke with Chris Leiszler about Harrison’s experience shooting the video for Traditions Night.

IMG_news_jrnaismithchancellor.jpg“We had an awful lot of fun watching them shoot the video,” Leiszler told us. “The people in the KU Marketing Department and in the Chancellor’s Office were so kind. You can tell they really enjoy what they do. I was amazed at how much effort they have to put in to produce a 2-minute video, but it turned out perfectly. They even let us go into the Chancellor‘s office so Harrison could sit at her desk!”

After the video appeared on the Memorial Stadium scoreboard, Harrison made his grand entrance to thunderous applause, walking hand-in-hand with Chancellor Gray-Little.

“Of course, these are some of the greatest fans in the world, so they made sure he felt the love,” Leiszler said.

The experience must have been surreal–he received an ovation that might have made Bill Self jealous–but Harrison took it all in stride. He rarely broke character, except to answer a few questions, including the quintessential “What do you want to be when you grow up?” His answer? A dentist like his dad, or maybe … KU Chancellor. The crowd went nuts.

“Despite what a lot of people might expect, Harrison is actually a pretty shy and humble kid,” Leiszler said. “So, for him to speak into a microphone in front of a few thousand people at the age of 7, it was a big, big deal. When he was all done and joined us back in the bleachers, he whispered to me from behind his little mustache, ‘I can’t believe I just did that.’”

Hats off to Harrison, who obviously comes from a true blue Jayhawk family.

“We were really proud of the little guy,” Leiszler said. “Being a part of KU Traditions Night was an experience our family will never forget.”

The official Traditions Night video will be posted on KU’s YouTube channel. Until then, check out this video and behind-the-scenes photos contributed by the Leiszler family.

–David Johnston

 
Junior Naismith walks in Strong Hall with the Chancellor
 
Junior Naismith in the Chancellor's office
 
Junior Naismith and Naismith
KU Traditions Night is a production of the University of Kansas: ©2016, KU Marketing Communications.

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