If you have ever thought to yourself that James Naismith bore a striking resemblance to Teddy Roosevelt, you’re not alone. In fact, KU’s very own Junior James Naismith, a.k.a. Harrison Leiszler, proved the point, and with the help of his industrious (and clearly creative) father, Chris Leiszler, c’01, little Harrison had a Halloween costume that truly rocked.
Dressed as Mount Rushmore, the bespectacled Harrison battled the Captain of the Titanic for the top costume at the KU Symphony Orchestra annual Halloween concert at the Lied Center of Kansas. The popular event hosted by the KU School of Music included spooky music, costumed musicians and an instrument petting zoo (where kids could toot their own horn, or try a violin).
As fate would have it, Mount Rushmore happened to celebrate its 75th birthday on October 31, so the timing couldn’t have been better. Pictures of Harrison became so popular online that the South Dakota Department of Tourism reached out to ask Chris and Anne Marie Leiszler, b’00, to feature him on their Facebook page. The proud parents agreed, and the rest is, well, history.
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.
“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.
and the very same trick shot artist who declared his intentions to play for Kansas early, very early, has won the Internet–and our hearts–once again.
This time, with ESPN’s College GameDay in town ahead of a mid-season classic between Kansas and Kentucky, a pint-sized impersonator stole the show. The junior James Naismith became a viral sensation, earning more screen time than Coach Self while registering a new Fieldhouse record on the cuteness meter. Naismith’s original rules for the game of basketball were presented to KU during a halftime ceremony, so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect, and fans ate it up, peach basket and all.
The young “mini-Naismith” is the son of Chris, c’01, and Anne-Marie Leiszler, b’00, and his incredible, shareable talents have thrilled fans of this blog in the past. We caught up with Chris to learn more about his son’s recent rise to fame and his GameDay experience.
“I’m not really sure how I came up with the idea to be honest with you, and it was a total coincidence that Naismith’s Rules of Basketball would be presented at halftime. But when I pitched the idea to him several weeks ago, he just put his hand on his forehead, shook his head, and said, “Oh Dad…” And then he looked up at me and smiled and said, “Okay, let’s do it.””
And the rest, as they say, is history?
“The entire day was an absolute blast. I got him up at 4:45 AM so we could get him dressed and get a good seat for the morning activities. We figured we’d get a few chuckles out of people and we were hopeful that he’d get on TV, but we never imagined that Jay Williams would invite him to sit at the desk with him for part of the ESPN College GameDay broadcast. And then, a while later, the wonderful people from KU’s marketing department asked us if we’d like two tickets for the game, and we simply couldn’t believe it! And what an epic game it was! It was certainly a day that our family will never forget. Rock Chalk!”
We couldn’t agree more, Chris! Here are a few more highlights from his College GameDay experience.
Remember Harrison? The budding future Jayhawk who wowed us with his basketball prowess last year?
Well he’s done it again, showing off his love for the Jayhawks just in time for Kansas Day on January 29. The multidimensional toddler talent shows that he has musical game in this original rendition, Ode to Jayhawk Basketball, set to a familiar tune. Thanks to proud parents Chris, c’01, and Anne-Marie Leiszler, b’00, for producing this gem. Although it was not released in time for a Grammy nod, we find the song irresistible and perhaps the perfect way for fans to celebrate the birth date of our beloved state. Rock Chalk!