Alumni in Nashville, Tampa and Omaha also got together at their local watch sites to see where the Jayhawks would begin their NBA careers.
Going home again
The Big 12 Player of the Year didn’t have to wait long into the second round to know his destination, as the Charlotte Hornets traded two future second round picks to secure the first-team All-American at pick #34. Graham continues to be linked to his former backcourt teammate Frank Mason III, who was drafted with the same pick last year by the Sacramento Kings.
While Malik Newman and Billy Preston were not selected, their professional basketball careers are just beginning. Former Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr., who went undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft and now plays for the Memphis Grizzlies, shared his advice:
Not hearing your name called tonight doesn’t mean a damn thing, its all about what you do now. Yeah be mad, but use that frustration as fuel to the fire to prove you belong. Take it day by day & work your ass off because the cream will always rise to the top. Thats just facts.
After two consecutive losses in the Elite Eight, KU basketball fans were thrilled to storm Massachusetts Street in celebration. KU beat Duke 85-81 in overtime and at the sound of the buzzer Jayhawks knew what to do: sprint to Mass Street. Within minutes, fans filled the street and began to commemorate the long-awaited trip to the Final Four.
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KU alumni Curtis Marsh, j’92, and Creighton Coover, b’98, g’01, sat down to talk KU hoops and recall their all-time favorite Jayhawk players and memorable moments on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of basketball at the University of Kansas.
Listen to their take on KU’s top teams, most memorable moments and all-time starting lineups, and let us know what you think. Have a favorite KU hoops memory you’d like to share? Drop us a line and let us hear about it!
Look who’s talking
Curtis Marsh is director of KU Info and the DeBruce Center, home of Naismith’s original rules of basketball, at the University of Kansas. An avid KU basketball fan and historian of all things KU, Marsh was an undergraduate in the late 80s and early 90s, when camping for games often involved sleeping outside in a tent. He is one of the famous Allen Fieldhouse whistlers, as covered on this blog, and helped launch (literally) the legend of Captain Jayhawk and the Superfans.
Creighton Coover is a senior account manager with iModules Software, where he spends his days helping alumni associations across the country manage their data (disclaimer: the KU Alumni Association is an iModules client). In his spare time, Creighton continues to pore over data, tracking historically significant stats of his beloved Jayhawks on Twitter. He was a repeat guest on Brian Hanni’s Rock Chalk Sports Talk show for a segment titled Beyond the Box Score.
Shortly before his Jayhawks strode onto the Intrust Bank Arena court for their open practice, coach Bill Self renewed his oft-repeated hope that his players keep a light bounce in their step despite the pressures of NCAA Tournament competition: “Just go out, have fun and let’s enjoy the moment, and let’s play with joy and passion. Play with a free mind.”
When they emerged from the arena’s wings a few moments later, the Jayhawks were greeted with an instant lesson in how to enjoy the moment and embrace the fun: Wichita schools on Wednesday morning bused thousands of school children to the arena, and they lit the place with an energy unprecedented in the sedate history of NCAA Tournament open practices.
Dozens or perhaps hundreds of long yellow buses clogged the streets and parking lots around Intrust Bank Arena, and once inside, the bouncy kids happily cheered each of the teams that emerged for open-practice shootarounds. They were happy to cheer on all the athletes, but anticipation for the Jayhawks’ appearance brought on a high-energy buzz as the children—who filled more than half of an arena that seats more than 15,000—began chanting “KU! KU! KU!” When the KU team emerged to waves of screams, players’ faces lit up and coaches’ smiles beamed.
After singing along to the fight song piped in over the scoreboard speakers, kids carried on with assorted chants of “Jayhawks! Jayhawks!” and “Go KU! Go KU!”, and the kids and other Wichita fans and alumni who filled the arena nearly to capacity cheered heartily when center Udoka Azubuike, wearing a brace on his injured left knee but otherwise looking fairly mobile and healthy, made free throws.
When practice concluded, the Jayhawks huddled at midcourt, then waved to the crowd, encouraging more and more cheers. Big 12 Player of the Year Devontè Graham brought the half-hour affair to a roaring conclusion by draining a jump shot from midcourt.
Kansas, Big 12 champion and the Midwest region’s top seed, faces No. 16 seed Penn at 1 pm Thursday in a game to be broadcast by TBS.
“Our players know after watching tape that [Penn] is definitely not a 16,” Self said. “So they have our attention.”
Azubuike strained a knee ligament during practice before the Big 12 tournament. He has had limited practice with the team this week, and Self hopes the 7-footer can play at least “a few minutes” Thursday, with prospects for more significant playing time should KU advance.
“That 70 percent tomorrow,” Self said, “could be 85 percent by Friday and 90 percent by Saturday if we’re fortunate enough to win.”
Check out a few more photos from practice on our Flickr page. Photos and video by Steve Puppe.