Macolm Nash sat out his freshman season as a non-qualifier.
As a sophomore, Kansas' 6-7 basketball forward from St. Louis played just 77 minutes, upping that to a minimal 81 as a junior.
Pine time is no longer a way of life for Nash, who has played 75 minutes more than nine minutes a game entering Thursday's non-conference contest against Pepperdine.
Tipoff is 7:08 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse with a live telecast available on channels 13 and 62.
"I might have gone somewhere else and been a starter," said Nash, averaging four points a game, "but I wouldn't be as good a player as I am now. I might score, but I wouldn't be as good on defense.
"I THANK the fans for sticking behind me. I've tried to prove myself all along. This year, I'm doing what coach Williams wants. Coach plays guys who are willing to bust their butts on both ends. That's what I'm trying to do."
KU coach Roy Williams agrees Nash has progressed.
"He has better concentration. It means more to him this year," said Williams. "He's really improved."
An off-season conditioning program seems to have helped Nash.
"It all began after we lost to Duke," said Nash, referring to KU's loss in the NCAA title game. "That night we went back to the hotel and it hit me. I thought `I'm going to be a senior.'
"In coach's system, the seniors are the ones the players look up to. I knew we had a lot of new players coming in and I had to be ready. I was here for summer school. I spent a lot of time lifting, working on my perimeter game, my jump shot and ballhandling.
"It always means more to you when it's your last year," he added. "It's my last go-around."
PRIOR TO this year, Nash's claim to fame was his being dubbed "team clown" by his teammates.
"I just try to make people laugh. I don't take things too seriously," said Nash. "I want people to say Macolm Nash is a real person, a good person."
That's what those around him do say.
"He's a nice kid. The guys love him," Williams said.
Pepperdine, a member of the West Coast Conference, opened the season with wins over Jacksonville, Cal State-Dominguez Hills, Boise State and Nevada. Since then they've dropped four of seven, falling to UCLA, Montana, Georgia Southern and NCAA Div.II Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. They've beaten SW Texas State, Cal-State Fullerton and Lafayette, 76-63.
THE WAVES' top player is Doug Christie, a 6-6 senior, who averages 17.5 points and 5.5 boards. Christie had 18 points in KU's 88-62 win over the Waves last year in Malibu, Calif.
KU will travel to Dallas to face SMU at 7:38 p.m. Saturday.