Archive for Sunday, February 25, 1996


February 25, 1996


I hope the members of the Kansas basketball team realize what a great time this is for them, and enjoy the experience so they'll have no later regrets for not smelling all the flowers at their disposal.

For most of these Jayhawks this will be one of the highlights of their time on this globe. Doubts? Just talk to some former KU athletes about how much their time here meant.

They have some friendships that may never be duplicated, let alone topped, between now and when they might dial Dr. Jack Kevorkian's "800" number for an escape route from this vale of wrath and tears.

The players and their fellow student support staffers are attending a major school so they can get a whopping education. They're in a program headed by a first-class citizen, Roy Williams, who'll bust a gut and strip a thread to help them do well on the court, personally and academically. Sure, the bossman rips into them now and then, and makes them do a heckuva lot of things they'd rather not. But there's always a family atmosphere where a kid, from the lowest-level sub and red-shirt to the superstars, can go for comfort, solace, satisfaction and delight. Some of these guys may never again have it so good as they do now. Life can change drastically once they leave the love and loyalty of the Williams program at KU.

Those in this Jayhawk entourage are regularly exposed to an adoring public, locally and nationally. Even though there are critics and detractors, the sweet overwhelmingly outweighs the bitter.

If any of these guys make cold-blooded National Basketball Assn. rosters, that'll be gravy. But never again in basketball will they have the warmth of the home and hearth they are blessed with at KU. Anyone doubting that need only talk to former all-leaguer Rex Walters, who's struggling to find a niche and gain a career with the Philadelphia 76ers. Or there's Greg Ostertag with the Utah Jazz. Probably nobody realizes better than Big Hat No Cattle what a good deal he had at Kansas. Those cats in the NBA just aren't as tolerant of a guy who's not producing bigtime and needs so much time to adapt and adjust, which Ostertag certainly got at Kansas. Williams and Co. gave Greg every opportunity and created a comfort zone he undoubtedly misses 50 times a day in the cruel, demanding, isolating, travel-weary NBA world.

But the good news is that guys like Walters and Ostertag come out of a successful high-profile atmosphere like that at Kansas and get nifty contracts as pros. Ostertag, at last reports, signed a three-year pact worth something like $1.7 million. When, if ever, will even honor graduates from Mount Oread reach that level of earnings?

Consider walk-ons T.J. Whatley and Steve Ransom and the thrill they must get from being a part of the KU scheme. Red-shirt control tower Travis Williams has a genie in a jug with the stopper in his hand and is a fool if he isn't relishing every second of this assocation. He may never get good enough to be more than a substitute, but what memories!

The plucky C.B. McGrath and seniors Calvin Rayford and Sean Pearson doubtless would like more playing time. But they're part of the family, contributing in special ways, and are made to feel a part of any success, or failure.

Obviously the KU experience is not for everyone, as is the case at any school. Bigtime Benny Davis felt underappreciated and went on a shopping spree before he finally settled in with success at Arizona. Darrin Hancock left early because he was more interested in making pro money than in going to class -- which you simply must, and damn well better, do in the Williams format.

Think back on the really meaningful and enjoyable times in your lives and the glow you get from them now -- times you'll never have again and may not have fully appreciated while living them. Like the military service, where you had such close friendships under terribly fearsome circumstances, and figured you'd always be that way. Sure, you promised you'd always get together later, like Hawkeye and his buddies in "M*A*S*H." But most don't; it's lost forever.

Williams and his people keep the door open for alumni to return and savor relationships; they maintain an ongoing reverence for loyalty and kinship that many coaches don't. But a lot of guys can't, or don't, go home again.

That's why I'm hoping these Jayhawks recognize what a gem of an experience they're having. Don't be like bellyachers in the military service -- the only good places were where you'd been or where you were going, never where you were.

Love it while you can, guys. It may never get any better than this.

  • Looks like they've tried to beef up the chest of the big KU Jayhawk mascot to make him look fiercer. Trouble is, the padding seems to have slipped to where the creature suffers from breastius sagosis, resulting in a case of guttius protrusios. Maybe a cantilevered pushup bra would help. Maybe Victoria's Secret or one of those lingerie outfits has a giant-sized wonderbra for our belly-weary Jayhawk.

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