Archive for Monday, February 22, 1999

RYAN ROBERTSON, T.J. PUGH, JELANI JANISSE AND CHRIS MARTIN WILL PLAY THEIR FINAL HOME GAMES FOR KANSAS TONIGHT.

February 22, 1999

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Roy Williams tells his incoming Kansas basketball players to enjoy every day of their college careers because they will be over "in the blink of an eye."

KU's 11th-year coach most definitely knows what he's talking about.

"Wow. It's gone by so fast," KU senior guard Ryan Robertson said of his college career.

"I remember my first game against Utah at Kemper Arena like it was yesterday. I was 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Jacque (Vaughn) was in foul trouble. I remember diving on the floor and T.J. (Pugh) making some nice spin moves."

Kansas won that game as it has a majority of the games in Robertson's career. He and fellow four-year performer T.J. Pugh take a 116-19 record into tonight's Senior Night contest against Oklahoma State.

Tipoff for the annual lovefest -- fans will toss carnations and silk flowers on the floor as the seniors and their families are introduced -- will be 8:35 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.

Junior college transfer Jelani Janisse and walk-on Chris Martin, who have rolled to a 53-12 record through two years here, also will be making their swan-songs and will make the first starts of their college careers.

"It's been a lot of fun, a tremendous ride, so much more than I expected," Robertson, a 6-5 native of St. Charles, Mo., said.

Robertson, who was an all-stater at St. Charles West High, may best be remembered for taking over for Jacque Vaughn at point guard at the start of Robertson's sophomore season. Vaughn had suffered an injured wrist, necessitating surgery.

KU opened 11-0 with Robertson at the helm. Included were wins over nationally-ranked Cincinnati and UCLA.

"I was very fortunate. I was scared in capital letters," Robertson said. "Playing with me were three first-round picks in the NBA Draft and a guy who wrote a book called `Floor Burns.' We went 35-2.

"It was a lot of fun. It's all been a lot of fun, especially winning three conference championships," added Robertson, who would like to continue playing basketball next season or perhaps enter into coaching.

His roommate, Pugh, also bows out tonight.

"I'm very happy with the way my career has gone. I came here to win games and we've won a lot of games," the 6-foot-8 Omaha, Neb., native said.

"Everybody will say a Final Four appearance is missing. It's something I wanted to get done and there's still a lot of season left. We've won three league championships. The winning -- the tournament appearances and Big 12 championships -- are something I'll remember."

Like Robertson, Pugh says there are too many big wins to recount.

"The UCLA game my freshman year -- my first regular-season game at the fieldhouse was memorable," he said. KU trailed UCLA by 19 points at one point, 15 at halftime, before rolling to an 85-70 win at Allen Fieldhouse.

Pugh saw his role change a bit at Kansas. At Creighton Prep High, he roamed the outside and inside while averaging 25.8 points a game his senior year. At KU, he's been mostly a defensive specialist and post player.

"It was a change for me," Pugh said. "In high school, I was not the stockiest kid in the world. I was 210 then. Now I'm 235. I had to work on my body and mindset. I hear it a lot when I go home, that I could score more at other places.

"Anytime I place myself somewhere else, the thought quickly exits my mind. I could not see myself somewhere else. I would maybe score more, but I would not be as happy. We've won a lot of games here. Knowing my personality, I would never be satisfied losing."

Pugh may decide to have reconstructive surgery on his left ankle and continue playing basketball somewhere -- perhaps overseas -- next season. Or he may pursue plans to become a doctor.

"I guess I can identify with people who have injuries," Pugh grinned. He had ankle surgery Oct. 27 and has been bothered all year with sore ankles and feet and a sprained wrist. He rolled his right ankle during Saturday's win at Oklahoma, but says he will play tonight. However, the ankle is quite swollen and his status is questionable.

Meanwhile, KU fans haven't seen a lot of KU's other two seniors this season. Two-year performers Jelani Janisse and Chris Martin have played in 11 and six games respectively.

Janisse, a 6-3, 210-pound transfer from Los Angeles City College, had a rocky start at KU because of last year's preseason ankle surgery.

He scored 15 points total and dished eight assists in what turned into a season of rehab. He's 3-for-3 shooting this year, but has scored just eight points all season.

Regardless, he's happy he elected to attend KU instead of Pepperdine and others.

"Acually the only time I've been frustrated at KU was last year. I was coming off an injury and limited in what I could do," Janisse said.

"I have no problems with anything that's happened. I'd like to play. Everybody wants to play, but it's been a great experience. I have never stopped trying to get in there. I keep trying every day, every practice.

"I'm glad I came here because I got to meet people I'd have never met. I got to do things I'd probably never have done. I would never have met Wilt Chamberlain and been able to celebrate 100 years of basketball. I'd never have played basketball in Lawrence, Kansas. Playing in Allen Fieldhouse is something that can not be duplicated. I don't regret it at all."

Janisse plans on finishing his degree at KU next year. He's even given some thought to playing for KU's football team. He played two years of receiver and defensive back at Kennedy High in Los Angeles.

A walk-on, the 6-foot-2 Martin says he's fulfilled a dream playing at KU. He grew up in Lawrence, then moved to Overland Park where he was an all-Sunflower League pick at SM South. He played one semester at Cornell College in Iowa and one year at Johnson County CC before walking on at KU.

Last year, Martin played in the closing minutes of 20 games for the Jayhawks, who cruised to a 35-4 record. This year, playing time has been rougher to come by because of close games.

"I said from the beginning, when I came to Kansas, I knew my playing time would be limited, unless I could find a niche," Martin said. "I always want to play, but if that didn't work out, that would be OK, too.

"Last year, I played more because we'd build quite a lead at the end of games. Actually this year has been more exciting with more games down to the wire. I'd rather have it be the way it was last year, with big wins, but we've had some big wins, too. And we'll keep working until the season is over to be the best team we can be."

His favorite win thus far? "Probably when we beat Arizona last year in the Great Eight," Martin said. "Everything before that game was like I was in a daze. By that time, my head was out of the clouds. I thought it was incredible. It blew my mind away we were playing the defending national champs in Chicago and beat them. It was my wake-up call."

Following this season, Martin will continue one more year completing his business communications degree.

Tonight the four seniors will give short speeches after the game. "I've been thinking about that a little bit. I have no idea what I'll say," Robertson said. "It's kind of scary to think about speaking in front of 16,800 people. It probably will be very emotional and a lot of fun."

-- Gary Bedore's phone number is 832-7186. His e-mail address is bedore@ljworld.com

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