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Archive for Friday, January 1, 1999

M ON SATURDAY NIGHT.

January 1, 1999

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Throughout the 1990s, Kansas has been known as a men's basketball team that "outworks" the opposition.

"Nobody has ever played harder than we have -- ever," Roy Williams, KU's 11th-year coach, said Thursday.

"Jerry Green (Tennessee coach, former KU assistant) used to say when he was here, `Boy, those kids will pull the nails out of the floor for you.' That was the biggest pleasure to him -- how hard the kids played.

"The six years since he left, we've still had those kind of kids," Williams added.

Yet some have wondered if this year's KU team -- 8-3 heading into Saturday's Big 12 opener against Texas A&M -- is just as intense as ones in the past.

"It's hard to answer," Williams said, "because I think our kids want to do the right thing and I think they are trying. I don't think they understand how hard you can try as much as teams we've had in the past.

"I have told the kids we've got to do a better job of that, yet in saying that we're so new at where we are at it's like a foreign language."

Because of youthful players -- and ones playing out of position because of injuries -- the Jayhawks are still tentative, according to Williams.

"I'm not saying we haven't played hard, but we can upgrade it," Williams said. "There must continue to be learning done so we can feel comfortable enough to be reckless out there. I want it to be so repetitive, they learn things so they can become habits. I want the kids to get to the point they don't have to think, they just play."

Boschee progressing well: Williams reiterated Thursday he is pleased with the performance of freshman point guard Jeff Boschee.

"Am I pleased with him? Yes. Am I satisfied? No," Williams said. "Neil Dougherty (KU assistant) did my call-in show last week. A couple people were bagging on Jeff a little bit.

"Neil said, `You hear football coaches all the time say, `Boy, that kid is going to be a great quarterback.' Then on Saturday he's over there red-shirting. We don't do that here. Our guys who are gonna be great quarterbacks are out there, thrown out to the wolves."

Williams said he remembered Jacque Vaughn had a tough time in a game at DePaul his freshman year, so Williams went with Calvin Rayford the second half.

"Jeff doesn't have that luxury of splitting time. We've force fed him," Williams said. "Part of his deal is he's still a freshman. Whether I want him to be a sophomore or junior ... he's a freshman. Those people (critics) who have doubts will be shocked at how good he is down the line."

Keepin' it simple: KU's players have watched films and practiced more than four hours a day since Tuesday.

"We've had to keep that old saying: `KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid,''' Williams quipped. "We haven't put in a lot of things I hope we will get in. We can't do too much until we find out if we are gonna have Lester (Earl) or Ashante (Johnson), if this is the squad we will have the rest of the season."

Johnson, who has practiced some this week, is questionable for Saturday. Earl, who is coming off arthroscopic knee surgery, is doubtful. Williams said Thursday he didn't foresee either playing against A&M.

On the owners' side: Williams is taking a stand on the NBA lockout: "I think it's ridiculous. At first I tried to be in the middle and didn't take sides. Right now I'm so far on the owner's side it's ridiculous. Those people on that negotiating committee are not representing everybody in the NBA. Every time one person makes a negative statement those people jump up and down and go crazy. They would not represent me and I don't think they represent all the NBA players, either. They're a joke."

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

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