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Archive for Sunday, June 20, 1999

KU PLAYERS IN SALINA

June 20, 1999

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Here's a look at the three ex-Jayhawks and their season in Salina:

Ryan Robertson, 6-5, 190, St. Charles, Mo.

Robertson averages 7.8 points on 44.2 percent shooting. A back-up shooting guard, he's made 11 of 26 threes while playing in 14 of the squad's 22 games.

"Because of Ryan's schedule, he's not been with us all the time. It's tough to try to run him in at point guard, then have him miss a game or two," Cagerz coach Tom Hughes said. "His play on the defensive end has helped us win some games."

Robertson, 22, missed some Cagerz games in April while finishing his senior year at KU. He also missed a home game while trying out for some NBA scouts in Chicago. He'll be in Sacramento, Calif., on Monday trying out for the Kings and also might work out for Indiana, Phoenix and Atlanta.

"I would have liked to have been here a little bit more so that I could have made a bigger impact on the team," Robertson said. "But it has served my purpose well. I wanted to come in here and be able to play and stay in condition while getting good competition."

Robertson is not expected to be selected in the 1999 NBA Draft. But he will probably land an invitation to try out for a team as a free agent. If he fails, an opportunity looms in the new International Basketball League, which has a franchise in Robertson's hometown of St. Charles, Mo.

IBL players will earn up to $100,000 during a season and, like the Continental Basketball Association, will run from November until April.

"We have had some talks," Robertson said. "The IBL will have higher salaries than the CBA, but you must stay with the IBL team the entire year. You can't get called up."

Robertson would be welcome to return to play in Salina next summer.

"Ryan never complains. He gets off his butt and plays defense," Cagerz president/general manager James Williamson said. "He's very popular and been great for this franchise."

Billy Thomas, 6-4, 210, Shreveport, La.

A stint with the Cagerz has re-started Thomas' basketball career. Thomas, 23, attended classes at KU last school year after failing to land an NBA free agent tryout due to the lockout.

"Because of the year I took off, this is definitely a step I needed to take," Thomas said. "I'm not saying it's the only step I need. I'm willing to take as many opportunities that come to make sure I get ready for my ultimate goal -- the NBA."

Thomas averages 13.4 points on 40.9 percent shooting as a starter. He's hit 35 of 112 threes for 31.3 percent and is second on the team with 34 steals.

"Ever heard of the term, 'Take one for the team?''' Williamson asked. "Billy will take a charge, block a shot, fall in the seats. Billy can light it up in a hurry. He has that capability."

He was known for his three-point bombing at KU. The same is true in Salina.

"With B.T. we know if the first one will drop, we want to go to that hot hand," Hughes said. "The pleasant surprise is B.T.'s defensive effort. He gets after it."

Thomas is committed to playing basketball for a living.

"NBA, overseas, the new IBL, my agent is throwing a lot of options out there," Thomas said. "I want one person out there to think I do something well enough to get invited to (an NBA) camp. I'm going to keep trying. I am not a quitter."

Sean Pearson, 6-5, 225, La Grange, Ill.

Pearson, 27, who works for the city of Lawrence, made the Cagerz roster the hard way. He survived a weekend tryout camp for all comers in Kansas City, then impressed at veteran's camp.

"I heard about it playing pickup ball in Lawrence," Pearson said. "I'm glad I went through the tryouts. This has really been exciting for me."

Like Thomas, Pearson also is a starter. He averages 8.0 points and 2.2 boards off 38.7 percent shooting. Pearson has hit 23 of 85 threes.

"Sean has given us flexibility, playing the 2, 3 and 4," Hughes said of shooting guard, small forward and power forward. "He's played with tendinitis in his knees. He's been in pain every game."

Pearson is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward continuing his career.

"I just like to play," Pearson said. "If any looks come out of this, fine. Right now I'm just concerned about playing basketball for this team. I live here now. I like being here."

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