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Archive for Tuesday, November 9, 1999

GREGORY HAS BIG GAME AGAIN

November 9, 1999

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The new kids on the block -- Drew Gooden, Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich -- had Allen Fieldhouse buzzing on Saturday night.

Kansas University's three basketball freshmen combined for 38 points, 20 rebounds and 16 assists in the Jayhawks' 124-101 rout of the California East All-Stars.

Still, it was one familiar face -- junior returnee Kenny Gregory -- who might have had the most spectacular night of all. Gregory scored 20 points -- 14 in the first 11 minutes -- as the Jayhawks blazed to a 31-24 lead.

"Exhibition games don't mean a new coming of anybody or the creating of a star," Kansas coach Roy Williams said, noting Gregory had 31 points in last year's win over the California All-Stars. He followed that with a somewhat inconsistent soph season in which he averaged 11.3 points and 4.7 boards while starting 18 of 33 games.

"What it does mean is how you have been practicing and how you adjust to playing with a crowd out there. Kenny has had the best three weeks of practice he's ever had," Williams added.

Gregory -- he said he developed a new attitude over the summer after watching a lot of tape -- has practiced hard every day despite some throbbing aches and pains.

"His back has hurt him a bit. His knee has hurt him a bit. He's finally started acting like he's older than 6," Williams said.

"He's been a tough, tough nut. He's been very uncomfortable in a couple of practices. He sucked it up and kept going."

Everybody knows about Gregory's bad back, which flares on him now and again and requires a daily regimen of stretching. Not everybody is aware of his right knee problem.

He wore a black brace for support Saturday night.

"Basically it's a new injury. I have not had it before. It's another thing for me to try to play through and I will," Gregory said of "severe tendinitis in my right knee.

"I get a cramp in it once in a while if I run a whole lot," Gregory explained. "It's not slowing me down. It's not stopping my jumping ability so I'm not going to worry about it."

Gregory showed his jumping ability, putting down a wicked slam dunk after one of KU's 17 steals off the fullcourt zone press.

"The knee pad keeps it warm," Gregory said. "It stays pretty loose throughout the course of a game. It's after I'm playing I sometimes feel it. It's nothing major."

He is looking to have a break-out junior season. For that to happen, Gregory realizes he must stay healthy and improve one aspect of his game -- rebounding.

An athletic 6-foot-5, 205-pounds, the Columbus, Ohio, native has the ability to go to the glass for offensive boards and score some easy baskets.

"I expect to see him continuing to play well. I like to see he had four offensive rebounds," Williams said of Saturday's stat line. "His greatest skill is jumping. I don't think he's used it much in the past. He used it tonight."

Gregory had four rebounds total, all offensive rebounds.

"Basically I was into the game a lot. Coach told me yesterday if I don't get four offensive rebounds a game, he doesn't think I'm playing well," Gregory said. "I went out trying to get some boards. I didn't get as many rebounds total as I wanted, but I hit the offensive boards pretty well.

"It's a little side deal me and him have to get as many offensive rebounds as possible."

The Jayhawks will next meet Australia Geelong at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Exhibition games are meaningless, of course. Yet consider this:

Had Saturday's game counted in the record books, freshman Gooden's line (12 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists) would have been closer to a triple-double by any Jayhawk since statistics like assists and steals became official KU stats in the mid-1970s.

Gooden was two assists short of a triple-double. That would have tied Jerod Haase's tournament performance against Arizona on March 22, 1996. Haase had 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists against the Wildcats.

KU officials assume Wilt Chamberlain, and maybe others, had numerous triple-doubles. However, since the mid-'70s, no one has come closer than Haase in 1996.

Gooden started and played 19 minutes Saturday.

"His offensive rebounding is something that can fire a whole team up," Gregory noted of the 6-9 Gooden, who had seven offensive boards.

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