Kansas University basketball walk-ons usually play only during the final few minutes.
Not on Thursday night. Not in the Jayhawks' 80-61 victory over Illinois State in Allen Fieldhouse.
Five minutes into Thursday's game, KU coach Roy Williams hooked his five starters and sent in five subs, including walk-on Lewis Harrison.
"He surprised me," Harrison said. "I was sitting there and he was like, 'Lewis, go in at the two.' I was like, 'Huh?' and he said, 'Go in there and play defense.' So I went in."
Jeff Carey made a lay-up 14 seconds after the wholesale substitution to give KU an 8-7 lead. Earlier in the week Williams had mentioned that Carey, who had averaged only six minutes of court time, had been short-changed, but the 6-foot-10 junior was pleased with his minutes Thursday night.
"I felt I did a good job when I came in in the first half and gave the team a little lift," he said. "I like the fact that I think coach put me in because he thought I could do a good job. At that point I don't think he was just thinking, 'I've got to get Jeff some minutes.'"
Carey made the most of his time, scoring four points and grabbing three rebounds in eight minutes.
"Coach needs me to go in I'm going to go in and play hard and play good defense," Carey said. "If I score a few points, that's fine, but I just want to do the little things."
He and the other four subs did the little things, holding ISU to one point during their four-minute stint and running the Jayhawks' lead to 13-8.
Brett Ballard, another walk-on, subbed for Mario Kinsey with 13:36 left in the first half and took over at point guard.
"I probably wasn't as surprised as Lewis was, but I was a little bit," Ballard said. "I know coach has been known to do this from time to time ... so we always have to be ready for that. It's something you have to kind of prepare yourself for every game because you never know."
Ballard said Williams stressed he wanted to see some intensity.
"KU's known for out-hustling people and we weren't doing that in the first half," Ballard said. "He was really disappointed with our hustle."
While Ballard played the point, Harrison, a 6-foot-0 junior from Kansas City, focused on a personal goal.
"I knew I wasn't going to be in there long," he said, "and I was just trying to get by with as few mistakes as possible. I knew I wasn't going to get in there and really score or anything. I was just trying to give him the time to let the starters get all right."
Ballard, a 6-0 junior from Hutchinson, felt coming in early required him to be a step quicker at the point and to pass the ball a half-second quicker because the other players aren't as worn out as they are late in the game.
"You have to be a little more alert and you have to play a little bit harder than at the end of the game," he said. "When you go in that early guys are playing defense and you really have to get down and guard when you're playing defense, also."