Archive for Saturday, March 3, 2001

KU’s Axtell to play Senior Day

Swingman still bothered by ailing back

March 3, 2001


Seniors always start on Senior Day at Kansas.

Even seniors with bad backs.

"If he can walk out there, he will start," KU men's basketball coach Roy Williams said of senior guard Luke Axtell, who has a bulging disk and two degenerative disks in his aching back.

"If he can't walk out there, we will still figure a way to do it. He will start. I think that is important. Maybe I'm sentimental but it is important to me," Williams added.

Starting on Senior Day is also extremely important to Axtell, who says he'll be on the court for Sunday's 1:05 p.m. tipoff before a crowd of 16,300 that will include his parents and two sets of grandparents.

"Regardless of how it feels, I'm playing," Axtell said. "It's my last home game and that is a big deal to me. No telling how much, but I'll definitely play."

The 6-foot-10 native of Austin, Texas, has missed three of KU's last four games because of excruciating pain in his back.

"Hurting all the time is the biggest thing. It just wears on you," said Axtell. He receives daily treatment in the training room and sees a physical therapist, but has not been taking double doses of Advil or anything to combat the discomfort.

"The pain is to the level of why take anything?" Axtell said, noting he's been told the severity of his injury is "about a five. A 10 would be a herniated disk."

"It's pointless. I'd probably burn up my stomach (taking pills) before I felt any relief."

Axtell he may face offseason surgery said inactivity seems to help him the most. The pain gets really bad after a practice or a game.

"If I get rest, usually after two days it'll feel better," said Axtell, who did practice on Friday. "After Sunday, we won't have a game until Friday (at Big 12 Tournament). It'll be fine then. Where I will run into a problem is with consecutive games."

Consecutive classes don't help any, either.

"It's ridiculous," he said of trying to put his tall body into a seat in a classroom. "It can ruin my day. Sitting there for an hour and 20 minutes or an hour depending on which day it is ... sitting in that position that long kills me."

Injuries definitely have plagued Axtell during his senior season. He missed four games to open the year because of an ankle sprain and two more games after re-spraining the ankle.

He missed the second half of his junior season because of an undisclosed medical condition.

"A trip," Axtell said, when asked to describe a college career that feels like it's lasted "a decade."

"I mean it's ridiculous. You could not guess the stuff that's happened to me. All these weird things, super strange things happening to one person.

"I have definitely learned a lot from it. I have plenty of room to go up in life career wise. Otherwise, I'm doing well. Talking career, it's been tough."

He transferred to KU after playing his freshman year at the University of Texas.

"The Kansas experience has been a positive one," Axtell said. "I've run into a lot of stuff, but the program has definitely been positive."

He said he is not sweating the postgame speech he'll give after Sunday's game.

"It's a lot easier than singing in front of them (fans)," said Axtell, who has performed country songs at two consecutive Late Night With Roy Williams. "I am not too worried about it. Hopefully after three years here, people won't judge me based on my speech."

Axtell still is hoping to contribute on the court during the postseason. After that ...

"I have no clue. After the season I will work on the CD stuff," said Axtell, who will promote and sell his first compact disk "The River Runs Dry," immediately after the season. He's currently working on CD No. 2 with his brother.

"Right now basketball is such a huge part of my life. It's hard to separate on the court and off the court. I'm committed to finishing the season with this team and then we'll see what happens (in future)," Axtell said.

Student campers

Williams regularly brings doughnuts to students who camp at Allen Fieldhouse the morning of every home game. He'd hoped to bring the students something different for the Missouri game.

"I thought it'd be cool to get 'em a sandwich called 'The Roy,''' Williams said of an Eastern North Carolina barbecue sandwich now on the menu at a downtown restaurant in honor of Williams.

"'Cool' lost to superstition. I remembered the only other time I've brought the students something other than doughnuts was pizza 12 or 13 years ago before the Kansas State game. We got our butts beat by K-State so the kids are not getting any 'Roys,''' he said.

Williams has taken the student campers on tours of the fieldhouse this year and chats with them regularly. In fact, he had the campers huddle around for a chalk talk after Friday afternoon's practice.

Three honored

KU's Nick Collison, Drew Gooden and Kenny Gregory were named to the 2001 National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division I All-District 12 team, NABC officials announced on Friday. Collison was a first-team pick with Jamaal Tinsley (Iowa State), Kareem Rush (Missouri), Reggie Evans (Iowa) and Maurice Baker (Oklahoma State). Gooden and Gregory made second team with Luke Recker (Iowa), Cookie Belcher (Nebraska) and Kantrail Horton (Iowa State).

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