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Archive for Saturday, March 10, 2001

Axtell no fan of new role

Ailing guard on injury-forced end to season: ‘It stinks’

March 10, 2001

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— Luke Axtell likes cheering for his Kansas basketball teammates.

He dislikes clapping as a spectator, wearing cowboy boots and jeans at the end of the Jayhawk bench.

Kansas State's Quentin Buchanan (3) launches a shot over KU's Brett
Ballard, center, and Nick Collison.

Kansas State's Quentin Buchanan (3) launches a shot over KU's Brett Ballard, center, and Nick Collison.

"It stinks sitting over there again. That's the biggest thing I have to deal with," Axtell said after Kansas' 94-63 victory over Kansas State on Friday night at Kemper Arena.

The 6-foot-10 senior shooting guard missed the KSU game and is out for the rest of the season because of a bulging disk and two degenerative disks in his back.

"My season's over. It's over. It's hard for me to say that, but that's what it is," Axtell said.

It was announced Thursday that Axtell, who played in just two of KU's final five regular-season games, would miss the rest of the season because of excruciating back pain.

He missed six games earlier in the season because of a severely sprained ankle.

"After the Missouri game, I knew what would happen. You saw me out there. That's the best I could do," said Axtell, who played just three minutes on Senior Day against MU.

He was in noticeable pain when he left that game in the first half, never to return.

"I'd like for my career to have turned out differently, but I can't do anything on the court, so this is the best for everybody," he said.


Axtell does not think he'll be traveling with the Jayhawks to the NCAA Tournament. Surgery is likely in his immediate future.

"I think we're looking at the surgery option and want to get that taken care of as soon as possible," Axtell said. "There's a great surgeon in Dallas. There's a specific surgery for bulging disks. It's laser surgery on the disk itself."

Axtell was asked about a possible career in the pros.

"I don't know. If the Lord raises something up, I'll take advantage of that," Axtell said.

Kemper in KU's future?

There's some speculation Kansas could claim a No. 2 seed and berth in the Midwest Regional at Kemper Arena next week if the Jayhawks win out this weekend.

An unhappy Kenny Gregory gets helped up by Roy Williams, left, and
KU trainer Mark Cairns after Gregory was decked by a KSU player.

An unhappy Kenny Gregory gets helped up by Roy Williams, left, and KU trainer Mark Cairns after Gregory was decked by a KSU player.

The Jayhawks and Iowa State have the same number of losses, and before ISU's quarterfinal loss to Baylor it had been assumed ISU would be playing its first two postseason games in Kemper.

"To be honest, I've not thought of that," KU coach Roy Williams said. "I told the guys I brought three suits over here and I want to wear all three of them. That's all we've talked about, this tournament."

Williams agreed the Jayhawks would have to win out to have a shot at Kemper Arena.

"I don't know if we'd pass Iowa State," Williams said, "because of what they did over three months."

Some national media types said Friday they believed KU was a definite longshot at playing NCAA games in Kemper. One national scribe said he believed the Jayhawks still might receive a No. 3 seed even if KU wins the Big 12 tourney.

"It's a possibility," senior Kenny Gregory said of a Kemper berth after scoring 11 points with eight boards. "We have to take care of the task at hand the Big 12 tournament. To me, it really doesn't matter where we go."

Nick Collison drives the baseline on Kansas State's Kelvin Howell.
Collison had 11 points Friday at Kemper Arena.

Nick Collison drives the baseline on Kansas State's Kelvin Howell. Collison had 11 points Friday at Kemper Arena.

"Anything's possible," KU center Eric Chenowith said. "That would be awesome if it happened. Right now, we're thinking about this tournament."

Gooden's intentional foul

Drew Gooden was called for an intentional foul early in the second half. He grabbed KSU's Richie Terry, who was racing in for an uncontested layup. It wasn't a hard foul, but Gooden appeared to wrap his arms around Terry as he stormed in for the shot.

"I was trying to make a play on the ball. He tucked it away so much, so I grabbed his arm," Gooden said. "I fouled him intentionally like Quentin Buchanan fouled me intentionally. Quentin's was harder than mine. He was trying to take me out of the air."

Rough play

There were several intentional fouls and incidents of players barking at each other at different junctures.

KSU's Travis Reynolds waved a finger in Chenowith's face; Gregory was hacked hard in the chest by Larry Reid, and Brett Ballard hit the deck several times, including once after an intentional foul by Matt Siebrandt.

"It's basketball. There was a lot of mouth, but it's just basketball," Williams said. "I'd fight on a basketball court any day because I know someone will be there to break it up in five seconds. It happens.

"I was not upset about it," Williams added of Gregory taking an intentional elbow from a player Gregory assumed was Reid. "Coach (Jim) Wooldridge asked if I saw it. I said no, my player saw it. We were fine."

Twenty two in row

KU has won 22 in a row over KSU. "The last couple of years we have been more gifted," Williams said. "We've had better players. That's not a knock on them. We played well today."

Stats, facts

Jeff Boschee has made 16 of 24 threes against KSU in three games played at Kemper Arena the past three seasons. KU is 10-7 versus KSU in conference tournament play. The Jayhawks have won four straight times in conference tournament over KSU and 22 times overall. KU has won its first game in the conference tourney 12 straight years. KU has won 24 games for the 11th time in Williams' 13 years at KU. Kansas has won five straight games entering today's semis. KSU hit a KU-opponent low 28.8 percent (19 of 66) from the field. KU hit a season-high 84.4 percent from the line and had a season-high 27 made free throws. Boschee is the 41st player in KU history to score 1,000 points. His five threes tied a season high. Gooden made his first start since Feb. 5 against Iowa State. Chenowith came off the bench for the first time since Feb. 5.

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