Reno, Nev. Reminiscent of his days as a Kansas University basketball player, Brett Ballard felt butterflies before his first game as an analyst on the Jayhawk radio network.
"There are some big shoes to fill in Max and Bob," said Ballard, who filled in for Max Falkenstien as color man for Saturday's KU-Santa Barbara game and Sunday's KU-Nevada contest at the Wolf Pack Classic. "That's the thing I've been most nervous about, replacing a legend like Max."
With veteran KU announcers Falkenstien and Bob Davis in Florida for today's Tangerine Bowl, Ballard and Nevada play-by-play man Don Marchand stepped to the plate as pinch hitters.
"I think it went well," Ballard said of his debut broadcast against Santa Barbara. "I thought he (Marchand) did well. He had trouble with Moulaye's name a few times -- he stumbled a few times saying 'Niang' -- but he knew how to pronounce Nick Bahe's name. I was impressed at that. He did some homework."
Bahe is KU's freshman walk-on guard from Lincoln, Neb., who played six minutes against Santa Barbara. His last name rhymes with "ha."
Niang's name is pronounced "Nyawn."
Ballard, who played at KU in 2000 and '01 after transferring from his hometown Hutchinson CC, works as a student assistant in KU's basketball office.
He works daily with KU coach Bill Self.
"Coach said I had better be positive," Ballard said with a grin.
Self had plenty of quips about Ballard working the microphone at this two-day event.
"There's a lot of expectations out there. I'm nervous for Brett trying to live up to Max," Self said. "We'll have a talk with Brett."
In a strange twist, Ballard played the role of reporter Saturday and Sunday, asking Self questions on the postgame radio show.
"They are all 'vanilla' questions," Ballard said of softballs he tossed toward his boss.¢
Happy holidays, Jayhawks: The Jayhawks were to scatter to their hometowns today for winter break.
The players will reconvene Friday night in Lawrence to begin preparations for the next game -- a 7 p.m. contest against Binghamton (N.Y). University Monday at Allen Fieldhouse.
"They'll have all of Dec. 23, 24, 25 at home and leave by noon on the 26th to come back, which is a pretty good break," KU coach Bill Self said.
He was asked if he would give his players a workout schedule to follow during the days they are dining on turkey, ham, cookies and pies at home.
"If I gave it to them, they wouldn't read it anyway," the coach said, smiling. "Some guys will get in the gym (to shoot). I'm sure some will do that."
Self plans to spend some quality time with his wife, Cindy, and children Tyler and Lauren in Lawrence and at his parents' and in-laws' homes in Oklahoma.¢
Clinic on tap: The Jayhawks will host their popular annual Holiday Clinic for youths Saturday from 9:45 a.m. until 12:45 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.
The clinic, for boys and girls ages 3-8, includes two hours of fundamental instruction by current Jayhawk players and coaches, followed by a one-hour autograph and picture session from 11:45 a.m. until 12:45 p.m. on the fieldhouse court.
Registration for the clinic is 9-9:45 a.m. Saturday in the south end of the fieldhouse. The cost is $55. Participants receive a KU basketball calendar and ticket to the Binghamton game. Parents can purchase extra Binghamton tickets at the registration table.
For information, call KU's basketball office at 864-3056.¢
Coach firing: St. John's caused quite a stir this week by firing Mike Jarvis at this early juncture of the season.
So far, KU assistant Norm Roberts has not been mentioned as a possibility for the job, but might be a logical candidate, considering the Queens native's strong recruiting ties in New York.
ESPN's Andy Katz says Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt is believed to be the Red Storm's top candidate for the job. Katz's sources say Hewitt will stay at Tech.
Former North Carolina head coach and KU assistant Matt Doherty has been mentioned as a candidate. Doherty, who grew up in New York and is Catholic, had great success his first and only year at Catholic institution Notre Dame before he proved to be the wrong fit after taking over for Bill Guthridge at his alma mater, UNC.
Other possibilities according to Katz: Manhattan's Bobby Gonzalez, Davidson's Bob McKillop, Rhode Island's Jim Baron, Boston's Dennis Wolff and former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins.
The last time a college coach was fired prior to the start of conference play for reasons unrelated to NCAA violations or legal issues was Roger Reid at Brigham Young in 1996.
Red revisited: J.R. Giddens reflected on the red uniforms the Jayhawks wore in the UC Santa Barbara game.
"Sweet. If I could pick one word to describe 'em, it's sweet," he said.¢
More on Simien rebounding: Wayne Simien's 16 rebounds Saturday against UC Santa Barbara was a career high, but wasn't one of the top board efforts in school history.
That's primarily because of Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain, who had seven games with 24 or more rebounds as a Jayhawk. Chamberlain's 36 boards against Iowa State in 1958 is KU's career high.
Chamberlain had 31 rebounds against Northwestern in 1957, and Bill Bridges grabbed 30 versus Northwestern in 1960. Chamberlain had 28 versus Washington in 1957 and 27 versus Missouri in 1958. David Robisch had 26 against Iowa State in 1970.
Chamberlain had 24 three times -- against Wisconsin, and Iowa State twice, all in 1957. Lew Johnson had 24 against Oklahoma in 1955. Bridges had 24 against Nebraska in 1959 and '60. And Nick Collison checked in with 23 last season against Texas.
"If I didn't take a couple of possessions off, I could have had more than 20," Simien said.¢
Gambling: Bettors are allowed to bet on Nevada basketball games in the many casinos in town. KU was listed as a six-point favorite over Nevada.