Drew Gooden admits at practice last season he would gaze longingly at the jerseys hanging in the south rafters of Allen Fieldhouse.
"Sometimes I used to wander off and not pay attention to coach, look up there and hope someday my jersey would hang up there," said Gooden, who had his jersey retired on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
"It's a dream come true."
Gooden, a rookie with the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies, played at KU from 2000-2002.
The 6-foot-10, 230-pounder, who averages 13.0 points and 5.8 rebounds while logging 26.5 minutes per game this season, spoke to the fans at halftime of the Jayhawks' 81-64 victory over rival Kansas State.
"It's a special day for me," Gooden told the cheering fans. "This is a blessing."
Gooden says he often wonders what it would be like if he had stayed at KU his senior season instead of heading early to the NBA.
"I think about it every day. I'm choked up," he said. "I try to keep things to myself when I fantasize about playing in college, missing games against Missouri, Texas, Arizona, UCLA. But I'm fulfilling a dream in the NBA. I'm still glad I left for the NBA."
Gooden likes KU's current team.
"I mean, they have a great team," Gooden said. "They are playing well. With (injured Wayne) Simien not in the game, Jeff Graves is doing a great job. With Wayne, it's a tough team to beat.
"It's really fun to watch them. It's the first time I watched a game from the stands. Now I know how much fun the fans have watching us."
KU coach Roy Williams delayed his halftime trip to the locker room to speak to the fans about Gooden.
"For three years this young man busted his tail and put up with a lot from me," Williams said. "He came a long, long way on the court. He made the right decision to go to the NBA, yet there's never a game where he sees highlights on 'SportsCenter' he wouldn't rather be here with you. For three years I loved watching him run up and down the court, defend, rebound. This youngster grew as much as any player I ever coached."
Williams said he had considered letting KU's players listen to Gooden's speech at halftime.
"These kids played with Drew," Williams said. "I fought about it in my mind about letting them stay out to listen to Drew, but I didn't think it'd show proper respect to Kansas State."¢
Ironman: Kirk Hinrich played the first 37 minutes of the game, then sat the closing moments when the walk-ons entered.
"I asked him one time, 'Do you need a breather?' He said, 'No, I'm fine,''' Williams said of his senior guard, who scored 26 points off 9-of-18 shooting.¢
Giddens out 10 days: KU signee J.R. Giddens, a 6-5 guard from Oklahoma City's John Marshall High, is out 10 days because of a stress fracture in his left foot.
Giddens, who is averaging 24 points a game for John Marshall (8-2), is wearing a walking cast.
"I was going to try to play last night, but my coach didn't bring my jersey to the game. I think he was trying to tell me something, that no way he was going to let me play with the injury," Giddens said.¢
Stats, facts: Williams is 34-4 versus KSU. ... Nick Collison passed Kevin Pritchard for seventh place on KU's all-time scoring list on a night Pritchard worked as a TV analyst. ... Graves grabbed 10-plus rebounds for the fifth straight game. His 13 boards marked a career high.