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Archive for Thursday, April 22, 2004

Jayhawks land basketball walk-on

April 22, 2004

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Blue Valley West senior basketball center Matt Kleinmann -- who received a men's basketball scholarship offer from University of the Pacific and also was recruited by South Florida, Valparaiso, Yale, William & Mary and North Carolina Wilmington -- has decided to attend Kansas University.

As a walk-on.

"When you spend your whole life in Overland Park, you grow up loving KU or Kansas State. For me, it's been KU. I've learned to love KU over the years," said the 6-foot-10, 230-pound Kleinmann, who Wednesday made official his plans to play for his dream school.

"I will come in knowing there are no promises, no guarantees. That's what appeals to me. There's a challenge involved," Kleinmann added, referring to earning playing time. "It's something I can work toward, rather than at Pacific where I might be the next big guy or the starter. If I do anything at KU, it's because I work for it."

Kleinmann, who carries a perfect grade-point average of 4.0 and who has been accepted to KU's School of Architecture, averaged 14 points and nine boards a game last season in earning first-team All-East Kansas League honors.

The big redhead frequently could be seen sitting in the stands watching the Jayhawks play at Allen Fieldhouse. Like Leavenworth junior Wayne Simien, Kleinmann grew up a Jayhawk hoops fan.

"I've been to a lot of KU camps. I've got pictures of me as a little kid with (former Kansas coach) Roy Williams," Kleinmann told the Journal-World Wednesday after meeting with KU coaches and academic personnel. "I remember Terry Brown one year was my counselor.

"I think I went to my first KU game when I was in middle school. A couple of years ago, I went to Late Night and sat a few rows behind the bench and felt it was almost like I was right there with them. I've always felt comfortable at KU."

Matt's brother, Derek, is a KU graduate.

Matt Kleinmann has had contact with Jayhawks aplenty throughout the years.

"I went to one of Rex Walters' camps. Another former player, Paul Mokeski, helped me with my basketball, also," he said. "His son played against me in seventh grade. He (Mokeski) took me aside after the game and said, 'How about getting some extra work in?' He let me work out with him a little bit on fundamentals."

Instead of playing AAU ball last summer, Kleinmann attended camps at Stanford and Rice and also was drilled on fundamentals by Blue Valley West coach Donnie Campbell, who also tutored Vanderbilt standout Matt Freije during Freije's high school years.

The summer sweat helped. Kleinmann, who is known as a good passer with strong post moves, hit more than 60 percent of his shots his senior season.

"He sets the example of the kind of kid we want in our program," Campbell told the Johnson County Sun. "He's a good student, has good character, works hard and helps the young kids in the program. He's had a big impact in our program in a positive way with the way he represents himself on and off the court."

Off the court, Kleinmann is an accomplished oil painter who won two silver awards in a national scholastic-arts and writer competition. There were 4,000 entries across the country.

"I'm thrilled about everything. Most everybody would be thrilled just being a part of the basketball team at a program like KU, which is first-class where they do everything right and go the extra mile. I'm thrilled with the academics at KU, too," Kleinmann said.

"I don't see myself as a walk-on player, just one who is a member of the team. I'm not out there expecting to be the next Christian Moody (walk-on who plays a lot). It's what I'll work for, of course.

"Coach Jankovich (Tim, assistant) told me, 'I know you are up for the challenge of having a tough major like architecture and being an athlete. Come in not thinking you are just on the team, but you are competing for minutes, being the best player you can be.' I'm not expecting anything. I'll work as hard as I can and see where it takes me."

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