Archive for Sunday, March 7, 2004

Robertson remembers good, bad at MU

Former Jayhawk went 1-3 at Hearnes Center, but won prep state title there

March 7, 2004


— Of the hundreds of college basketball players who played against Missouri in Hearnes Center the past 32 years, nobody infuriated the Tigers and their fans more than Kansas University's Ryan Robertson.

Robertson, a 6-foot-5 St. Charles, Mo., high school hero, who chose the Jayhawks over Mizzou, was booed every time he touched the basketball -- and he touched it quite a bit -- in four KU-MU contests from 1995 to '99 at Hearnes, a building that no longer will be used for men's basketball regular-season games after today's 1 p.m. Border War battle.

"I am somewhat proud, to be honest," said Robertson, who went 1-3 at Hearnes. "I am proud that KU's biggest rivals hated me the most.

"Every time I touched the ball, without fail, they'd boo. Every time," marveled Robertson, who now plays professionally in the Netherlands.

Tiger fans gave Robertson a rude reception during KU's 77-73 loss his first year.

"My freshman year I thought, 'It's understandable,'" Robertson said of the booing.

"My sophomore year I was surprised they did it every single time I touched the ball. It was remarkable and funny. It kept up my last two years. I was glad we beat them my senior year. It would have been tough to take, never winning at Hearnes Center."

To Missouri fans, Robertson committed an unpardonable sin by picking KU over MU during recruiting.

But Robertson didn't mind the fans' venom too much.

"What was not funny," Robertson said, "was the harassment my family got and girlfriend -- who now is my wife -- got at the games. They are an ornery bunch," he added of the MU fans.

Despite the booing, Robertson doesn't have nightmares about Hearnes Center. After all, he won a state title there his senior year at St. Charles High.

"I can't think about Hearnes without getting a warm and happy feeling because that is where my greatest victory on a basketball court took place," Robertson said. "I had some great ones at Kansas, but I can honestly say I never have experienced the feeling of excitement the day when we won the state championship my senior year at St. Charles West."

He said he could understand why MU wanted a new arena.

"As neat as the games were we played against Missouri ... aesthetically, it's not the greatest building in the world," Robertson said. "It will be nice for players and fans to get a new building, to get the students closer to the court. It's probably time."

He realizes the Jayhawks will have their hands full today. The Tigers will not want to lose their final game in Hearnes.

"It will be an absolute zoo," Robertson said. "But if I ever wanted to go into a hostile environment I can think of no better guys to go with than Aaron Miles, Keith Langford and Wayne Simien.

"The thing I tell everybody is throw out the records, the rankings. It doesn't matter in this game. Anything can happen."

Robertson's heart is with Kansas (19-7 overall, 11-4 Big 12 Conference) but realizes Mizzou (15-11, 9-6) easily could claim victory today.

"Missouri hasn't had the greatest year. We have struggled on the road," Robertson said. "Throw those stats out the window. I definitely think we can win the game, absolutely."

As far as Robertson's game, two weeks ago he scored 15 points and dished 10 assists in the Dutch league all-star game. Robertson, who also won the three-point shooting contest at the event, will be a free agent at the end of the season.

"If we make the finals, I'll be done at the end of May," he said. "My contract is up. I have to kind of figure some things out, what I want to do."

As for the present, he has one request of MU fans today.

"I'd love a piece of the Hearnes floor," he said. "Or coach (Norm) Stewart's old chair. That would be sweet."

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