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Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2005

Simien cheering for Heels

KU senior pulling for former coach to win NCAA crown

March 31, 2005

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More than anything, Wayne Simien wishes he could cut down the nets late Monday night at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

But since that now is an impossibility, Simien, Kansas University's senior basketball forward from Leavenworth, hopes his former coach gets to use the scissors.

"I'd like to see him do it," Simien said, referring to Roy Williams, whose North Carolina Tar Heels join Michigan State, Louisville and Illinois at this weekend's Final Four.

"Of the four teams there, I definitely would like to see him win it. I wish we were still playing, (but) he's still a close friend of mine. I'm glad to see him do well."

Simien will be in St. Louis this weekend himself, for reasons besides watching basketball. He's a finalist for the Naismith Award, which will be handed out in a ceremony Sunday night.

The other finalists are: Andrew Bogut, Utah; Chris Paul, Wake Forest; and J.J. Redick, Duke.

"I don't know, it's not up to me," Simien said, asked if he felt he'd win the award. "I did all I could this season. Other than that, it's up to the voters."

Simien, who was honored Wednesday with a pair of resolutions by the House and Senate in Topeka, has been working out daily since returning from an Easter weekend trip to San Diego, in preparation for what he hopes will be a long NBA career.

He purposely has tried not to reflect too much on the NCAA Tournament.







"I saw the last couple of seconds of the games (Sunday) as I was passing through the airport," Simien said. "I saw overtime of the Arizona-Illinois game, but I've not watched much at all. It's a little tough to watch. I don't want to watch too much."

Looking back on KU's loss to Bucknell, Simien said: "I've had time to think, but I've not been thinking about that. We picked a bad game to come out and play poorly. It was more than a game to us, it means so much to us, but ultimately it is just a game."

He was asked what he'd say to fans disappointed at the end of a 23-7 season, which included a share of the Big 12 Conference title.

"Don't get too worried. We definitely have a great coaching staff and great group of guys in there," Simien said. "It's no time to panic or jump off the wagon just yet. I have all the confidence in the world in the guys in the locker room and the coaching staff."

He said he had heard nothing but encouragement from fans.

"People are real supportive. I went to dinner in San Diego and had dinner with a Bucknell alum. He was very nice and supportive. Things like that. People have been nice overall," Simien said.

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Self on Illini: KU coach Bill Self told the Journal-World Monday he was "biased" and wanted his former Illinois players to win the national title.

Self told the Chicago Tribune he had faxed a letter of congratulations to the U of I basketball office.

"My policy has been players need to hear one voice and one voice only," Self said, asked why he didn't call the players personally. "They don't need to be venting to their ex-coach or stuff like that. Sure, it's hard for me. I love those kids. But that's the way it has to be because of the respect I have for Bruce (Weber) and his staff."

The KU seniors have heard from their former coach, Roy Williams, the past two years. Self recently issued a "no comment" to the J-W when asked about that fact.

"I want these guys to do great, but this staff doesn't need me calling them to tell them so. The basketball program at Illinois is bigger than my relationship with these guys," Self said. "I hope they know my thought process. They have a great head coach who would do anything for them.

"And even if I had maintained a relationship on a regular basis with a player, even if it was innocent and supportive as it would be, the present staff doesn't know me. How could they trust a guy who is no longer involved?

"I'm very happy for Illinois and the players," Self added. "The only negative feeling I have is that we didn't perform the way we should have here (at KU). I said all along I hoped we could meet Illinois deep in the tournament. They did their job, and we did not."

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Returning praise: Illini coach Bruce Weber lauded Self this week. "There's no doubt we owe a lot to coach (Lon) Kruger and coach Self for recruiting these guys, and coach (Lou) Henson for establishing the program and getting it in the limelight for a number of years and (Self and Kruger) building the recruiting base and getting things going," Weber told the Tribune.

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Self on the Final Four: "I really believe the two best teams are there. Over the course of the season, Illinois and North Carolina were the two best teams. But even though they have to be the favorites, they're not prohibitive favorites. Louisville and Michigan State have good-enough players, and they're playing well enough that they can beat anybody any night.

"Louisville's perimeter of (Francisco) Garcia, (Taquan) Dean and (Larry) O'Bannon is about as good as there is in America -- unless you're playing Brown, (Deron) Williams and (Luther) Head," he said of the Illini.

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