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Archive for Friday, October 14, 2005

Bedore: KU had tumultuous offseason

October 14, 2005

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I don't have to remind you that the college basketball season officially begins tonight with "Late Night in the Phog" at Allen Fieldhouse.

It matters not if you are reading this on newsprint in our Late Night special section or on the Web at KUSports.com. If you are reading this, it means you are a KU fan, and you've been counting the months, days, hours, minutes, seconds and nanoseconds until 6:30 p.m. today, the start of hoops season.

Sure, you were shocked, saddened -- yes, mad as heck and unwilling to take it anymore -- after the Jayhawks' humbling loss to Bucknell in the 2005 NCAAs last March in Oklahoma City.

But after a couple of weeks of venting (crying, wailing, gnashing of teeth), admit it:

You started to actually look forward to life without departing seniors Wayne, Keith, Aaron and Mike (no last names are needed when discussing KU basketball) and without transfers Nick, J.R., Alex and Moulaye, who didn't transfer but has given up basketball because of persistent injury.

So a new season OFFICIALLY begins tonight. But for the record, let me state that, around here, hoops season never really starts and ends.

It's ongoing 24-7, 364 days-per-year (Some folks take a one-day break from the Hawks on Christmas Day.)

With that in mind ... here's a quick recap of what's happened in Big Blue country from March 18, the date of the Bucknell Bummer, to today.

¢ April 4: Former KU coach Roy Williams' North Carolina Tar Heels blazed to the national title -- topping Illinois, 75-70, in the title game in St. Louis.

The title-game result made some Jayhawk fans happy, seemingly many more furious. The naysayers were livid that Williams was able to win his first national title in just his second season at UNC after failing to win it all (despite attaining four Final Fours) in 15 campaigns at KU.

¢ April 4: Oft-injured freshman three-point threat Alex Galindo announced plans to transfer, citing a need for a "change of scenery and desire to play closer to home (Puerto Rico)." He surfaced at Florida International, fairly close to his native Puerto Rico.

¢ April 14: Just 300 fans showed for KU's postseason awards ceremony at Lied Center, which seats 2,024. The empty seats did not go unnoticed by the players, used to packed houses wherever they appear.

"Those are the people that show their true colors, who are behind you regardless of the outcome on the floor, how you end up. The ones who didn't show up can sit behind their desk, their computers or whatever and complain till next season," said always-quotable Keith Langford.

¢ April 19: Just a junior, 6-5 Metairie, La., shooting guard Dwight Lewis orally committed to play for the Jayhawks. However, after an unproductive summer on the AAU circuit, he reneged Aug. 9.

¢ April 25: Sophomore walk-on Nick Bahe announced plans to transfer to Creighton, citing a desire for more playing time.

The fan favorite noted he "loved every minute at KU," but he simply needed a chance to get on the court and re-live his high school days when he was a standout basketball and football player in Lincoln, Neb.

¢ May 19: On a day that will live in KU infamy, J.R. Giddens was stabbed in the calf in a melee outside Lawrence's Moon Bar.

He ultimately left the program June 30 and transferred to New Mexico on July 9.

He was charged with battery and disorderly conduct Aug. 30.

The Moon Bar incident pretty much ruined the summer for coach Bill Self and his players, who had to face questions about the incident and deal with negative publicity for many moons.

It also was no picnic for bar owners; Moon Bar closed down during the ill-fated summer.

¢ May 29: Freshman Darnell Jackson's mother and grandmother were involved in a serious car wreck in Las Vegas. Darnell's grandmother, Evon, died June 7; his mom, Shawn, still is recovering in Oklahoma City.

¢ June 4: Saddled by persistent back problems, fan favorite Moulaye Niang decided to call it a career. He would have been a senior reserve this season, but he instead will help out at practice and in the basketball office.

¢ June 7: Oklahoma City prep C.J. Henry, who May 18 orally committed to play basketball at KU, was taken in the first round of the baseball draft by the New York Yankees. He immediately squelched any plans of following in dad Carl's footsteps on Mount Oread, signing a bonus for more than $1 million.

¢ June 28: Wayne Simien was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Miami Heat. He sweated it out a bit, eventually being tapped 29th overall -- just one pick to spare in Round One. He's thrilled to be playing for a title contender, next to Shaq.

¢ June 28: KU named a new director of basketball operations -- Ronnie Chalmers, the dad of KU freshman Mario. The hiring had some cynics screaming "package deal." Those who actually have met Ronnie quickly can see why Self hired the impressive Air Force veteran.

¢ July 15: KU held a bizarre press conference to make public detailed reports of various violations of NCAA rules uncovered during a two-year internal investigation. The chancellor imposed a two-year probation on KU's athletic department. Former KU coach Williams' name was splashed in newspapers all over the country when KU's investigation singled him out for approving small gifts from boosters to graduating seniors. Most agreed Williams' involvement appeared to be much ado about nothing, with more serious violations appearing to be in football and women's hoops.

¢ Aug. 26: KU added a player to the roster when KC native Brandon Rush enrolled at Strong Hall. He was declared eligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse Sept. 2 and is expected to contribute immediately to the team, probably even start.

¢ Aug. 28: KU sophomore Rodrick Stewart suffered a gash on the head after getting bonked on the head with a bottle in a disturbance at Abe and Jake's Landing in the early morning hours. Stewart was merely trying to flee the bar with other KU players and patrons, and he didn't break any laws or team rules.

¢ Sept. 25: Former Free State High standout guard Brady Morningstar orally committed to KU. Now at New Hampton Prep School in New Hampshire, the 6-3 Morningstar chose KU over West Virginia, Tennessee, Northern Illinois and others. He heard from several Big 12 Conference schools, who backed off, figuring he'd accept a KU offer. Morningstar will play 35 games at the prep school this year, then head to KU where he follows in footsteps of his dad, Roger.

Mostly it was a stormy offseason.

KU fans are hoping, of course, only sunny skies lie ahead.

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