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Archive for Friday, December 8, 2006

KU’s Rush strives to end cold streak

December 8, 2006

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Brandon Rush started to feel the heat Oct. 11 when he and Kansas University basketball teammate Julian Wright were named co-Big 12 preseason players of the year.

"I think it adds a lot more pressure. People expect so much from us and being ranked so high as a team, too," Rush said at the time.

Rush's stress level only escalated Nov. 7 when the 6-foot-6 Kansas Citian was tapped first-team All-America by the Associated Press.

That brings us to today, nine games into the season.

"I've felt a little pressure from the beginning to now. I just have to come out and play," said Rush, off to somewhat shaky start in his sophomore season.

Though well ahead defensively of where he was a year ago - "he's our best perimeter defender," coach Bill Self said - Rush has labored a bit on the glamour end, the offensive end.

He's made 39 of 102 shots (38.2 percent) through nine games compared to 44-of-83 shooting (53 percent) through the same stretch of games his freshman season. He's hit 14 of 41 threes (34.1 percent) compared to 12 of 22 (54.5) in the first nine games last season. He has connected on 19 of 35 free throws (54.3 percent) compared to 16 of 21 (76.2) to start 2005-06.

Rush's scoring average is about the same, 12.4 points a game this year compared to 12.9 last.

"I just need to get in the gym and keep shooting," said Rush, who has hit 16 of 55 shots (29.1 percent) over the last five games. "Everybody is telling me to stay aggressive, keep putting up shots and I'll come out of it."

He hit three of 14 shots in Monday's 72-62 victory over USC, while holding the Trojans' Nick Young to a 3-of-13 shooting night.

"He is a little frustrated," sophomore guard Mario Chalmers said of Rush. "We've got to keep talking to Brandon and make sure he doesn't get down on himself."

Chalmers can see how the preseason accolades might affect some players' early-season performances.

"It can affect him. I don't think it has affected him," Chalmers said of Rush. "He is still the same ol' Brandon. His shots are not falling. It'll come around."

As Chalmers' comments would indicate, Rush's teammates are his biggest supporters entering Saturday's nonconference clash against Toledo at noon in Kemper Arena.

6Sports Video: KU mens basketball team still searching for a 'leader'

It's 9 games into the season for the Jayhawks, and the team is still in search of a bona fide leader. Brandon Rush was thought to be the likely candidate for the role, but has been struggling recently. Enlarge video

"I'm not worried about Brandon's shooting. There's a lot more basketball to be played. It's a long, long, long season," junior point guard Russell Robinson said. "His shot is looking good. He's getting open looks. I think they'll fall if he continues to stay confident."

Inside player Darnell Jackson said he was confident he'd never have to grab a rebound when Rush fires away.

"He always will hit shots," Jackson said. "He'll make big shots for us. Nobody is doubting him. He always gets good looks. Brandon Rush is a great player."

One who can help in other ways even when the shot isn't falling.

"Other than (Sammy) Mejia getting loose on him (in loss to DePaul), he's done a pretty good job guarding guys," coach Self said. "He's kept his man from scoring. He doesn't do it as much as Russell or Mario in creating havoc, getting steals, but he is a solid defender.

"He just needs to worry about being a basketball player. If he puts so much pressure on himself to make shots then he won't just play. You just worry about being a basketball player and you will get confidence from that and luck into some easy baskets and make shots."

Rush, who scored 12 points off 4-of-9 shooting in last year's game in his hometown - a win over Cal in Kemper - said he thought he'd be cashing lots of shots soon.

"I'll keep shooting until I start making them," the easy-going Rush said with a smile.

¢ Crane High to be represented: Saturday's game against Toledo is officially called the "American Century Investments Shootout."

Unofficially it's the "Chicago Crane High Alumni Game."

The game will feature one Crane graduate from KU (freshman Sherron Collins) versus two ex-Crane players from Toledo (sophomore Tyrone Kent and senior Florentino Valencia).

Toledo coach Stan Joplin credits Crane coach Anthony Longstreet for his work in helping schedule the game.

"I was in Chicago recruiting and dropped by Crane to say hello," Joplin told the Toledo Blade. "Anthony asked me if we needed a game. I told him we always needed games, and he said we should play Kansas. I laughed and said, 'Kansas isn't going to play us.' He picked up the phone, and the next thing I knew we were playing Kansas. Then I was told the game would be on national television (ESPN2) and we'd get paid $50,000. It was a no-brainer. But Anthony did everything."

The Rockets will enter with a 2-4 record against 7-2 KU.

"Now I don't know if I should kiss Anthony or kick him," Joplin cracked.

¢ Challenge info: It was reported this week that KU may play host to Arizona next season in the proposed Big 12/Pac-10 challenge. Another possible matchup is Washington at Texas A&M. Coach Lorenzo Romar this week indicated to the Seattle media that game was a possibility. The challenge would be similar to the ACC/Big 10 challenge featuring games from the two leagues.

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