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Archive for Friday, January 13, 2006

Keegan: Kansas enriched by Rush

January 13, 2006

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The pro scouts told Brandon Rush he wasn't ready to make the jump to the NBA, told him he needed to improve his defense and extend the range on his jump shot.

Let's see, the Kansas University freshman sometimes is matched up against the opposing team's leading scorer and more often than not does a credible job with the assignments. Clearly, he has improved his defense and is smart enough to know he needs to continue that improvement and quick enough to make it happen.

As for the range on his jump shot, Rush is shooting .514 on three-point attempts.

Rush has delivered far more substance than what might have been expected from a player who upon arriving at KU gave a one-word answer to describe his game: "Highlights."

Not that he hasn't delivered those. One of his best ones came in the second half of Wednesday night's 75-63 victory at Colorado. Rush brought a one-hander from behind his head and flushed it with a helpless Martane Freeman underneath him. Nice poster. Then he stared down Freeman.

"Big-time players make big-time plays," Colorado coach Ricardo Patton said of the dunk. "It's that way in every sport. : And that dunk came in traffic."

Rush scored all of his 17 points in the second half, just as he scored all 12 in the second half in the victory at Kemper Arena against California. He had 13 of 15 in the second half of a close loss at Allen Fieldhouse to Nevada.

In his first game in another school's home arena, Rush was ridden hard by the student section with oral jabs, such as: "JaRon was way better!" And: "You're no Kareem." At one point, while standing at the free-throw line, he pointed into the crowd. He was loving sticking it to them. After his dunk, one student hollered, "Your brother's still better."

Rush is better when he attacks, instead of looking for perimeter shots, and as he gains experience, he'll attack more and more. He has a chance to lead KU to an enjoyable March run.

Enjoy him while you can because chances are this will be his only season as a college basketball player, regardless of how much he appears to be enjoying it.

Is it worth it having a player of his caliber for one year? I say it is. Others will argue that if it was obvious from the start he didn't intend to get a degree from Kansas, he shouldn't have been recruited.

To me, Rush has enriched the KU experience for so many students who enjoy the games at Allen Fieldhouse and the road games on television, creating memories for them and for alumni. He has given every bit as much to the university as he has taken.

And that's a lot. Even if he leaves after one year and all of us are watching that dunk again during NBA draft coverage, he will have learned a great deal from KU coach Bill Self and his staff, who have driven him harder and taught him more than all the coaches in his life combined. And he will have made friends for life. Everybody wins.

As for those fearing Micah Downs will be the latest to transfer from KU, consider this: If Rush leaves, don't you think Downs has the confidence to believe the majority of Rush's team-leading minutes will go to him next season?

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