Manhattan Kansas University's basketball squad can snare at least a share of the Big 12 Conference championship today with a victory at Kansas State, alma mater of current KU assistant coach Tim Jankovich.
"I think there would be some incredible irony, which in a lot of ways there already is, having the opportunity to coach here," said Jankovich, a 1982 K-State graduate now in his third season on Bill Self's Jayhawk staff.
"At this point, the thrill of winning a championship would be great no matter where it is. I guess it's a coincidence we'd have that opportunity in Manhattan," Jankovich added.
He has pleasant memories of starring as a guard at KSU, where he helped Jack Hartman's Wildcats to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a 1981 Elite Eight berth and '82 Sweet 16 appearance.
He grinned when asked if he had game tapes of his stellar career.
"I do, but they are locked in safety deposit," he said. "I really don't want to see them. I'm sure I'd be disappointed. I'd rather go ahead and imagine things as they were."
A three-year starter, the modest Jankovich left KSU with nine top-10 career marks, including ranking first in career free-throw percentage (91.7) and eighth in career field-goal percentage (51).
"One of the great things for me that happened in having a chance to coach here at KU is, it brings me back to my home, basically," said Jankovich, who grew up in Manhattan. "I'm reacquainted to home."
He isn't sure how he'll be treated today in his hometown.
"The last time we played there, they (fans) were great to me, which was nice," Jankovich said. "You never know what to expect. Maybe it'll be different (this time). I know so many people there. I not only went to school there but grew up there. You could imagine going back where there's so many from Manhattan and Kansas State in the building."
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Like everybody else, he's amazed the Jayhawks have claimed 22 straight victories in the Little Apple. Yet he insists the streak isn't a big storyline today.
"I feel like the streak is zero," Jankovich said, "in the sense this team has not played that team in Manhattan this year. If there is a streak, it's one for them now (after KSU's victory over KU in January in Allen Fieldhouse). What happened over the past is completely irrelevant."
Jankovich, who has prepared the scouting report for today's game, said the Wildcats (15-11 overall, 6-9 Big 12 Conference) presented a stern test for the Jayhawks (21-7, 12-3).
"I think they are very good. I've said it all year long. It's not coachspeak," Jankovich said. "Obviously, I follow them closely. I always have and always will. I've been very impressed with them all season. So many of their games could have gone the other way and made the appearance of the season change dramatically.
"Some tough losses (nine losses by five points or less) never seem to faze them. They never seem to get knocked down. If there's a scarier team in the league to play, I can't think of who that would be right now."
Jankovich said this wasn't the game he most looked forward to each season.
"No, no. I probably like to play them less than anybody else," he said. "I can't imagine anybody I'd rather play less. If we are all honest with ourselves, in a similar position I don't see where that (playing one's alma mater) is something you'd look forward to the most."
Streak explained: KU's 22-game winning streak over KSU in Manhattan is believed to be the longest streak by a visiting team in games played in consecutive years on campus of a home team. UCLA won 25 straight games at California from 1961 to '85, but the '74 game was played off campus in Oakland, Calif., which Cal still considered a home game. Rhode Island won 23 straight games at Maine from 1927 to '57. The teams did not play consecutive years, skipping several.
Frederick to be honored: Mark Frederick, a 6-foot-5, 195-pound senior from Lawrence High, will take part in Senior Day festivities today at Kansas State. Frederick has played four minutes in four games this season. He's missed two floor shots and two free throws.
Frederick plans a career in coaching.
"I sure do," KSU coach Jim Wooldridge said, asked if Frederick would make a good coach. "He's really dedicated to the game, he loves the game, he's a smart young man. He's got an athletic background with his family, and you bet I can see that. I think that will happen."
Frederick's dad is former KU athletic director Bob Frederick. Bob, and his wife, Margey, will be introduced with their son before today's game. Other seniors on the team are: Dramane Diarra, Schyler Thomas, Josh Campbell and Kyle Taylor. Wooldridge has not started all seniors in the past on Senior Day.
No braids: KU freshman Brandon Rush has cut his hair. He's not wearing braids as he said he might a couple weeks ago. "I cut it today. I need a change," he said.
Zone busters: KU, which struggled against KSU's zone defense, has fared well against zones in recent contests. "Since we put in a new play, it's easier for our guards to get open to find an open three," Rush said.
He'll play: Darnell Jackson, who explained his recent flu-like symptoms as a "stomach virus," practiced Friday and said he would play today.