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Archive for Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ex-Jayhawk Gooden enjoys warm welcome

September 20, 2006

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Drew Gooden pumped iron for an hour Tuesday in Kansas University's Anderson Family Strength and Conditioning Center.

The 6-foot-10, 242-pound Cleveland Cavaliers power forward, who played at KU from 1999-2002, also scrimmaged with the Jayhawks an hour and a half after taking a brisk walk on campus.

Welcome back to college, Drew.

"Students are having nice things to say to me. I think they are more surprised to see me than anything - a 'what are you doing here' type of deal," said Gooden, who will turn 25 Sunday. "You always get love no matter what."

Gooden - the fifth-year pro who recently signed a three-year, $23 million contract extension with the Cavs - returned to Lawrence this week to enroll in 18 hours of coursework toward his Communications degree as well as ... well, let him explain.

"I wanted to come back to get to see the young guys, keep my connection here with the new coaches and everybody and just keep my connection with the school," said Gooden, who played for Roy Williams at KU.

He's impressed with Bill Self's current roster of players.

"Everybody," Gooden said, asked who excelled in pick-up action. "(Brandon) Rush, (Julian) Wright, (C.J.) Giles, I mean everybody.

"Even the new kids, the incoming freshmen ... this is a talented group of players. They have a great attitude. Coach Self is doing a great job of recruiting the type of kids Kansas had in the past."

Drew Gooden on coming back, the current crop of KU players and the Cavs.

None

Gooden ran the floor with Darrell Arthur, KU's 6-9, 230-pound freshman forward, who actually reminds some of Gooden.

"He hit the game winner yesterday, that says a lot right there," Gooden said. "He got (jersey) Double Zero.

"Remember I was Zero. It's similar, not the same," he added with a laugh.

Completing his degree is no laughing matter. Gooden said he had a real desire to wrap up work toward his diploma.

"I want to finish up, keep my word to everybody in my family - my mother, coach Williams and myself," Gooden said. "I feel I went out and told you (media) what I was going to do to pursue my career. Now that is starting to blossom I feel it's time to go back and finish my degree."

KU associate athletic director Paul Buskirk said Gooden would be able to take correspondence courses at KU and perhaps a course at Cleveland State as well as perhaps return to campus down the line for a final course or two.

"Drew had a big smile on his face when he said he wanted to come back to school. I like that," Buskirk said. "Obviously something is there - something he's had from day one or some influence. He has a quest to finish this."

He also has a quest to win an NBA title with LeBron James and company.

"That's why I signed a three-year deal, just in case we win it the third year," Gooden said with a smile. "I'm excited. It's a blessing for me to sign that and play another three seasons in Cleveland."

He hopes to make it back for a KU game this season.

"It's a no-brainer right there. I love KU," he said. "Words can't explain how much."

¢ KU to play Carolina school: KU has filled the final date on its basketball schedule with Winston-Salem State. KU will meet the Rams at 7 p.m. Dec. 19 in Allen Fieldhouse. Winston-Salem State is an independent for the 2006-07 season as it completes the transition to NCAA Div. I.

Winston-Salem State went 19-10 last season in Div. II. Bobby Collins, who is in his first season at WSSU, coaches the Rams. Another famous coach of WSSU was Clarence "Big House" Gaines, who coached there from 1947-93. Gaines ranks fifth all time in NCAA history with 828 victories.

KU officials also announced the Kansas at DePaul contest on Dec. 2 would start at 1 p.m.. That contest and the Rhode Island at Kansas game on Dec. 30 will air on Jayhawk TV.

"They probably play the toughest schedule in the country," KU senior associate AD Larry Keating said of the Rams, who are officially a Div. I team this year. The Rams will play KU, Georgetown, Auburn, Notre Dame, Fresno State, UAB and others.

"It was brutal," Keating added of trying to find one final game at this late date. The Rams will earn a payday of $60,000 plus expenses. "I got to the point we went down the line checking on everybody. The biggest issue was the date. We needed a game in that gap two weeks between Toledo (Dec. 9) and Boston College (Dec. 23). We kept holding on and hoping we didn't need to go Div. II."

¢ Aldrich excels: Future KU center Cole Aldrich played well at last weekend's Fullcourt Press Fall Hoops Classic in California. Aldrich "dominated every other big man over the weekend," wrote Frank Burlison of the Long Beach Press Telegram.

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