Russell Robinson was careful to not drop a prized possession - the Danny Manning Mr. Jayhawk Award - as he headed out of the Holiday Inn Holidome Convention Center into the rain Tuesday night.
"I'll remember this forever," Robinson, Kansas University's junior point guard, said after his teammates voted him the program's highest accolade for a second straight season.
"It's an honor to be looked upon this way," Robinson added.
The Mr. Jayhawk Award, which was the only hardware presented at the season-ending basketball banquet, annually is presented to the one player who best exemplifies what it means to be a Jayhawk.
"To me, he epitomizes what college athletics is all about," KU coach Bill Self said of the New York native who averaged 7.2 points a game, the sixth-best mark on the squad, while ranking first in assists (161) and second in steals (73).
"He will graduate on time. He is ornery. He is loyal. He is stubborn. To be honest, he has all the characteristics a good player has to have. He encompasses what Kansas basketball is all about."
Needless to say, Self approved of the players' decision to tap Robinson.
"During the press conference at the NCAA Tournament, all five starters were sitting there (the day before the Elite Eight game against UCLA in San Jose, Calif.). The media asked them about history and tradition at Kansas ... what it means to them. Russell Robinson said with a straight face: 'I think about it every day.' Our guys know he's as important as anybody on the team," Self said.
In lieu of the traditional array of awards for top assist man, rebounder and defender, the Jayhawks each were presented a framed collage of photographs and newspaper headlines from the 33-5 season.
"I don't know whether to give it to my mom and dad or keep it for myself. I might have to find room for this on the wall," Robinson said.
Of not singling out players who were so close to the top of so many statistical categories, Robinson said: "I think it's good since it's tough to decide who to give them (awards) to. This team had so many guys contribute. It's good everybody was recognized in this way."
Robinson, who is known for his honest answers to questions, said the Jayhawks face a huge challenge next year in replacing Julian Wright, who has elected to turn pro, and perhaps Brandon Rush, who may yet turn pro.
"It'd be a little tough," he said of his senior season if both players leave. "But I still think we'd be a good team. Somebody would step up."
Tuesday night was more about rehashing the past season, which included an Elite Eight appearance as well as Big 12 regular-season and postseason tourney titles.
"It's probably the best locker room I've ever been a part of," Robinson said. "I'm looking forward to an even better season next year."
¢Final tally: KU finished the season third on the all-time victory list. Kentucky is first with 1,948 victories, followed by North Carolina (1,914), KU (1,906) and Duke (1,818).
¢Collins healing: KU freshman point guard Sherron Collins, who scored just two points in a Sweet 16 win over Southern Illinois and zero in a season-ending loss to UCLA, said he never considered skipping those games because of a severe case of patellar tendinitis in his left knee.
"I knew it was hurt. I didn't want to think about it until after the season," said Collins, who indicated the knee is 90 percent healed. "Nothing would stop me from playing. It hurt in the game, but in a game like that with the adrenaline rush, you don't think about your knee."