Archive for Monday, March 5, 2007

Keegan: Kansas’ secret weapon

March 5, 2007


Somewhere on some night at some stage of the NCAA Tournament, a player listed way down on some team's stat sheet will do something that brands him an unlikely March hero for the rest of his life.

Why can't it be Kansas? Why can't it be Jeremy Case?

Many of Case's 88 minutes have come during garbage time. Even so, Case has looked like a more confident, well-rounded player. Whereas in the past he was a catch-and-shoot specialist, Case has spent many of his minutes at point guard this season. It suits him. He has 15 assists, three turnovers, and six steals.

A lot can make a coach reach deeper into his bench than usual. Injuries, foul trouble, triple overtime, a puzzling zone that creates the need for a sniper getting a hot hand.

Kansas has such a deep, versatile roster stocked with so many extraordinarily quick guards that Case's minutes have been sparse. His playing time has been curtailed even more by a foot problem. Yet, something in the back of my mind tells me Case is going to help Kansas win a game before its long March run ends.

"I want to believe that will happen," Case said.

It is pointed out to the fourth-year junior with the soft shooting touch from way downtown that wanting to believe it and believing it aren't the same thing.

"Will I get that chance?" Case said. "That's what's holding me back from absolutely believing it will happen. I definitely believe I can do it, I just don't know if I'll ever get the opportunity."

Case is the last player in the program recruited by Roy Williams, who at the time called the McAlester, Okla., native the best shooter he ever signed.

Teammates who see Case daily in practice marvel at his long-range eye. He has missed only one free throw in his career. Then again, he has taken only eight.

In his first two seasons, Case didn't bring his practice shooting touch into Big 12 games, making just 5 of 29 three-pointers (17.2 percent). This season, he has made 4 of 10 from long range against Big 12 teams. In eight minutes against Nebraska in Allen Fieldhouse, Case totaled nine points, two assists and a steal.

If the Big 12 gave an award for the 10th man of the year, Case would be a candidate. That's akin to making the NIT Final Four, a dubious honor.

That Case doesn't play much is more a statement of the rich talent in front of him than any indictment of his game. He badly wants to play, yet doesn't sulk. He approaches every practice as a chance to get better and tries to approach every game as the one in which he'll get his chance to help the Jayhawks win, so that if he is called upon he'll be ready.

"Lot of talent," he said of the players he faces daily. "Going against Russell (Robinson) makes me tougher. Going against Sherron (Collins) makes me quicker. Mario, I learn anticipation from him. He has such great anticipation on defense."

Teammates call Case the team's best shooter. He won't disagree, but said a pair of shooters rank right with him.

"Brandon (Rush) and Brady (Morningstar)," Case said. "I don't know how many people know it, but Brady's a really good shooter. He's going to be a great player."

He will have to become one to earn the chance to crack the

talent-rich Kansas rotation.


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