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Archive for Thursday, March 22, 2007

Gary Bedore’s KU basketball notebook

March 22, 2007

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— Southern Illinois forward Matt Shaw, who missed the second half of Friday's first-round win over Holy Cross and Sunday's victory over Virginia Tech, practiced Wednesday, but still is a question mark for today's KU game.

"We'll prepare as if he's going to play," KU coach Bill Self said of the 6-foot-7 junior from Centralia, Ill., who averages 11.4 points and 5.7 boards a game. "I know Matt a little bit from him being in high school when I was at Illinois. He's a tough kid. If he's not going to play, he's really hurt, because he's tough."

Junior big man Sasha Kaun added: "I don't think it should affect our preparation whether he's going to play or not. It's just an injury. You have to get ready no matter what."

¢New Ballard baby: KU administrative assistant Brett Ballard is back with the team this week. He didn't travel to Chicago for first- and second-round games last weekend. Instead, he was with wife, Kelly, as she at 8:30 p.m. Thursday gave birth to baby boy, Kaden.

Ballard indicated that Kaden wore a KU T-shirt during Friday's win over Niagara and Sunday's victory over Kentucky and would have a T-shirt on for tonight's game. Ballard kept Self informed about his new family addition through text messages all weekend.

¢Practice, practice, practice: The Jayhawks practiced an hour and a half at Bellarmin Prep School in San Jose, then held a 31-minute shootaround at HP Pavilion before maybe a few hundred fans. The Jayhawks cut short their workout with 19 minutes of allotted time remaining.

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¢He's healthy: Freshman guard Sherron Collins, who has been slowed by a swollen left knee lately, said he's fine.

"It got hit in the Kentucky game. I'm OK now. It hasn't bothered me at all lately," he said.

¢Rush knows Tatum: KU's Brandon Rush is a buddy of SIU standout Jamaal Tatum, a 6-2 senior from Jefferson City, Mo.

"I played against him in AAU ball. He's really good. He can score from anywhere and plays great defense, too," Rush said.

Rush, who is KU's leading scorer at 14.3 points a game, is regarded as one of the squad's best defensive players, maybe the best next to Russell Robinson.

"I am getting a lot of comments about that," Rush said. "Some say I'm one of the best defenders in the country. I like to play defense. I take pride in it."

He has come a long way.

"When he first came here, I remember he was asked how to describe his game, and he said, 'Highlights, highlights,'" Self said. "He can score. He can play defense."

¢Not another Bradley, is it?: KU players are aware Southern Illinois went 2-1 against Bradley this year. Bradley, of course, ended KU's season a year ago.

"They kind of remind me of the Bradley team last year," Robinson said. "Also, Texas A&M is similar (to SIU) as far as having aggressive and athletic guys that can make the physical plays. It doesn't matter if it's SIU or Duke, we will come out and play hard."

"Losing to Bradley in the first round, that should be enough motivation," Kaun said. "A team from Missouri Valley, they play hard, they're just a great team. We have to match their intensity."

¢SIU coach Chris Lowery on KU: "Their ability to turn a long rebound into a basket in two to three seconds is amazing. We won't be tricked into playing the way we don't want to play unless we lose our minds and go crazy.

"Julian (Wright) is an exceptional passer. Brandon is the next NBA guy, who can shoot and run and defend. Mario's (Chalmers) confidence is sky high. Sherron ... you think they are going fast, and he comes in and they go faster."

¢Could this be key to game?: Self said, "Whoever defends the best the last 10 seconds of the shot clock ... their chances of winning the game will be enhanced. We need to exercise patience and be aggressive both."

¢The Stewart twins: Rodrick Stewart's dad, Bull, will attend the USC-North Carolina game Friday, not KU's game tonight.

Rodrick's twin, Lodrick, plays for coach Tim Floyd's Trojans and has no eligibility remaining after this season. Rodrick has one year left at KU.

"I had to talk him into it," Rodrick said of making sure dad watched twin brother Lodrick.

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