Bechard, Kleinmann starting
Kansas coach Bill Self said he’ll start senior walk-ons Brennan Bechard and Matt Kleinmann in today’s 3 p.m. Senior Day game against Texas.
Of course, Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins also figure to open the game. That leaves the other starting slot to be filled by either Brady Morningstar, Tyshawn Taylor or Marcus Morris.
Morningstar and Bechard were teammates at Lawrence’s Southwest Junior High.
“Brennan’s been a good friend of mine. I’ve known him since he moved here (in 1998 after his dad, Ray, became KU volleyball coach),” Morningstar said. “He is one of the guys who will do anything coach asks.”
If Bechard and Morningstar start, “it’d bring back junior high memories,” Bechard said. “I’ve known Brady forever. Coach told me I’d probably start. I told him how much I appreciate it but all I’m worried about is winning the game.”
Bechard and Kleinmann will give short speeches after the contest.
“I’m nervous. It’s a good nervous, like before a special occasion,” Kleinmann said.
“Mine won’t be too long, I promise you that,” Bechard said of his speech. “A couple minutes and I’m out of there. I’m a little nervous. I’m not really that good at public speaking.”
Wrights in town
Self confirmed on Friday that Patrick and Holly Wright, the parents of Payton Wright, who died of cancer at the age of 5, are guests of the KU program this weekend.
A year ago, Dick Vitale’s annual cancer benefit event — which annually raises funds for The V Foundation for Cancer Research — provided proceeds to the Payton Wright Research Grant for Pediatric Cancer.
For information on the late Payton Wright and the fight to find a cure for the disease that is the No. 1 killer of children under 5, visit paytonwright.org .
KU’s Aldrich (sprained right foot) and Taylor (bruised left big toe) practiced Friday and figure to play today.
“I’m all right. I’m a little sore,” said Taylor, who jammed his toe in the final two minutes of Wednesday’s loss at Texas Tech. “It hit the back of (a Tech player’s) foot. It didn’t bend. It locked. It’s swollen, nothing serious.”
Abrams matchup in question
Texas’ A.J. Abrams, who is the Big 12’s all-time leading three-point shooter, could present problems for KU’s defense today.
Who will guard Abrams, who averages 16.9 ppg?
“I’ve thought about it. I’m not going to tell you, but I’ve thought about it ... a lot,” Self cracked.
Last year, Mario Chalmers opened on Abrams. Collins and Brandon Rush also guarded Abrams, who scored 15 points versus KU in the Jayhawks’ 84-74 victory in the Big 12 Tournament final, and 14 in UT’s 72-69 victory over KU in Austin.
“We’ll use different guys to try to chase him around. It won’t be one guy’s job to guard him,” Self said.
Both Collins and Taylor predicted Morningstar would open on Abrams.
“I feel I let the team down the last couple games defensively,” Morningstar said. “I’ve got to get back on my game to help the team out.”
Of his roommate Morningstar’s play of late, Collins said: “Brady got out of character (Wednesday at Tech). He was not the same Brady. He’ll be all right tomorrow.”
KU’s Chase Buford this weekend has been reunited with his brother, Alexis Wangmene, a 6-7 University of Texas forward, who hails from Cameroon. Wangmene’s legal guardians are Buford’s parents, R.C. and Beth Buford.
“I’m going to see him tonight,” Buford said Friday afternoon. “I don’t think we’ll talk about the game at all. But I’m going to get to see him, for sure."
The Journal-World wrote a story on Buford and his brother last season. The story remains available online.
Undisputed title on line
A KU victory would give the Jayhawks the undisputed regular season Big 12 crown. A KU loss would open the door for Oklahoma and Missouri to gain a tie for the crown wins today. OU plays host to Oklahoma State; MU travels to Texas A&M.
“It’d be really cool to clinch at home with the best league record we’ve had since we’ve been here,” said Self. His Jayhawks enter 24-6 overall and 13-2 in the league. Texas is 20-9, 9-6.
“We don’t want to share (title). They don’t want to share. We’re selfish and they are, too.”
“We don’t want to share with anybody, especially Mizzou,” Sherron Collins said.
KU leads the all-time series with Texas, 15-6. The Jayhawks have won four of the past five meetings. The two teams have met in the last three Big 12 Tournament finales, KU winning each time. The last four games have been decided by 10 points are less.
“The way these two teams compete, it’s been made a rivalry,” KU’s Collins said. “It’ll be tough. They are scrappy, tough to beat.”
Last home game?
A junior with NBA aspirations, Collins was asked if he’s thinking this might be his final game in the fieldhouse.
“All I’m thinking about is Texas and trying to win the conference championship. I’m not thinking NBA,” Collins said.