Players say hoops just hobby, for now
When news broke Friday that Kansas University freshmen Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor would be ineligible for the 2011-12 season, that left the KU basketball team with just eight players who were given scholarships when they were recruited.
In years past, college basketball programs across the country have looked to football rosters to bolster their lineups. That may not happen at Kansas, but the Jayhawks’ football team is not devoid of former basketball talent.
Several players on Turner Gill’s team starred as two-sport athletes in high school.
And although their main focus now is on football, the idea of playing basketball still stirs something inside them.
“I know there have been guys do it at certain universities,” junior safety Bradley McDougald said. “But my focus since I’ve been here has just been on football.”
McDougald, 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, was an all-district selection in basketball at his high school in Dublin, Ohio.
Asked if he’d be interested, should KU hoops coach Bill Self come calling, McDougald did not hide his enthusiasm for the other sport he loves.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” he said. “I mean, I would definitely do it if the offer was there, I just haven’t really looked into trying it.”
McDougald first began being recruited in football as a sophomore in high school. Because of that, he told his coaches he was not interested in exploring basketball opportunities in college. Still, the sport remained one of his hobbies. McDougald said the KU football squad had plenty of basketball talent on its roster and he was not shy about naming the top player on the team.
“I’m gonna go with me,” he said. “Some of the young guys have been fairly impressive this year. JaCorey (Shepherd is) good and little (Tony) Pierson can play. A lot of the freshmen can play but a lot of that is because they’re coming right out of high school and in the winter they didn’t do anything besides play basketball. It’s going to be interesting to see how we hoop it up after football’s over.”
During the past couple of offseasons, McDougald’s intramural squads, which featured a few other KU football players, backed up the claim that football players have game.
“We definitely have some hoopers,” he said. “My team has played in the Fieldhouse twice. We lost both years in the championship. So I still get to hoop every now and then, but my main focus has been on football. In the offseason, it’s not really the offseason because we still come together and have all kinds of extra stuff we do as a team without the coaches, so I just don’t see having too much time for basketball.”
KU coach Turner Gill said red-shirt freshman safety Keeston Terry and senior offensive lineman Jeremiah Hatch both are questionable for Saturday’s game against No. 12 Kansas State. In addition, senior running back Rell Lewis is out with a knee injury and red-shirt freshman running back Brandon Bourbon, who missed last week, is expected to be available. This year’s Sunflower Showdown will kick off at 11 a.m. at Memorial Stadium and will be shown on FSN.
Every game important
One week removed from making it through back-to-back meetings against Big 12 teams ranked in the top six in the country, Gill was asked if the match-up with K-State provided his team with a chance to make a statement about how far his club had improved. Gill took the opportunity to praise the league.
“Every game that you play in right now in the Big 12 Conference can speak volumes for our program,” he said. “As you get the teams that are ranked, it becomes a little bit more visible. I think our guys are ready to play a great ballgame. You have the rivalry, obviously, involved in it, too. Our guys will be ready to play as far as that goes. It’s a great opportunity again for us, and our guys will be ready for the challenge.”
KU schedule a beast
One of the silver linings of KU’s 2-4 start to the season has been the fact that most of the games have come against top-tier talent. When the Jayhawks line up to take on the 6-0 Wildcats this weekend, it will mark the seventh straight game in which KU’s opponent was undefeated. Although the last four KU opponents have handed the Jayhawks a loss, the players remain upbeat about where they’re headed.
“We’ve played six undefeated teams in a row,” senior tight end Tim Biere said. “I don’t know if anybody’s doing that in the nation. We’ve been tested. And last week we really got some momentum going against Oklahoma. Even though we lost by 30, we saw that we could hang with them.”
Added Gill, when asked about the difficult schedule: “That’s the way it goes, but we have to go out and play. We’re doing some good things and we still have to make some good progress here. That’s the way the game is. We have a great conference, and I think that’s what it speaks toward. This conference is very good and talented. I’m proud to still be a part of it and I know we’re going to be successful here at some point in time.”