Danny Manning, star of Kansas University’s 1988 NCAA championship team, and Larry Brown, coach of the squad, won’t be in Allen Fieldhouse today for the Jayhawks’ 115 Years of KU Basketball celebration.
Manning has business in Orlando, Fla., and Brown in Dallas where their Tulsa and SMU teams will be playing games against Central Florida and East Carolina.
In fact, just two of the 10 players who played against Oklahoma in the title game 25 years ago — Jeff Gueldner and Mike Maddox — were able to get away to watch KU’s 2012-13 Jayhawks play TCU in ‘88 throwback jerseys. Also on hand for the 3 p.m., tip against TCU will be ‘88 assistant coach R.C. Buford, plus team members Mark Randall and Marvin Mattox and perhaps some late additions/surprises.
“We don’t talk every day, but whenever you talk to them it seems like you talked to them yesterday. That’s everybody (on ‘88 team),” Manning said in an interview with the Journal-World.
Almost the entire team returned for the 20-year reunion.
“We actually went to the alumni center on campus. That was the first time that most of us were in a room together watching the championship game together and that was neat,” Manning recalled.
“Before that, we all stayed in contact through everybody else. ‘So-and-so’s doing this, so-and-so’s doing that.’ Now, there’s more communication. We get email chains going and we’re texting all the time.
“We knew we weren’t the most talented team but we all were willing to sacrifice for each other. We sacrificed, played hard, bought into coach Brown’s system and we had guys who had great feel for the game.”
In all, about 200 former Jayhawk players, coaches and managers will attend today’s game, which is a rematch of KU’s 62-55 road loss to the Horned Frogs on Feb. 6. They’ll attend a pre-game reception in Horejsi Center, watch the game, then attend a banquet.
“I’m sure other places in America do it, but I don’t know if anyone does it any cooler than what they have at KU for years, with the reunions (every five years),” KU coach Bill Self said. “Them coming back and being with each other, to me, is what’s really cool. Nobody ever forgets those (college) days.”
Self was on Oklahoma State’s staff back in ’88.
“I remember going to see Larry Brown Sunday night before Monday’s game against Oklahoma in Kansas City. I thought it was really cool. He wanted to know how we broke the press against Oklahoma. I’m thinking, ‘You’re going to ask me, but I know for a fact that you’re not going to listen,’” Self said, laughing. “He had a 6-11 guy he could throw it into and break it that way. I wasn’t a part of it, but it was nice to feel somewhat included because of my past history with coach.”
Helping one’s neighbor: Self came to the rescue of KU director of basketball operations Doc Sadler, whose car was stuck in a snow bank near Walmart on Thursday. Self also stopped to help free a motorist in Lawrence, who wrote this on Twitter: “Do you want to know why Self is worth the $52 million for 10 years? He drives by me trying to push a car out of a lot and parks to help... Walks up and says ‘looks like you boys need a man with some muscle’ and we made it happen. What a bad---.”
Did he make the muscle comment?
“I might have,” Self said with a smile. “I think that was an exaggeration. Doc called me. I said, ‘Are you coming to work?’ He said, ‘I’d like to but I’m stuck,’ so I went over there. He’s such a bad driver,” Self joked.
Traylor’s OK: Freshman Jamari Traylor sparked KU by scoring four second-half points Wednesday at Oklahoma State despite playing with a sprained right thumb.
“It’s hard to close my hand and make a tight hand and squeeze the ball. It’s actually not that bad,” Traylor said. “I think I’m going to take the tape off this game.”
Chicago native Traylor said the recent snowstorm tops anything he’d seen back home.
“I don’t remember ever having a snow day,” he said of school being canceled as KU was for two days.
He did have a mishap with his cellphone. “I was walking down a hill and stumbled and lost it. When I found it, it was shattered. I think a plow machine ran over it,” Traylor said.
Recalling the loss: TCU still has just one win in the Big 12 — over KU.
“Looking back we only had two points in the first 10 minutes (13 at half),” center Jeff Withey said. “They played great defense. They held us without scoring. It’s going to be a different story (today). We have a lot of confidence right now. We are definitely not going to score two points the first 10 minutes, I guarantee that. It’ll be fun to play against them again and get payback and be able to be in the fieldhouse. Our fans will be here. It’ll be a tough game. They know they can beat us.”
Visitors: Tyus Jones, a 6-1 junior point guard from Apple Valley (Minn.) High who is ranked No. 3 in the Class of 2014 by Rivals.com, and No. 6 Justise Winslow, 6-5 junior from Houston’s St. John’s High, are planning on attending today’s game, weather permitting.