Behind the Lens: How to survive a court-storming

Journal-World photographer Nick Krug has learned a thing or two about how to prepare and navigate a court-storming, such as this one when Kansas State fans rushed the court at Bramlage Coliseum on Feb. 23 after the Wildcats defeated the Jayhawks. At right, a fan runs into KU's Jamari Traylor, which caused a national discussion about the safety risks posed by court-storming.

If my calculations are correct, Kansas University men’s basketball opponents are more or less good for about three to four court-stormings a season.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I’ll say that over the last 10 years of covering KU men’s basketball, I’ve felt the unwelcome breath of a raucous student section on the back of my neck when the final buzzer sounded on about 30 occasions. In this time, I’ve learned a few things about how to protect myself and how to convey the gravity of the moment without getting trampled.

First off, I think rushing the court is stupid, but that doesn’t change the fact that it still happens and I have to cover it when it does. So, if the game is close and KU is falling behind, usually, just looking into the eyes of that first row of students is enough to tell me that they’re coming and it’s going to be fast.

If it’s a venue that I haven’t been to before, I’ll sometimes ask one of the security guards what the likelihood is that students will rush the floor. On a few occasions, I’ve even asked the students to give me a heads up and politely requested to not run me over.

With a couple of minutes left in the game, I try to minimize the amount of gear that I have on the floor. I limit myself to two camera bodies, a wide-angle lens and a mid-range telephoto. During the timeouts, I’ll start feverishly pulling the plugs on my remote cameras, pack up my floor chair and start eliminating pieces of gear that I won’t need so none of it gets smashed into a thousand pieces when the floodgates open. Usually, I’ll sprint these back to the media room or dish them off to one of our writers nearby.

If a game comes down to one possession and I can see the students crouching as if waiting for a starter’s pistol, this is the point where I will shoot the final play from a standing position. You can’t fully abandon your post, because a KU player may hit a buzzer-beater like Andrew Wiggins did last year against Texas Tech. But when the final score doesn’t favor KU and the buzzer sounds, it’s either get moving or get trampled.

After making some unwise decisions in these situations earlier in my career, I’ve found it’s best to move with the crowd, click off a few frames and then veer off to one side or another.

In 2006, Christian Moody missed a couple of free throws that sent a game at Mizzou Arena into overtime, which the Jayhawks eventually lost 89-86. I remember coming to a halt to compose an image only to be sent hurdling to the floor with my gear flailing as I was overtaken by the rush of students. I think I ended up crawling my way over to the scorer’s table to avoid any more damage.

As intense as the moment seemed, I never thought any of the bumps that sent me to the floor were intentional. In fact, Monday’s court storming, which became national news when a Kansas State student charged into Kansas forward Jamari Traylor, is the only time I can really remember witnessing an aggressive act following a celebration. I guess this then begs the question: Why would an aggressive act occur during a celebration?

— Staff photographer Nick Krug can be reached at 832-6353. Follow him on Twitter: @nickkrug.