Entries from blogs tagged with “ku”

David Beaty discusses latest KU football signees

Beginning at 2 p.m., Kansas football coach David Beaty will meet with members of the media to discuss National Signing Day and the newest additions to the KU program.

Watch the press conference live right here, or come back and check it out later in the day.

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Marlins Man calls Allen Fieldhouse ‘best basketball experience’

Baseball fan Laurence Leavy, right, watches during the 12th inning of Game 1 of the Major League Baseball World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Baseball fan Laurence Leavy, right, watches during the 12th inning of Game 1 of the Major League Baseball World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

If you kept up with either of the Kansas City Royals’ back-to-back trips to the World Series, surely you’re aware of “Marlins Man,” the fan in the orange visor and Florida Marlins jersey that inevitably showed up in some choice box seats to watch Major League Baseball’s championship.

Well, the super fan, whose real name is Laurence Leavy, made his way to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday for some college basketball. Marlins Man might not have constantly appeared on TV for Kansas vs. Kentucky, but he sat courtside and apparently left blown away by the KU experience.

Here is the video Marlins Man posted on his Facebook page:

I need to tell everyone that last Saturday night was probably the best basketball experience I have ever been to.I have been to a LOT of basketball games. 70 NBA Finals games and over 200 NBA playoff games. This was non stop energy, passion, excitement. And throughout the game the fans acted like fans might do at the end of a classic game.These fans acted that way the ENTIRE night. Never ever seen that before.Plus it's an old school stadium. No chair back seats. Simply bench seats throughout.I was so excited that I forgot to make a Marlins Man Media Moment. Never happened before.Just watch this small video clip. No imagine it was like this for 3 solid hours. Plus the game went into overtime. ALLEN FIELD HOUSE ROCKS. I can't wait to back again.Btw, I never knew that basketball was invented in Mass., and then the inventor became the coach of Kansas, and he wrote the Rules of Basketball, and that someone paid over 4 million dollars for them. They were returned to Kansas that night at a ceremony. AMAZING

Posted by Laurence Leavy Marlins Man on Saturday, January 30, 2016

As for his commentary on the fieldhouse? This is what the almighty Marlins Man had to offer in his post:

I need to tell everyone that last Saturday night was probably the best basketball experience I have ever been to.

I have been to a LOT of basketball games. 70 NBA Finals games and over 200 NBA playoff games.

This was non stop energy, passion, excitement. And throughout the game the fans acted like fans might do at the end of a classic game. These fans acted that way the ENTIRE night. Never ever seen that before.

Plus it’s an old school stadium. No chair back seats. Simply bench seats throughout. I was so excited that I forgot to make a Marlins Man Media Moment. Never happened before.

Just watch this small video clip. (Now) imagine it was like this for 3 solid hours. Plus the game went into overtime.

ALLEN FIELD HOUSE ROCKS. I can’t wait to back again. Btw, I never knew that basketball was invented in Mass., and then the inventor became the coach of Kansas, and he wrote the Rules of Basketball, and that someone paid over 4 million dollars for them. They were returned to Kansas that night at a ceremony. AMAZING.

Maybe on his next visit he’ll buy up some seats behind the Kansas bench — easier to be seen that way.

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Bill Self on KU’s defensive issues, facing K-State and more

Coming off a memorable overtime victory against Kentucky, the Kansas Jayhawks return to Big 12 play on Wednesday night, when they host in-state rival Kansas State.

KU coach Bill Self discussed the Sunflower Showdown, the Jayhawks’ issues on defense and much more at his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon.

— Check out the highlights from the Q&A from KUsports.com’s live coverage.

— AUDIO | Bill Self talks (some more) about UK win, looks ahead to K-State

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Udoka Azubuike a legitimate center

Watching video clips of the 6-foot-11, 260-pound Udoka Azubuike, calls to mind Cliff Alexander dominating Chicago high school competitors with a series of dunks, plus three inches in height, 20 pounds in weight, less body fat, and broader shoulders.

In other words, he is tall enough, big enough and aggressive enough to give Kansas what it hasn’t had since Joel Embiid’s back injury ended his college career late in his freshman season: A legitimate center.

It’s easy to picture Azubuike playing alongside Cheick Diallo and/or Carlton Bragg. Either 6-10, 250-pound center Marques Bolden (ranked No. 16 by Rivals) of DeSoto, Texas (ranked No. 16 by Rivals) or 6-9 forward Jarrett Allen (ranked 20th) of Austin could be added to a recruiting class that started with 6-8 forward Mitch Lightfoot (No. 117) of Gilbert, Ariz. Strong rebounder Landen Lucas also returns for Kansas.

As Alexander and Diallo illustrated, high school dominance doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing as a freshman, but physically, at the very least, Azubuike looks like more advanced than most teenage post players.

Azubuike chose Kansas over North Carolina, which puts a premium on a big man’s ability to run the floor, so he should fit KU’s desire to pick up the pace as well.

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Bill Self on the allure of Kansas vs. Kentucky

Before Kansas takes on Kentucky Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, KU coach Bill Self meets the media to talk about the Big 12-SEC Challenge, and the Jayhawks' season, as they're coming off a road loss at Iowa State.

Get the recap from KUsports.com's live coverage.

AUDIO | Bill Self on taking break from Big 12 to face Kentucky

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Bill Self addresses KU’s lethargic play of late

During his weekly press conference on Thursday afternoon, Bill Self answered questions about the No. 3-ranked Jayhawks, who are coming off a loss at Oklahoma State, and play host to Texas on Saturday, at Allen Fieldhouse.

Self opened the Q&A by addressing what the team talked about when they got together the day after KU lost at OSU.

“I think there were several things, but I think that the big thing is you don't go from being a really good team to a bad team overnight. You have bad days,” Self said.

— Check out the highlights from the presser at KUsports.com’s live site.

— AUDIO | Bill Self: Going to be ‘wild’ year in Big 12.

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Hunch says Bragg best of bunch today

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) puts up a three against Baylor forward John Heard (13) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) puts up a three against Baylor forward John Heard (13) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Skid row brims with men who relied too heavily on hollow hunches, so when I tell you I have a hunch, wish me luck. But I do have a strong one heading into today’s basketball game between Kansas and TCU, a 1 p.m. tipoff in Allen Fieldhouse.

Something tells me freshman forward Carlton Bragg will get a long run today, make the most of it and produce his first double-figures scoring game.

For one thing, the opportunity likely will present itself since not one of the other four big men vying for playing time alongside senior Perry Ellis has established himself as the unquestioned leader of the pack.

In the loss at West Virginia, Cheick Diallo, Landen Lucas, Hunter Mickelson and Jamari Traylor combined for 35 minutes, six points, 13 rebounds, nine personal fouls and two turnovers.

In his four Big 12 games, Bragg has combined for 33 minutes, 15 points, 10 rebounds, four fouls and five turnovers.

The most skilled of the bunch, Bragg sometimes looks a little too eager to make something happen right away and ends up rushing himself into a bad pass or a missed shot from close range.

If Kansas can take control of today’s game early, the 6-foot-9, 220-pound Bragg might be allowed to play through a mistake or two, get a good sweat going, compete with a free mind, settle down and not look so much like he's rushing to make it somewhere on time. It's tough to imagine any more welcome development for the Jayhawks than Bragg emerging.

Ellis could use the help. As the season wears on and the aches and pains mount for the players, it wouldn’t hurt for Ellis to get more rest. Bragg by far is the best option to replace Ellis’ scoring punch when he rests, so a breakthrough performance for the freshman could be a big step forward for the team.

Whereas Diallo is relatively new to the game, hasn’t yet developed a great feel, and sometimes finds himself in the wrong spot to lend help defensively or space the floor properly offensively, it’s clear Bragg knows how to play the game. He just too often plays it sped up. The latter takes less time to fix with experience than the former.

Among the five bigs not named Ellis, Bragg ranks third in minutes (174), behind Traylor (215) and Lucas (190), first in points (70), fourth in rebounds with 45, behind Lucas (68), Traylor (54) and Mickelson (46) and first in turnovers with 17.

My very specific hunch says Bragg will produce 12 points and six rebounds to send 16,300 home happy while they put the pedal to the metal to try to settle in front of their TV sets in time for the Chiefs' 3:35 p.m. kickoff.

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Kansas hires Todd Bradford to coach linebackers

Kansas University head football coach David Beaty has chosen Todd Bradford, former defensive coordinator at University of Maryland, to replace Kevin Kane as the Jayhawks’ linebackers coach.

Kane left for the defensive coordinator job at Northern Illinois, where he had worked before coming to Kansas.

Bradford, 52, last worked in college football as DC at Maryland in 2011. After one season with the Terps, Bradford was bought out of the remaining two years of his contract for $300,000.

Bradford had put his career on hold to focus on caring for his mother, Sandra Hampshire, who died Jan. 3, in St. George, Utah, after suffering for seven years from multiple myeloma.

Bradford has worked 25 years in college football, including three as defensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi (2008-10). Working under current North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, Bradford guided the 2010 Southern Miss defense to a 31-16 victory against Kansas and a No. 13 national ranking (113 yards allowed per game).

At Maryland, his defense was ranked last in the ACC.

Bradford last worked in the Big 12 for Oklahoma State (2005-07) when he coached linebackers.

He also worked at his almater mater, Southern Utah, as well as New Hampshirie, Lehigh, Eastern Michigan, Louisiana Tech, Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee State and BYU (his only job on the offensive side).

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My Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

My baseball Hall of Fame ballot:

Two of my nine choices, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza, received the required 75 percent of votes to gain enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The players for whom I voted, listed in the order of how easy it was to put an X next to the name:

1 - Ken Griffey, Jr.: A Hall of Fame baseball player asked me in 1999 in Fenway Park which hitter I thought would win the Home Run Derby the day before the All-Star Game. Since Mark McGwire had hit 13 home runs to take a big lead after the first round, I gave the obvious answer: “Mark McGwire.” The Hall of Famer shook his head. “Why not?” I asked. I’ll never forget his answer: “Too long a wait (between sessions at the plate). The steroid guys tighten up when the sit down. The natural guys stay loose. Junior will win it.” Sure enough, Griffey won it. The identity of the accurate forecaster? Sorry. It was off the record then and off the record then equates to off the record forever.

2 - Barry Bonds: Did steroids inflate his numbers? Yes, greatly. Was he the best hitter in the game before the juice increased his head size, his muscles, his power? You better believe he was. This is not a tough call. Keeping players who sought an edge through performance enhancing drugs strikes me as short-sighted as not deflating the numbers of those I believe juiced. A Hall of Fame ballot does not equate to a juror’s vote in a court of law. It requires an informed opinion, so I do my homework with the help of former players, managers, coaches, etc. and then decide to deflate the numbers of those I believe cheated and then decide whether they deserve induction. Bonds requires no thought whatsoever.

3 - Roger Clemens: See Bonds explanation.

4 - Mike Piazza: Always suspected of using steroids but never directly linked, Piazza was such a gifted hitter his numbers still stand up even after deflation.

5 - Mike Mussina: Other than having won 54 more games, why Mussina and not Curt Schilling. Mussina was at the top of his profession for a longer period of time. He ranked in the top six in Cy Young Award voting nine seasons, Schilling in four seasons.

6 - Mark McGwire: His blasting of writers who called into question home run numbers, stated with such moral indignation, was a low point, but the guy hit 49 home runs as a rookie well before his muscles grew muscles. Steroids inflated his numbers, which makes him less than an easy call, but I believe he would have been one of the game’s top power hitters if steroids never became all the rage and nobody did them. He’s a 12-time All-Star.

7 - Tim Raines: Always a tough call, Raines knew how to get on base and steal bases as well as anybody of his era not named Rickey Henderson.

8 - Edgar Martinez: I went back and forth on Edgar and then I pictured the prettiest right-handed swing rapping doubles in big spots over and over and I put an X next to his name.

9 - Alan Trammell: The toughest call of all, he was such a good hitter for a shortstop that it sometimes overshadowed just how slick he was with the glove.

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Traylor carries big load in triple-overtime thriller

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31), forward Cheick Diallo (13) and forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) react to an and-one bucket by guard Devonte' Graham (4) to tie the game during the second half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31), forward Cheick Diallo (13) and forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) react to an and-one bucket by guard Devonte' Graham (4) to tie the game during the second half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Crowded out of prominence by the drama that unfolded over and over and over again later in a Big Monday night, Jamari Traylor’s terrific stretch at the opening of the second half of a 109-106, triple overtime victory over Oklahoma was not lost on his coach.

“I thought Mari was great,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of the fifth-year senior from Chicago. “Second half, he was about the only one playing start of the second half, and of course Landen (Lucas) down the stretch was awesome.”

Traylor came off the bench in the first half and started the second. It’s a good thing he did because without him using his explosive leaping ability near the hoop, the game could have gotten away from the Jayhawks.

Kansas made just four field goals in the opening 7:19 of the second half and Traylor had two of them. Traylor’s biggest contributions weren’t the points he scored. They never are. He’s a limited offensive player, but has a tendency to make defensive plays that fire up the crowd.

For sheer out-of-nowhere shock value, Traylor had the game’s two most amazing plays. Ninety seconds into the second half, Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard drove to the hoop for a bucket that would have given the Sooners a nine-point lead. Traylor somehow snatched the shot out of mid-air with two hands and came crashing to the floor, landing on his back, where he stayed for a nervous moment.

A couple of minutes later, the Sooners’ high-flying Khadeem Lattin went in for a dunk that would have given OU a 12-point lead. Traylor had the body control to go up with Lattin, and without touching the would-be dunker, put his hand on the ball to block the shot and snuff the bucket. This time, Traylor landed out of bounds, near the stanchion and Lattin had the harder crash. Incredible play.

A couple of Kanas possessions later, Traylor caught a pass in the lane and decisively drove right, throwing a shot off the glass for a bucket that drew Kansas within seven points. After OU pumped it back to a nine-point lead, Traylor shaved it to seven again, crashing the glass from straight on to put back a Wayne Selden miss.

Traylor’s minutes are down a little this season (14.8 average, compared to 20.4 as a junior and 16.1 as a sophomore), but his spirits seem up. His body language is better and he has been a consistent positive, energetic force.

Tensions ran high in a game that both sides badly wanted.

"Some of those loose balls, diving, sacrificing bodies, that was two teams really, really competing,” Self said.

In other words, the game was right in Traylor's wheelhouse.

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Jayhawks, Sooners make most of national spotlight

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) strips a ball from Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) during the second half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) strips a ball from Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) during the second half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Any time Kansas basketball plays, it’s a big deal in Lawrence. But the Big Monday, triple-overtime instant classic between the No. 1 Jayhawks and No. 2 Oklahoma was something else entirely.

With no Monday Night Football or major college bowl game to distract the nation’s sports fans, anyone in need of some cheap entertainment found it easily on ESPN, as two of the nation’s elite teams traded big-time shot after big-time shot and combined to score 215 points in a marathon of a Big 12 basketball showcase.

The entertaining performance had the Twitterverse buzzing about the Jayhawks and Sooners, during and after KU’s frantic victory.

Some former Jayhawks, of course, showed their love for the program.

None by Paul Pierce

None by Kelly Paul Oubre Jr.

None by Cole Aldrich

None by tyshawn taylor

None by Joel Embiid

None by Mario Chalmers

None by keith langford

None by keith langford

But really, anyone who cares about college basketball couldn’t stop themselves from chiming in on this classic.

None by ESPN

None by SI College Hoops

None by Ryan Fagan

None by Pat Forde

None by Jay Williams

None by Kyle Tucker

None by Andy Katz

None by Myron Medcalf

None by Dana O'Neil

None by Eamonn Brennan

None by Fran Fraschilla

None by Cyclone Basketball

As much as everyone loved watching the Big 12 thriller, the game even had a little controversy — in overtime, no less.

None by Luke Winn

None by Doug Gottlieb

None by Doug Gottlieb

None by CollegeBasketbllTalk

None by Jeff Goodman

None by Ken Pomeroy

The way this game was played neither team was leaving Allen Fieldhouse feeling bad about itself. And since KU won, maybe (just maybe) Jayhawk fans would be interested in watching Buddy Hield score each of his 46 points all over again.

None by CollegeBasketbllTalk

None by ESPN College BBall

None by Oklahoma Basketball

No matter who you were rooting for, this one was just a pleasure to watch.

None by NCAA March Madness

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Two feel-good KU sports moments in 2015

Sometimes the best moments at sporting events take place before the main attractions start.

The worst moment of the Kansas spring football game happened when Michael Cummings suffered a career-ending knee injury. The best came on the last play of the annual alumni football game. World War II veteran Bryan Sperry, 89, found the holes and sprinted to glory for a touchdown captured by the KU athletic department's talented video team. Sperry and brother Kenneth Sperry played Kansas football from 1946-48.

The presence of UC Irvine's 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye made Tuesday night more interesting than the average nonconference basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse. But even he couldn't steal the show because the show had been stolen before the opening tip by Kurtis Townsend's daughter, Myka, shown above in a photo snapped by the Journal-World's Nick Krug.

Myka didn't miss a note and to the amazement of the customary crowd of 16,300 belted out a really strong version of the Star Spangled Banner. I kept waiting for her dad to break into tears, but all he broke into was a huge smile as his daughter triggered a huge ovation from the crowd and Fred Quartlebaum, director of student-athlete development for the basketball program, pinned a bear hug on the proud father.

"She told me she wasn't nervous, so I wasn't nervous," Townsend said. "She did great."

That she did. Kurtis bears a facial resemblance to one of music's most talented stars, peerless guitarist Carlos Santana. Myka is a talented star in the making. Advantage Myka on the music front.

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KU volleyball, Royals ride to rescue for last-minute shoppers

Last-minute Christmas shoppers seeking ideas to put a smile on the faces of sports fans on their lists ought to think Kansas volleyball and Kansas City Royals because everybody loves a winner.

1 - Two season tickets for Kansas volleyball, 2016: After becoming the first in the program’s history to make it to the Elite Eight, the Jayhawks (shown above in John Young photo from NCAA tournament victory against Furman) then became just the 18th school in the history of the NCAA tournament to reach a Final Four. Both of KU’s All-American selections, setter Ainise Havili and right-side hitter Kelsie Payne, have two remaining years of eligibility and just two seniors participated in KU’s five post-season matches.

The Final Four is scheduled to take place at Sprint Center in 2017, when Havili and Payne will be seniors. Might as well catch their junior seasons, learn the nuances of the sport as I plan to do, and enjoy watching as exciting a spectator sport as there is.

Watching women’s college basketball doesn’t do justice to the athleticism of the players because the game is played below the net. Volleyball is played above the net Kansas plays an exceptionally exciting brand of it.

If season tickets aren’t for sale yet, I’m sure someone can put your name on a list and call you when they are available. It’s dollar-for-dollar the best sports entertainment in Lawrence.

Denny Matthews points to the radio booth at Kauffman Stadium during
his induction into the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame. Matthews,
the voice of the Royals since the club's inception in 1969, was
honored Saturday in Kansas City, Mo.

Denny Matthews points to the radio booth at Kauffman Stadium during his induction into the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame. Matthews, the voice of the Royals since the club's inception in 1969, was honored Saturday in Kansas City, Mo. by AP Photo

2 -A CD of highlight calls by Denny Matthews, Voice of the Royals: Pat Huges, voice of the Chicago Cubs, has done a series of “Commemorative Audio Tributes to Baseball’s Greatest Announcers.” His latest is on Matthews. Hughes narrates it, interviews Matthews about big moments and runs unedited clips of calls from famous moments in Royals history.

I wrote the biography of the late, great Ernie Harwell, long-time voice of the Detroit Tigers and it was a great experience getting to know such a kind, talented man. But the problem with a book about a broadcaster is that it’s impossible to capture the voice in the printed word. This format does a better job telling the story of a broadcaster’s career.

Hughes’ series also includes compact discs (and digital downloads) on the careers of Mel Allen, Red Barber, Marty Brennaman, Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Milo Hamilton, Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons, Harry Kalas, Dave Niehaus, Bob Prince, Ron Santo, Chuck Thompson and Bob Uecker.

The series is a cool idea well executed by Hughes.

Shop at www.baseballvoices.com or call (847) 867-3682.

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KU volleyball getting red-carpet treatment

The Kansas volleyball team fueled itself for tonight's 8:30 tipoff in a national semifinal vs. Nebraska with a 4:30 meal at the Embassy Suites, the team hotel. The athletes filled their plates by choosing from: salad, roasted-potato wedges, small sirloin strips, small chicken breasts, mixed vegetables (squash, zucchini, carrots), wild rice and dinner rolls.

The close-knit group of competitors began boarding the team bus outside the hotel at 5:45. Two police squad cars — the first a sedan, the second an SUV — turned their lights on at 5:53 and as the lead car turned onto 10th Street its siren began to blare and the six-block, six-minute police escort to the CenturyLink Center began.

The Jayhawks then went from the bus into the arena and onto a red carpet to start a walk (that Journal-World photographer Richard Gwin captured with above photo) to their locker room to get ready for to play a volleyball match in front of a standing-room only crowd in excess of 17,000 people. The winner advances to Saturday's national-championship match. The loser goes home after an outstanding season.

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Jayhawks appreciate men who drove them on road to Omaha

Kansas senior Anna Church (1) keeps the ball in play off a block during Kansas' second round NCAA volleyball tournament match against Missouri on Friday night at the Horejsi Center. The Jayhawks sent the Tigers packing with a three set sweep.

Kansas senior Anna Church (1) keeps the ball in play off a block during Kansas' second round NCAA volleyball tournament match against Missouri on Friday night at the Horejsi Center. The Jayhawks sent the Tigers packing with a three set sweep. by John Young

OMAHA — The road to the Final Four can’t be traveled without bus drivers behind the wheel. The Kansas volleyball team has a way of making fans out of those transporting them.

“My favorite team,” said John Bialek, bus driver for KU’s basketball teams, baseball, softball, soccer, track, cheerleading, swimming and sometimes tennis teams. “They treat me like a king.” Bialek normally is allowed entry to watch the matches, but with tickets so tight at sold-out CenturyLink Center, as of this afternoon, he wasn’t yet sure if he would be able to watch tonight’s 8:30 match vs. Nebraska.

Bialek said he has been driving KU’s teams for “about 12, 13 years. When I first started driving them, I didn’t know the rules real well. After driving them for so many years, I can yell at the referees ‘cuz I know the bad calls when I see them.”

Bialek said he’s made to feel like part of the volleyball team.

“When they have their banquet for senior night, they always invite me and recognize me,” he said.

They don’t just appreciate Bialek, but everyone who drives them, it seems.

“Our bus driver, Jose, did a great job for us,” senior Anna Church said, looking back on their trip to San Diego, the launching pad to the Final Four. “He was giving us motivational speeches. He really emphasized, ‘Play for yourselves. Play for KU. Remember, you’re representing KU and you guys can do this.’ He was just a really great guy."

Shortly after the team arrived at CenturyLink Center for the Nebraska match, Jose sent a text to KU assistant athletic director Jim Marchiony, wishing "the No. 1 volleyball team in the NCAA tournament," luck.

“He gave us a tour of San Diego," Church said of Jose. "He knew everything about the city. He took us to the fish market. There’s a big Navy Ship. I don’t remember what it’s called. The Fish Market’s a restaurant down in the harbor area, and we drove through downtown to get there, so he gave us a tour of downtown.”

Church, who transferred to KU from Saint Louis University for her senior year, couldn’t remember the name of the ship, but Google, the font of all knowledge, knows it: USS Midway.

With Bialek behind the wheel, the volleyball team left Lawrence at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. Just being in their company put Bialek in a good mood.

“There’s more spotlight on the (men’s) basketball players, more pressure,” Bialek said. “These girls, I’ve been to some of their parents’ houses for dinner and what not. It’s just a lot more fun.

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Flyover country is volleyball country now

This year's NCAA women's volleyball tournament Final Four at CenturyLink Center features four schools from the Central time zone.

This year's NCAA women's volleyball tournament Final Four at CenturyLink Center features four schools from the Central time zone. by Tom Keegan

OMAHA — USC headed to the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament West regional in San Diego last week on a quest to win a seventh national championship. It’s more difficult than ever to win one, isn’t it?

“No question that that’s true,” Trojans coach Mick Haley answered, two days before getting knocked out of the tournament by Kansas University in an Elite Eight match. “It used to be that you felt like the kids on the West Coast would play a little bit more volleyball because they get to play in the summers and outdoors. If you look at the number of matches and the number of practices kids in the Midwest and on the East Coast and the Southwest are playing now, they’re all playing about the same number. It’s amazing.”

As a result, Haley said, “recruiting shifts from each side of the country from year to year. You know, Texas has more than 38,000 high school kids playing. California has 37,000 now. Texas has actually taken the lead.”

Haley also listed Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio as “very strong recruiting areas,” and added, “Iowa, believe it or not, is a very strong state to get talent out of. You don’t have an advantage being on one side of the country or another now. There’s talent everywhere.”

This Final Four at CenturyLink Center features all teams from the Central time zone, two from the Big Ten (Minnesota and Nebraska), two from the Big 12 (Kansas and Texas), meaning that for the third year in a row, the Pac-12 will not have a team playing in the national-title match. The Big Ten had six teams in the Sweet 16.

In every season from 2001 through 2008, the Pac-12 had at least one team in the title match.

“I think it speaks to the parity across the nation,” Kansas coach Ray Bechard said.

Minnesota coach Hugh McCutcheon cited the same factor.

“Perhaps at one point it used to be a little more West Coast dominated, but it seems that there’s great volleyball players and great volleyball programs everywhere,” he said.

Nebraska coach John Cook talks about defending KU's Kelsie Payne.

Nebraska coach John Cook talks about defending KU's Kelsie Payne. by Richard Gwin

Nebraska, which holds an 86-0-1 series record vs. Kansas, and Texas are far from new to the big stage.

“Way back, Nebraska and Texas kind of opened the door, and then Penn State,” Nebraska coach John Cook said. “Now you’re seeing teams like BYU, Kansas, that are breaking the doors down in regards to anybody can get into this Final Four and this NCAA Championship. So I think you’re seeing great balance across the country.”

KU’s recent run has grown the fan base overnight, although that won’t be evident at Thursday’s match vs. Nebraska because each school was limited to 200 tickets. Cornhuskers fans long ago bought up most of the tickets.

“It’s great for the sport,” Cook said of new teams crashing the gates of volleyball heaven. “I think it creates great stories. Similar to what men’s basketball does in the NCAA Tournament, where a Butler can be in the Final Four. ... I also look at Texas, which has been here five years straight, which is an amazing accomplishment.”

Half of the 14 first-team All-Americans are from Final Four teams: Ainise Havili and Kelsie Payne of Kansas, Kadie Rolfzen of Nebraska, Amy Neal and Chiak Ogbogu of Texas, and Daly Santana and Hannah Tapp of Minnesota. Wisconsin’s Lauren Carlini makes it eight first-team All-Americans from Central time zone schools.

Three players — Florida’s Rhamat Alhassan, Ohio State’s Taylor Sandbothe and Penn State’s Haleigh Washington — made it from Eastern time zone schools. Just two, USC’s Samantha Bricio and Washington’s Lianna Sybeldon, are from the Pacific time zone and BYU’s Alexa Gray is the lone first-team selection from a Mountain time zone.

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Flyover country is volleyball country now

This year's NCAA women's volleyball tournament Final Four at CenturyLink Center features four schools from the Central time zone.

This year's NCAA women's volleyball tournament Final Four at CenturyLink Center features four schools from the Central time zone. by Tom Keegan

OMAHA — USC headed to the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament West regional in San Diego last week on a quest to win a seventh national championship. It’s more difficult than ever to win one, isn’t it?

“No question that that’s true,” Trojans coach Mick Haley answered, two days before getting knocked out of the tournament by Kansas University in an Elite Eight match. “It used to be that you felt like the kids on the West Coast would play a little bit more volleyball because they get to play in the summers and outdoors. If you look at the number of matches and the number of practices kids in the Midwest and on the East Coast and the Southwest are playing now, they’re all playing about the same number. It’s amazing.”

As a result, Haley said, “recruiting shifts from each side of the country from year to year. You know, Texas has more than 38,000 high school kids playing. California has 37,000 now. Texas has actually taken the lead.”

Haley also listed Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio as “very strong recruiting areas,” and added, “Iowa, believe it or not, is a very strong state to get talent out of. You don’t have an advantage being on one side of the country or another now. There’s talent everywhere.”

This Final Four at CenturyLink Center features all teams from the Central time zone, two from the Big Ten (Minnesota and Nebraska), two from the Big 12 (Kansas and Texas), meaning that for the third year in a row, the Pac-12 will not have a team playing in the national-title match. The Big Ten had six teams in the Sweet 16.

In every season from 2001 through 2008, the Pac-12 had at least one team in the title match.

“I think it speaks to the parity across the nation,” Kansas coach Ray Bechard said.

Texas coach Hugh McCuthcheon cited the same factor.

“Perhaps at one point it used to be a little more West Coast dominated, but it seems that there’s great volleyball players and great volleyball programs everywhere,” he said.

Nebraska coach John Cook talks about defending KU's Kelsie Payne.

Nebraska coach John Cook talks about defending KU's Kelsie Payne. by Richard Gwin

Nebraska, which holds an 86-0-1 series record vs. Kansas, and Texas are far from new to the big stage.

“Way back, Nebraska and Texas kind of opened the door, and then Penn State,” Nebraska coach John Cook said. “Now you’re seeing teams like BYU, Kansas, that are breaking the doors down in regards to anybody can get into this Final Four and this NCAA Championship. So I think you’re seeing great balance across the country.”

KU’s recent run has grown the fan base overnight, although that won’t be evident at Thursday’s match vs. Nebraska because each school was limited to 200 tickets. Cornhuskers fans long ago bought up most of the tickets.

“It’s great for the sport,” Cook said of new teams crashing the gates of volleyball heaven. “I think it creates great stories. Similar to what men’s basketball does in the NCAA Tournament, where a Butler can be in the Final Four. ... I also look at Texas, which has been here five years straight, which is an amazing accomplishment.”

Half of the 14 first-team All-Americans are from Final Four teams: Ainise Havili and Kelsie Payne of Kansas, Kadie Rolfzen of Nebraska, Amy Neal and Chiak Ogbogu of Texas, and Daly Santana and Hannah Tapp of Minnesota. Wisconsin’s Lauren Carlini makes it eight first-team All-Americans from Central time zone schools.

Three players — Florida’s Rhamat Alhassan, Ohio State’s Taylor Sandbothe and Penn State’s Haleigh Washington — made it from Eastern time zone schools. Just two, USC’s Samantha Bricio and Washington’s Lianna Sybeldon, are from the Pacific time zone and BYU’s Alexa Gray is the lone first-team selection from a Mountain time zone.

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KU volleyball Final Four press conference

Watch Kansas volleyball players Tayler Soucie, Kelsie Payne and Ainise Havili, as well as coach Ray Bechard, answer questions during their Wednesday afternoon press conference, in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Jayhawks (30-2) face home-state Nebraska (30-4) at CenturyLink Center Thursday night (8:30 p.m., ESPN2).

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Where the KU volleyball comeback ranks

Tom Keegan

Tom Keegan by Nick Krug

OMAHA — In the moments after such a devastating volleyball setback to Kansas last weekend in San Diego, USC coach Mick Haley was asked where the loss ranked.

“Yeah, I think the worst,” Haley said. “But you know, the next win will be the best. That’s the way it goes. You start ranking them, you might as well retire. That’s what you do after you quit trying to win the next one. But this one teased us so badly that, just a little hard to get over.”

Conversely, you stop ranking things as a sportswriter and it’s time to retire. It’s in our blood. In roughly 35 years of hacking away, I have had the good fortune of covering many championship teams as a beat writer (1988 Los Angeles Dodgers) and columnist (Michael Jordan’s first three championships; Derek Jeter’s four championships in five seasons; Mario’s Miracle and the Todd Reesing/Aqib Talib Orange Bowl champions).

The most exciting games to watch generally are the most difficult to write because they involve remarkable comebacks on deadline, which requires a last-minute switch from writing a loss to writing a victory.

Five comebacks that I covered live rank as my favorites, which isn’t to say they rank as the biggest to anyone else, just to me.

I selected these off the top of my head and then did research to see which ones I either excluded because they didn’t come to mind as quickly or or decided not to include, all from Kansas basketball (KU 108, Iowa State 96, overtime, 2013; KU 88, Texas 84, OT, 2007; KU 85, Kansas State 74, 2009; KU 70, North Carolina 58, 2013).

Now, my five favorite comebacks during 35 years as a sportswriter:

5 - Kansas defeats Ohio State in 2012 Final Four: In the first half, one of Tyshawn Taylor’s better passes was caught by coach Bill Self. Ohio State, with Aaron Craft getting the better of Taylor, jumped to a 26-13 lead. In the second half, no Buckeye could stop Taylor from getting to the hoop. Kansas, which had made similar comebacks throughout the season, won it 64-62 to advance to a national-title showdown with Kentucky.

It remains the only post-Tulsa team that Self has coached that did not have a single McDonald’s All-American on the roster.

4 - The 2008 men’s basketball Final Four in San Antonio remains the only one that featured four No. 1 seeds: Kansas facing North Carolina in one semifinal, UCLA meeting Memphis in the other.

Down nine points with 2:12 remaining, KU forced overtime on Chalmers’ three-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining and finished with 18 points. Darrell Arthur had 20. Sherron Collins made huge plays. Brandon Rush, as always, played stellar defense.

Cases could be made for Arthur, Chalmers and Rush being the MVP of that team, but there was no debate as to which star was the one Self most wanted taking the big shot and that was Chalmers.

Memphis missed 4 of 5 free throws down the stretch in regulation, but too much was made of that. KU had to do everything right at the end and did so well before Chalmers delivered in the clutch yet again.

The thing about thrilling comebacks in title games, they also mean seasons are over, which keeps this one from ranking higher. That was a phenomenal team that moved the ball, defended and played in transition so well that it was a delight to watch.

3 - Kansas rallies from 19 points down to defeat Missouri in the final basketball game of the Border War series: Thomas Robinson’s blocked shot forced overtime and he had a terrific game. But it was the relentless, under control way that Taylor led the team back that is the first thing that pops into my head when I reflect on that game.

2 - Kirk Gibson, his hamstring burning like a bonfire, rips a two-run homer to lift the Dodgers to a 5-4 thriller in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

Gibson could barely walk when he arrived at Dodger Stadium, where Bash Brothers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire and closer Dennis Eckersley made the Oakland A’s the heavy favorites to win the World Series.

I had covered 144 of the 162 regular-season games, including all of Orel Hershiser’s 59 consecutive scoreless innings, and all of the postseason ones.

Gibson changed the entire tone of the organization during the first intrasquad scrimmage of spring training. Think about that.

Good chance no athlete in history has made his presence felt on a team as quickly as did Gibson. He did so by taking out the second baseman, spikes flying high, to break up a double play. On the day of the first exhibition game at Dodgertown’s Holman Stadium, someone had lined the inside of Gibson’s cap with eye black. While Gibson was running on the field to warm up for the game, the eye black began to run down his face. He figured out what had happened, stormed off the field and left the grounds, sending a loud statement that he nobody was to mess with him at his workplace.

Gibson, once a star wide receiver at Michigan State, had an intimidating presence about him. The next day, manager Tommy Lasorda made the perpetrator of the eyeblack prank apologize to Gibson in front of the whole team. It had to be a difficult admission for reliever Jesse Orosco to make, given that Gibson could have beaten him to a pulp. When asked how one goes about making such an admission to someone like Gibson, Orosco gave one of the all-time great responses: “Easy, I just walked up to him with a loaded pistol, pointed it in his face and said, ‘I did it.’ ”

The Dodgers went on to win the World Series in five games and have not returned to the Fall Classic since.

1 - Down 13-9 in the fifth set, the Kansas volleyball team rallies to win by scoring the last six points to advance to the Final Four.

The final rally lasted for an eternity and featured a Kelsie Payne bullet beautifully defended, two spectacular Cassie Wait digs and Madison Rigdon’s powerful winning kill on a sweet set from Ainise Havili. Down went USC, the No. 1 seed in the tournament the Trojans hoped would end with them winning their seventh national title.

Unlike with the four comebacks listed above, the team that made this one flies commercial, not via chartered airplanes. Also unlike the other teams, only one newspaper, the Journal-World, had a staff member on hand to cover the comeback.

It launched a program that never had been to the Elite Eight all the way into the Final Four, a program that for the first time is on a four-year run of making the NCAA tournament. The comeback happened so fast, until that final rally, it was almost hard to believe my eyes.

I never thought I would see the day that the Gibson moment dropped to second, but it just did last week.

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Naismith recording features basketball’s inventor explaining rules in his own words

A basketball fan hurries past an image of James Naismith and "Phog" Allen as the Fieldhouse begins to fill for Late Night in the Phog on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

A basketball fan hurries past an image of James Naismith and "Phog" Allen as the Fieldhouse begins to fill for Late Night in the Phog on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

On Monday, the discovery of an old recording from a radio program broadcast in 1939 was released and the recording featured something that might be near and dear to the hearts of KU basketball fans and fans of the game everywhere.

It's an interview with James Naismith, the inventor of the game and first coach in the history of Kansas basketball and it is believed to be the only known audio recording of Naismith.

In it, Naismith, who had traveled to New York for a basketball doubleheader at Madison Square Garden, discusses setting up the first basketball game with two peach baskets in a gymnasium at the International YMCA Training School (now Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts in December 1891.

This recording was discovered by Dr. Michael J. Zogry, Associate Professor, Religious Studies, and Director, Indigenous Studies, University of Kansas, in the audio and manuscript archives of radio station WOR-AM that were donated to the Library of Congress by RKO General, Inc. Dr. Zogry obtained permission for the University to include the recording in its archives and to use it for educational purposes.

In addition to the historical relevance of such audio, it's a wonderful listen because it gives you a little more of a sense of the man for whom the court at Allen Fieldhouse is named and who you have seen in so many pictures throughout the years.

As Zogry himself said at news.ku.edu: "The recording suggests the gym was a laboratory for developing the game and establishing the rules. There's also value in just hearing his voice. In this day and age of media saturation, to find something like this is surprising. No one's heard his voice in over 75 years. When we hear him talking, we get a sense of his demeanor and his self-effacing attitude."

Hat's off to Dr. Zogry for finding such an incredible interview and for sharing it with the world.

Here's more about the process of Zogry's incredible discovery.

A photo of the original basketball rules, written by James Naismith, and sold at auction Dec. 10, 2011. The rules sold for $4.34 million.

A photo of the original basketball rules, written by James Naismith, and sold at auction Dec. 10, 2011. The rules sold for $4.34 million.

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