Adams receives ‘Mr. Jayhawk’ award

Kansas forward K.J. Adams Jr. and the Jayhawks wear a shirt in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for warmups before tipoff against Oklahoma on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024 at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug

Kansas junior KJ Adams received the Danny Manning “Mr. Jayhawk” Award at the Jayhawks’ season-ending banquet Thursday night, claiming KU’s lone team-specific award following a year in which he accomplished what head coach Bill Self called “something that mere mortals don’t do.”

Adams did not miss a game for the Jayhawks during the 2023-24 season and started all but two, averaging 12.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while playing a new position outside the paint, and Self called him “as improved a player as there was in our league this year, and he won the award last year as the most improved.” But more importantly, he did all that despite losing his mother Yvonne to cancer midway through the nonconference schedule.

“No player had gone through more,” Self said. “No player was able to compartmentalize a lot of things that (were) going on in his life to make sure he stayed focused for his teammates. There’s nobody out there that had an attitude every day that was positive when you know that he was broken up inside, and we take it for granted because he’s so big and he’s so strong that we think that he should just be able to do anything. And I’ll tell you, what he did this last year wasn’t common.”

Afterward, Adams said he wasn’t expecting to receive the award and it “came as a shock.”

“Just to hear him say all those nice things about how I persevered, it really meant a lot just to come from him and to see everybody happy for me,” he said.

Self added after the banquet that Hunter Dickinson or Dajuan Harris Jr. might have had a case for the award, but Adams’ ability to push through adversity “with such class” put him in a category all his own.

“He played for something that was far bigger than KU and himself, and we’re all proud of him, but he deserves that,” Self said.

The Austin, Texas, native has one more collegiate season and he has already confirmed that he will spend it at KU. On Thursday night he reiterated that he never considered leaving.

“I feel like I’m going into (the offseason) the same,” Adams said. “I try to play my hardest every season, but it definitely makes a little kick when it’s going to be your last season.”

He added that it was unexpectedly emotional for him watching the national title game Monday and believing the Jayhawks could have gotten there. Instead, they suffered a second-round loss to conclude their season.

“I definitely think it’s going to take a chip over our shoulder,” Adams said. “We thought last year was going to be enough, but I think this will do the trick.”


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