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6 Nick Krug Photo Essay: Bill Self 12 Ben McLemore 14 Jeff Withey 16 Elijah Johnson 18 Travis Releford 20 Kevin Young 22 Naadir Tharpe 24 Mock NCAA

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Bracket and Schedule Cover Design by Janella L. Williams

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Cover Photo by Nick Krug

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Photo Essay by Nick Krug


Bill Self A common question people often want to know is what Bill Self is like as a person. The most honest response I can give is that he’s friendly, but beyond a few chit-chats at the fieldhouse or on the road, I really don’t know the guy. Some find it hard to believe, but when he’s coaching, I’m doing my thing, and when he’s doing interviews after the game, I’m sending photos back to the paper. There’s not a lot of time to talk about the weather over beers. Now, if asked about his on-the-court idiosyncrasies, then I would have something to talk about. Through photographing his reactions over the years, I’ve come to know what situations and outcomes will elicit specific responses from Self. For whatever reason, every time I’ve seen him walk onto the court to the cheers of the fans, he balls up his fists over his mouth and coughs. He might say he’s clearing his throat, but my guess is that it’s pretty hard to keep from radiating a big smile when 16,300 people are applauding your entry. Another little quirk, and it doesn’t happen often, but after a loss or a poorly fought win, he will raise his chin, grab his tie and yank it loose from the knot. I use the word “yank” because the motion appears way more forceful than the tug of relief anyone else might give after a bad day at the office. After an errant pass or a missed layup might find him with his head in his hands on the bench. After a series of turnovers, he will bring a hand (both if it’s really bad) and wipe them down either side of his face in a squeegee-like motion. It may come as a shock to many to find out that

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he is surprisingly more candid with his choice of words on the court than he is during press conferences. Of course, in such moments he often has the presence of mind to shield his mouth from the television cameras. What’s really interesting to me is how collected he can be in some of the most exciting moments. Ben McLemore could blow the ceiling off the fieldhouse with a 720 jam, but as a defensive-minded coach would have it, such a feat might only get a pat of the palm from Self. His responses seem to be tied to more than just offense and defense. It’s hustle plays and moments of toughness that really get him pumping his fist. 8 | Men’s Basketball MArch 2013

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“…after Kansas’ 19-point comeback win against Missouri last February … here comes Self out of nowhere, letting loose this deep roar and repeatedly raising the fieldhouse with his arms.” 

—Nick Krug

As much as I think that I have a feel for Self’s emotions, something big will happen and he’ll catch me by surprise. That being said, quite easily the most excited I’ve seen him was after Kansas’ 19-point comeback win against Missouri last February to close out the rivalry at the fieldhouse. While wading through the players celebrating on the court after the game, here comes Self out of nowhere, letting loose this deep roar and repeatedly raising the fieldhouse with his arms. It was a huge moment for the fans, the players and obviously him. As a photographer who lives for the thrill of unpredictability, I can say it’s been really exciting not knowing Bill Self.

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Rising above Ben McLemore elevates above adversity

Story by Tom Keegan

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Photo by Nick Krug

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He rises up, winds up, throws down a monster dunk, and in a blink 16,300 spectators also rise up and roar approval. All of them wish they could do the same. Ben McLemore smiles and sprints so smoothly to the other end of the court. What must it be like to be McLemore, Kansas University basketball star, floating sky-walker, owner of a milliondollar smile and a jump shot to match? For a little insight, listen to his response when asked to name the happiest day of his life. “The happiest day of my life is every day just being here,” McLemore said during a one-on-one interview with the Journal-World. “Waking up every morning and being able to see my family, my teammates, my coaches and being able to play basketball, the game I love.” But before thinking he has it all, that his life can’t get any better and his heart never aches, consider his answer when asked to identify the saddest day of his life. “The saddest day of my life is every

Ben McLemore III, son of Sonya Reid, is the fourth of her five children. “I learned a lot from my three older sisters growing up,” McLemore said. “I look up to them, and they tell me things they went through, and they tell me they don’t want me to do those same things.” He listens and in turn dispenses advice to his younger brother, Kevin, a senior on the Normandy High basketball team in St. Louis, where, older brother Ben proudly pointed out, Kevin totaled 15 points, seven assists and five steals in a recent game. Kevin’s the last of the McLemore basketball players, but far from the first. Ben said he inherited his smile from his mother, his athletic gifts from his father, Ben McLemore II. “People who saw my dad play in high school, they tell me, ‘Your pop, he was nice. He used to run the Spectrum, he used to take over and dunk on people. It was crazy.’ The court we played on at the Spectrum in St. Louis, there was a hoop that was taller (than regulation). People tell me there was only one guy who dunked on that

with a GPA that exceeded 3.0. “That means a lot to me,” McLemore said. “I worked very hard last year on my academics, and my mom was proud of me.” He’s not bashful in taking pride in his basketball accomplishments during that time. “Second semester came around, and we were eligible,” he said. “Our first practice was at Sprint Center, and it was a great practice. I decided then I was going to take every practice like it was game night. We got better, and our teammates got better, and as you can see, we made it to the Final Four and the championship game.” McLemore said he believes life as a student at KU has done a lot for his personal development. “I love it here,” McLemore said. “I’m learning to take on more responsibility with different things in my life, not needing as much help with things. Going to college, you want to learn how to do things and not always ask for help. It’s nice to be able to say, ‘OK, I can do that on my

“The happiest day of my life is every day just being here.” —Ben McLemore day, not being able to see my big brother,” McLemore said. “Him not being able to see my first game. Him not seeing me play anymore. That’s pretty sad. I can’t bring him here by wishing to God he was here. That definitely is the saddest thing in my life.” Ben’s brother Keith Scott, eight years his senior, is locked up in maximumsecurity Potosi Correctional Center in Mineral Springs, Mo., for “things he did that he wishes he never did,” Ben said. “… He’s been in almost five years now. His birthday’s on Christmas Day.” Ben remembers the first time he dunked on his older brother in St. Louis, their hometown. “We were playing at the Rec Center, and I caught him by surprise,” McLemore said. “I guess he didn’t think I could do it. He chased me down on the fast break. I jumped and dunked it on him and he was like, ‘Wow! That’s my little brother?’ I think I was a freshman in high school. I had fun playing against him. He had fun playing against me.”

hoop. Then my dad dunked on it, and there were two guys then,” McLemore said, smiling. “He surprised me before one of my games this year, came to my room. I was shocked, almost came to tears. I hadn’t seen him in a while.” In October of 2011, he experienced a shock of a different sort along with teammate and classmate Jamari Traylor. They were told that the NCAA ruled they would not be allowed to participate in practice or games the first semester of their freshman year, but could earn with success in the classroom the right to practice without playing in games second semester. “My heart broke down,” McLemore said. “Still, in my head I thought maybe this is a blessing, maybe God did this for a reason. And it was a blessing. I took it and told myself I’m not going to let that stop me. I’m going to work hard every day on and off the court.” McLemore fell just short of a 3.0 grade-point average first semester and studied his way onto the Big 12 honor roll second semester

own. I’m becoming a man now.’” He said he played football as a sophomore and junior in high school and was used as a wide receiver, tight end, defensive end, punter and kicker. He said he played some baseball and was used as a center fielder, but his first love never has changed. “I just remember picking up a basketball and dribbling and thinking, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to play basketball.’ I grew up in a basketball family, and it just excited me to play basketball,” he said. “I always used to get a basketball for Christmas.” McLemore’s signature play, the one-handed dunk, mirrors what he has done in life to this point. He has risen up above his surroundings. Nothing about the way he conducts himself suggests that he will allow basketball to use him. He already seems to understand he can use basketball to carve out a better life. He makes his primary goal in life sound so simple. “I just want to make my family proud,” McLemore said.

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Story by Jesse Newell

Photo by Nick Krug

Withey proved to coach he belonged Jeff Withey walked into the office and took a seat across from his coach, a jittery freshman with a lot on his mind. “Do you want to stay here at KU or leave?” Kansas coach Bill Self asked him. It was spring of 2010, and Withey had just completed a season during which he was at the bottom of the Jayhawks’ big-man rotation. In his first semester of eligibility, he’d barely seen the floor, averaging just three minutes per game. Worse, basketball had become routine, and Withey knew he wasn’t putting in the extra work needed to get better. Kansas was cold compared to his home in San Diego, and he missed the beach and hanging out with old friends. During the last half of the 2008-09 season and the first half of the 200910 season — when he sat out because of transfer rules — Withey wasn’t able to travel with the team, and because of that, he drifted apart from teammates. “I felt really alone,” Withey said later. 14 | Men’s Basketball MArch 2013

“I just didn’t know if I wanted to keep on playing basketball or go back home.” Self had texted Withey to set up the year-end meeting, and Withey had been nervous about it all day. At a crossroads in his life — stick it out or go? — Withey was unsure how Self would respond when he told him he didn’t know what he wanted to do. “If you were to stay here, I’m going to ride you. I’m going to make you work,” Self said. “Either you’re going to fall in love with the game again, or you’re going to quit and be a failure.” The words stung Withey. “Well,” he said, looking at his coach, “I’m not going to be a failure.” Few could have blamed Withey — KU’s 7-foot senior center — for wanting to give up on the game he once loved. After growing more than five inches in one summer in San Diego, Withey sat down with his high school coach, Waheed Mitchell, and decided to give

up volleyball to focus on basketball. At the time, it wasn’t much of a sacrifice. Withey loved basketball. Mitchell saw a dedicated Withey in his final two high school seasons. Before every home game his senior year, Withey — who knew he needed to bulk up his skinny frame before college — would go through a halfhour of intense weight-lifting before coming into the gym to play the game. Withey briefly committed to Louisville, then Withey’s grandfather David Withey died, and his grandmother Grace moved into his parents’ home because of health issues. Jeff Withey re-evaluated the decision to play so far from San Diego, eventually reopening his recruitment before committing to coach Lute Olson at Arizona. His time there was a disaster from the beginning. On one October day early in his freshman year, Withey learned from ESPN that Olson had abruptly decided to retire; the hall of

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fame coach never contacted Withey about his decision. A new staff took over, and suddenly Withey was getting screamed at by coaches with whom he didn’t feel comfortable. The freshman left the basketball team and decided to transfer, but Arizona refused to give him his release. Withey began to hate the game that had put him in his situation. As he walked to class, students would come up and lecture him about how he was doing the school wrong. One of his Facebook status updates, “whats a man to do????” showed up in an editorial in the Arizona school newspaper. “I was just like, ‘This isn’t what I wanted at all,’” Withey said. “‘I didn’t sign up for any of this.’” With no other options, Withey took a hard stance with Arizona. Give me my release, he says he told the school, or I’m going to fail all my classes. If that happened, UA could potentially have lost a scholarship based on APR guidelines. Arizona eventually granted Withey his release. Self received a cell-phone call from Withey on Christmas Eve morning in 2008. The center was ready to become a Jayhawk. After sitting out two semesters because of transfer rules, Withey couldn’t wait for the Jayhawks’ Dec. 19, 2009, home contest — the first one he was eligible to play. “There’s no way I’m not getting into this game,” he told himself. He was wrong. Withey didn’t get off the bench in KU’s 75-64 victory over Michigan. Afterward, he called his parents, angry and confused. “I don’t know what the deal is,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going on.” It was his worst day at Kansas. “Looking back at it,” Withey said, “it was really selfish of myself just to have that mind-set.” Withey rarely made it in

past garbage time his freshman year, averaging 1.3 points and 1.4 rebounds in 15 games. After his postseason meeting in Self’s office, though, something shifted. He rededicated himself to the game, working harder in the weight room and gym than he had before. His parents also moved to Kansas, which cured most of his homesickness. Though he was still behind Marcus and Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson in the rotation the following year, Withey was determined to prove to Self — and to himself — that he belonged at KU and was good enough to play. “Those words stuck with me. Even now — today — I still think about that,” Withey said. “... He just challenged me, and he made me want to keep working at this.” Bill Self remembers talking to all sorts of big-man recruits before Withey’s junior season. His pitch went something like this: You have a great chance to start at KU as a freshman. Really, the only center you would have to beat out is Withey. Self missed out on every one of those players. “Looking back, some kids probably made some wise decisions to go somewhere else,” Self said with a smile, “because Withey would be very difficult to beat out.” Withey’s confidence skyrocketed last season as he started to experience success. Self saw Withey transform into a tough player. Though physically he’s not as big as some centers — he has gained about 20 pounds since coming to KU — Self saw a kid who wasn’t nervous or scared to put his body on people. He still needed to be challenged, though. After scoring double figures in his previous six games, Withey was held scoreless in 23 minutes during the Jayhawks’ 74-71 road loss to Missouri last season. Self left the game frustrated that KU had a size

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advantage it couldn’t utilize. Had Withey been more aggressive, Self believed the Jayhawks would have won. The frustration carried over to KU’s next practice. After not seeing full effort from Withey, Self lit into him, making him run every stair at Allen Fieldhouse while his teammates watched. “He challenged me as a man, got me pissed off,” Withey said. “I just wanted to show him that there’s no mistake. I deserve to be a starter, and I deserve to play.” The next game, Withey scored a career-high 25 points on 8-for10 shooting in a 68-54 victory at No. 6 Baylor. He scored 18 points in the next two games after not scoring more than 15 in any other game that season. “The next thing you know, he realizes he is good,” Self said. “From that point forward, he was terrific.” Withey went on to have one of the best defensive postseasons in NCAA history, blocking an

NCAA Tournament-record 31 shots in KU’s run to the national championship game. He broke the school blocks record on Feb. 11 against Kansas State — Self calls him the best shot-blocker he has ever coached and the most pleasant surprise of any player he has had at KU — and has even gained enough fame that people who haven’t seen him in years are calling him up just to tell them they saw him on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” the night before. Withey, who graduated in December with a degree in American studies and a minor in education, admits that basketball now is almost always on his mind. He thinks of how he can get better, how he can beat his opponent and about how he can improve from his previous game. Sometimes, he forces himself to play video games just to get a break from basketball. “I want to be the best in the game,” Withey said. “Hopefully, people see that.”




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pointing the Way Elijah Johnson knows it’s his job to lead the team

Story by Matt Tait

16 | Men’s Basketball MArch 2013

Photo by Nick Krug

During the first two seasons of his college basketball career, Kansas University guard Elijah Johnson sat in the shadows and watched the Jayhawks rack up 68 victories in 74 games. While watching players such as Sherron Collins, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson lead the Jayhawks both on the stat sheet in the huddle, Johnson, now a senior, took notes. “I learned a lot from those guys,” the 6-foot-4 senior said during a recent interview with the JournalWorld. “I always thought about how I would go about it when I looked at them in different situations. … For those first two years, I watched, I watched, I watched, and now that I’m out there it’s just slow motion to me.” Those days, with Collins serving as the undisputed leader during Johnson’s freshman season and Taylor gradually working his way into the same role during over the course of the next two seasons, Johnson was merely a back-up point guard and offered a different option off the bench. He did what he could to get reps, played when called upon and tried to keep track of the lessons in a mental scrapbook. Playing alongside Taylor as a junior allowed Johnson to flourish.

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He became a starter and the team’s third-leading scorer (10.2 points per game) and had the freedom to fit into games as needed — no restrictions, no burdens. Basketball, the way Johnson played it, looked simple. And fun. Shoot, pass, score, rebound, defend. And it was fun, of course. The Jayhawks reached the national title game and Johnson, who had a fantastic NCAA Tournament in 2012, was a big part of the reason why. But even as the fun and freedom led to new heights, Johnson admitted it took a while to get used to his new role. “I think that was probably the hardest adjustment I have had here,” he said of transitioning from being a lifelong point guard to more of a combo guard. “Coach never told me not to play point guard but it just felt a little different.” Now in his final season, Johnson once again has had to battle an adjustment, this time moving back to the position he always considered to be most natural. “In my opinion, I’ve always been a point guard,” Johnson said. “Ever since I was real young, I always have been able to rally people. It’s just been a part of my character. It’s just me, really.” Ranked out of high school by as the fifth-best point guard prospect in the nation, Johnson’s return to the point has been hard to evaluate. Early on, he looked to be in control, running the offense effortlessly, getting others involved on each possession and operating with the poise and confidence of a player who had been in the program for four seasons. “Elijah has to become an extension of the coaching staff and of me,” said KU coach Bill Self at the beginning of Big 12 play. “And I think he’s done a pretty good job of doing that. He’s a bright kid and been around a lot and played in big games, so he gets it.” At the same time, there have been moments — stretches, even — when Johnson has disappeared and looked nothing like the cold-blooded, confident gamer he was as a junior. He has been far less explosive and offensive-minded than he was during last season’s run to the title game, and Johnson will be the first to tell you that his numbers aren’t what he expected or even what they should be. But it’s not numbers Johnson is worried about. It’s wins. And leadership. And as he tries to deliver both, he often goes back to the lessons he learned from Collins and Taylor during his first three years in Lawrence. “Watching Sherron,” Johnson recalled. “The way he was just so focused at the end of the games. I would try to talk to him and he didn’t want to be bothered, he was just so focused on leading the team. I always kind of let moments like those linger in my head and I’m just trying to let them play out now.” His current teammates have nothing but admiration for the leadership Johnson has demonstrated while flip-flopping back and forth. “Especially in practice,” said fellow senior Travis Releford. “There’s times where he’s dead tired and he won’t come out of practice just because he wants to continue to push himself and continue to make the team better. I definitely see it.” Asked if watching the adjustment from Johnson the scorer to Johnson the floor general has been strange, Releford dismissed that thought. “That’s what people were worried about,” Releford said. “But he’s a point guard. He’s not supposed to look to score. He’s supposed to create opportunities for others to score. He’s done everything he’s been asked to do.” For a coach who has had nothing but clear-cut leaders at Johnson’s position since arriving at KU, Self was honest when asked to think back on his preseason assessment of the next man up.

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“I probably didn’t know (if he would),” said Self regarding Johnson’s ability to lead. “But I certainly expected (it). I think he’s still growing into it. But I think he’s done well. I think guys listen to him.” Self continued: “It’s amazing to me; you can have a great leader that’s a big guy, you can have an unbelievable talker as a four man or a guy that everybody follows his lead as a three man, but still, if you were to ask any coach, ‘Who would you want to be your leader?’ everyone would say, ‘I want my quarterback or my point guard to be that guy.’” Johnson said he first gravitated to the position early in his basketball career. He never saw the point of trying to pattern his game after any one player but said he always liked watching Deron Williams, a former Self point guard at Illinois who now plays for the Brooklyn Nets. “Big body. Controls everything. Can see everything and do everything at his pace,” said Johnson, describing Williams. The Gary, Ind., native who played his high school ball in Las Vegas always has liked leading. He never saw it as a burden, and always has preferred the feeling of being in control. Now that the he’s the one leading the Jayhawks and has the responsibility of navigating last year’s national runner-up through this year’s postseason, Johnson does not plan to let anything change how he attacks his one shot at living up to the standard. “I think when you’re here, you focus on your task,” Johnson said. “You’re not focused on what happened before you or what’s gonna happen after you, you’re just trying to focus on what you’re here to do. I have a job to do, and that’s what I’m doing.”

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Family man KU’s Travis Releford relishes fatherhood

Story by Gary Bedore

18 | Men’s Basketball MArch 2013

Photo by Nick Krug

Travis Releford hustled out of Allen Fieldhouse on the evening of Jan. 2, 2011, after collecting five assists and three rebounds while failing to score in a 27-point rout of Miami of Ohio. Then a Kansas University sophomore, his mission was to drive — make that speed — from Lawrence to Overland Park Regional Medical Center in time to join his girlfriend, Jennifer Covell, for the birth of their baby boy. “He was delivered right after I got to Kansas City,” Travis said of T.J. (Travis, Jr.) Releford. “I was happy. I was shocked. I really can’t express how I felt. I was so happy I made it there in time. It was, ‘Wow, I have a son. It’s a little me.’” Travis might have missed the arrival of T.J. if not for his caring girlfriend. “I didn’t want him to miss the game,” Covell said, “(but) I was starting to get nervous he might not make it. My mom kept trying to get hold of him. I didn’t start pushing until he was close, until he was about 10 minutes away. Travis got there at 9:30 (p.m.). T.J. was born at 9:47 (p.m.).” Travis made a solemn vow as he wiped away tears of joy at the hospital. “I said I’d make a change in how fathers have been in the history of my family. I made that promise I’d be there for T.J. every day. Since Day One, I have been,” Travis said in an interview with the Journal-World conducted two weeks after T.J.’s second birthday. Releford holds no ill will against his own dad. In fact, he speaks with Tracy Releford almost every day — by phone. Tracy has spent the last 20 years in Crossroads Correction Center in Cameron, Mo., where he is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. “He’s seen me play. He gets to watch me on TV, but he’s never physically been there,” the 22-year-old Releford said of Tracy, who recently had his annual parole hearing and still has hope he’ll be released in time to see Travis play a game in Allen Fieldhouse and see Travis’ brother, Trevor, play a game at the University of Alabama, where he’s a junior point guard. “I have a son I would hope one day would grow up and play basketball, too, and I want to coach him and help him out along the way. It means a lot to have a son, especially from how I grew up not having my dad around,” Travis added. “My mom had the same problem. She didn’t have her dad there. Through our generation, it’s been like that. I wanted to make sure I could change that. I’m there every day for my son. I see him every day, and I’m here to watch him grow and teach him.”

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Proud papa Releford, a 6-foot-6 senior out of Roeland Park’s Bishop Miege High, lives in Jayhawker Towers with roommate/teammate Christian Garrett. However, Travis spends most of his free time with his girlfriend and son at their apartment, conveniently located in Lawrence. Travis understandably is proud of his son. “He just went to the doctor’s (office). He was 99 or 98 percentile in height and 92 or something in weight. The chances of him being tall are very good,” Travis said, noting Jennifer, a KU senior, is 5-foot-10, Jennifer’s dad 6-5, Travis’ mom 5-7 and Travis’ dad 5-9. “He likes sports. He’s throwing balls, kicking balls, hitting them with whatever he can find. He’s all over the place,” Travis added. Though Travis can’t remember his son’s first words — “I think it was ‘da-da,” he said — T.J.’s vocabulary is definitely growing. “He sees me in pictures. He’ll go point to them and say, ‘Dada,’ or he’ll see the Jayhawk bird and be like, ‘Jayhawk, Jayhawk,’” Releford said. “I think he knows the Rock Chalk Chant. We’ve been teaching him that since he was a few months old. He was just listening. Then all of a sudden he started mumbling and getting clearer. I think his favorite part is the end when they say, ‘Whoo.’ He looks forward to that.” T.J. attends KU’s home games and sits in a section with family members of the Jayhawk players located on the lower level, southwest bleachers. Jennifer and T.J. usually sit in the same row as Travis’ mom, Venita, who lives in Lawrence and works at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, plus Travis’ two sisters (Tamara and Katelin) and brother June, who is a sophomore on Free State High’s hoops team. “He’s waved, pointed, actually tried to get down on the court,” Travis said of T.J. Proud of papa T.J. has become quite a fan of his daddy, who is a fifth-year senior starter who averages 12.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while also playing a role as the Jayhawks’ defensive stopper. “Every time we go to a game and they go to the free-throw line, he says, ‘Whoosh,’” Covell said. “He does the cheers and chants. Every time we drive by the fieldhouse, he knows it’s the fieldhouse and says, ‘Jayhawk.’” Jennifer says that T.J. is a “brilliant” child who looks like he’s 4, not 2. “‘Eat’ is one of his favorite words because that’s all he does. He likes noodles, junk food, juice, candy. He eats almost all the junk I eat. His favorite food is probably waffles or mac and cheese,” Releford said. Travis actually is a softie in supplying T.J. what he wants/needs, says Releford’s Towers roommate. “It’s cool to watch ‘Trav’ spend time, hang out with T.J. when he’s not playing,” Garrett said. “T.J. is always around, making a mess, having fun. Travis is a great dad. He really wants to be a great father to T.J. and is doing a good job being there, showing love. I think when the season is over, he’s going to experience a whole new level what it’s like to be a dad. He’s growing up fast in it. He’s doing well.” Garrett said the funniest thing “is a lot of times I’m not there, and T.J. sleeps in my bed. So the little guy is in my room. We joke that T.J. is taking my spot as his roommate. “Sometimes I feel like an uncle. I think everybody on the team feels like an uncle to the cutest kid I’ve ever seen. He’s so cute and cool. Everyone says, ‘That’s our little nephew,’” Garrett added. ‘A special thing to see’ One of Releford’s mentors — his AAU coach L.J. Goolsby of KC

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Run GMC — says he simply loves watching Travis and T.J. together. “It’s a special thing to see,” Goolsby said. “Travis loves T.J. and wants to be a role model for him, especially as he (T.J.) gets older. Unfortunately, (Travis) didn’t have that father in his life. He doesn’t want that to be the case with T.J. It’s awesome to see how he treats him, acts around him, the way they act around each other.” T.J. already has bonded with another child of a KU player — Amara Grace Tharpe, who lives in Worcester Mass., but visits her dad, KU sophomore Naadir Tharpe, from time to time. “He calls her, ‘Baby.’ He knows she’s just a baby,” Releford said of the 1-year-old. “He takes care of her. He gives her her bottle, binkie,” Covell added. Travis said his own son inspires him and has made him consider his own future. The plan is to play in the NBA or overseas after this season, and after his playing days are finished to pursue coaching as a career. “There are so many good things. I can’t point out anything bad about being a dad,” said Releford, who has teamed with his girlfriend — a former KC Winnetonka High basketball, tennis and soccer standout — to make sure their class schedules allow somebody to be with T.J. at all times. As students not yet in the workforce, they can’t afford the cost of day care. “Some people think, ‘Ah, he (Travis) is in school and has a kid, and that could be the worst thing.’ I don’t think it’s the worst thing that could ever happen, especially the great situation I’m in with his mom and the way I handled it,” Travis said. “It hasn’t taken anything away from school or me performing on the court. I feel this has made me want to work harder so once I leave here I know he and my family will be taken care of.”


Last Stop Kansas Persistence defines Kevin Young’s journey to KU

There’s a fence near St. James Catholic Church in Kevin Young’s hometown of Perris, Calif., that stands just 3-4 feet tall but once looked like the gates of Troy to young Kevin. Every Sunday starting at age 4, Kevin would follow his father, Kevin Young Sr., down to that fence and figure out a way to work his skinny frame over the chain-link barrier. The leap was easy for Kevin’s father, a 6-foot-7 former San Jacinto College basketball player who routinely joined friends and family members on the outdoor court for pick-up games. Getting to the other side was a little tougher for Kevin, but always worth it because it started a passion for the game that would lead him to four different schools and countless thrills, most notably those he has experienced at Kansas University, where the 6-8 senior forward starts for the Jayhawks. “I think that’s the earliest memory I have of basketball,” Young said. “I remember dribbling on the sideline and I got to shoot when they were picking the teams. I just fell in love with the whole thing.” Basketball cast such a strong spell on Young that, if left on his own, his obsession easily could have kept him from playing at a level his talents merit. Whenever his passion tugged him too far in one direction, a powerful force in his life tugged hard in the other direction. Young’s mother, Alicia Morales, admitted to being more strict with her son than most parents. “He wasn’t allowed to go out in the streets, he wasn’t allowed to go to house parties, he had a curfew at 10 o’clock,” Morales said. “Everywhere I went, he went. If I went to a baby shower, he was there with me.”

Story by Matt Tait

20 | Men’s Basketball MArch 2013

Photo by Nick Krug

First stop of many As Young’s basketball talents blossomed — he first dunked as an eighth-grader, said Missouri recruited him throughout high school and North Carolina coach Roy Williams told him he would sign him after he attended a year of prep school — his mother’s academic expectations kept pace. Morales said no when her uncle asked Young to join his traveling team and, later, made her son repeat English and Spanish classes, even though he passed them the first time. “His grades were good but not by my standards,” Morales said. “I knew they weren’t good enough for him to go Division I, and I wanted him to have that option.” The summer after his senior year of high school, Young was invited to the Reebok All-American Camp and signed with coach Bill Bayno at nearby Loyola-Marymount in time for the 2008-09 season. “I saw an opportunity to get playing time right away and I jumped on it,” Young said. The playing time came, even when the coach left after just three games because of health reasons, and, with assistant coach Max Good elevated to head coach, Young had a blast despite LMU’s 3-28 final record. “My freshman year I just jacked up a crazy number of shots,” he recalled. “I played 39-40 minutes a game, I was a starter and we did as much as we could.” During his sophomore year, things changed. Good, with whom Young still keeps in touch, began giving his minutes to younger players. Young stewed as he watched others play in his place and

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often stared into the crowd toward his parents, trying to explain with a look that he had no clue what was happening. The issue never was the forward’s ability. Good liked Young then. He loves him now. “He has an extremely high motor, he’s active, he’s tireless, he has a great deal of toughness,” Good said in a telephone interview. “You don’t usually associate toughness with someone of his body type, but he’s very tough and he has a relentless refuse-to-lose attitude.” What Good witnessed, through the ups and downs of those two seasons at LMU, was merely the beginning of Young showing just how tough he could be. A college student out on his own now, Young did not have his mother there making him study, holding basketball as a motivational carrot. The state of his basketball career consumed him. After deciding to transfer, Young let his grades slip. “I just wanted out of there,” he said. “I wasn’t happy anymore.” Putting in the work Unable to transfer to a Div. I school because of his poor grades, Young enrolled at Barstow Community College about an hour away from his home. He was placed there by Fresno State, which wanted to bring him on the following semester, but he never played a minute of basketball during the fall of 2010. While focusing on his grades, Young worked as an unofficial assistant coach. Being around the team gave him the opportunity to design practice plans, draw up plays and, most importantly, stay in shape and keep his game sharp. While at Barstow, Young got wind that the Fresno State coaching staff was likely leaving and found himself looking for another path, this time with the help of San Diego State. That led him to San Bernardino Junior College, just 20 minutes from his home, where he loaded

up his schedule and passed 31 units during the spring of 2011 to regain his Div. I eligibility. He never suited up at SBJC either, but did practice with the women’s team regularly, which allowed him to round out his game. Those who knew him at both places saw the same player that KU fans see today — a happy, high-energy, afro-wearing athlete who operates as if he gets paid per smile. “I’ve never seen him be anything but humble, but thankful,” said Mark Fraser, a former Bartsow assistant coach. “He would always say, ‘You guys gotta realize this might be your last year playing. You gotta do everything you can every chance you get.’ He constantly was talking about what a wonderful experience it was to play ball, even at Barstow. They were lucky to get there is what he would tell them. Nobody knew he was going to Kansas, but the guys really respected him even then.” If there’s such a thing as basketball karma, it soon found Young. Shortly after graduating from San Bernardino in 2011, and two days before leaving for Puerto Rico to play summer ball with the national team (he was eligible because his grandparents were born there), Young received a call from Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend. “It shocked me,” he said. “I wasn’t really expecting it. For Kansas to call was out of nowhere. I never would’ve thought I’d be given the opportunity to play here.” A day after talking to his parents about the conversation in his grandmother’s front yard, Young took a phone call from KU coach Bill Self. “He told me he’d never seen me play, but he’d heard a lot of great things about me and he liked my energy,” Young said. Even though he had committed to San Diego State, Young said he felt he owed it to himself — after all he had done to keep basketball in his life — 21

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to check out KU. “The first thing that went through my mind was that Kansas was a bigger stage,” he said with a smile. “I always remembered when I was looking at Missouri, people told me I wouldn’t be able to play in the Big 12 and this was an opportunity to prove them wrong. So I came here on an unofficial visit and I just never really left.” A part of history Each time Young reached a turning point, his parents left the decisions to him. Others did not. “To us, Kansas is like the holy grail,” said Fraser, who watches every KU game with a group of Young’s Barstow buddies. “When he said he had a chance to go to Kansas, I said, ‘You go there for the education, buddy.’ I said, ‘If you get to play, if you even get to step on the court, you are blessed.’” Good credits Young’s path

and persistence — from his immediate impact at LMU to three transfers, a stint as dorm president, a coaching gig and regular scrimmages with nine girls — for landing him in the position he’s in today. “He already had an incredible motor,” Good said. “But going through all of that probably hardened his nose even more. I’m sure he’s tickled to death to be where he is and I’m tickled to death for him.” For many athletes, the appreciation part of the experience usually comes much later, years down the road when the letter jacket no longer fits and the newspaper clippings have started to yellow. Not Young. “Every time I watch the intro video and they show all the past players and all the history, it’s like, ‘I’m a part of this now,’” he said. “People don’t always understand that they’re living in history, that they’re creating history. I’m just grateful.”

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Naadir Tharpe incomparable KU backup guard credits brother for his emergence

Story by Gary Bedore

22 | Men’s Basketball MArch 2013

Photo by Nick Krug

Naadir Tharpe grinned when asked if he’d compare himself to another height-challenged point guard, Allen Iverson. “I don’t compare myself to anybody ... Iverson shot the ball 20 times a game,” said Tharpe, Kansas University’s 5-foot-11, 170-pound sophomore backup point guard, who dished 12 assists against no turnovers and hit three three-pointers in KU’s 89-57 rout of American on Dec. 29. “If anybody, I’d say more like Chris Paul, maybe ... Steve Nash,” he added. Tharpe’s 12 assists were sixth-most in a game in KU history, just six off Tom Kivisto’s record of 18 dimes in 1973. All in all, it was spectacular play in just 20 minutes. “I definitely played better than this in high school, but I’m not going to compare a high school game to a college game. I had a game where I had 16 assists, close to 20 (at Brewster Academy). I just have a different mind-set right now when it comes to basketball,” added Tharpe, a Worcester, Mass., native.

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The modest Tharpe didn’t list himself when asked who was “responsible” for his emergence as a solid sub to Elijah Johnson. “I would say mostly my older brother, Tishaun,” Tharpe said. “We’ve been sitting down and talking to each other a lot, as well as coach (Bill Self) and my teammates encouraging me.” Tharpe, who lost his dad, Ronald Edward Tharpe, to cancer in 2006, has a mentor and role model in 34-year-old brother Tishaun Jenkins, who was a first-team NCAA Div. III All-America point guard at Salem State University in Massachusetts. Jenkins led Salem State to its first and only Final Four appearance in 2000 and was recently named to the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame. “I talk to him after every game I play,” Tharpe said. “He always tells me what I need to do better. He tells me I need to take a different mind-set out here. You have to be everywhere on the court. That’s what I’m trying to do.” Jenkins explained his “be everywhere” philosophy in a phone interview with the Journal-World from his home in Worcester, where the former school teacher now works for Verizon. “That is my thing,” Jenkins said. “I said, ‘Naadir, you have to have the will to make every play ... to say I want to make the shot, grab the rebound, outlet it. I want to get it going and finish it right. I want to play defense, do everything, whatever it takes, do everything, be everywhere.’ “Right now, I think he’s just figured some things out. He’s more comfortable,” Jenkins added of the main reason for his brother’s success. The success has come out of nowhere. Naadir was at the nadir after playing poorly in a victory over Saint Louis on Nov. 20. He had three points and two assists, missing four of five shots in 22 minutes. “He was down, almost to the point, ‘I don’t know if I can do this, Ti,’” Jenkins related. “I was like, ‘You don’t quit. When the going gets tough, you get tougher. When it gets tougher you get tougher and tougher. That’s how it goes. You take that motivation to get better and show what you are about. Meet the challenge.’” Sensing a need to catch his brother’s attention further, Jenkins after the Saint Louis game told Tharpe of a conversation he had with Self last January. “Last year, coach said, ‘Tishaun, let’s be honest. Naadir is not going to go and dominate a basketball game,’” Jenkins said. “I am one of those guys … my coach told me as a junior in college that I reached my pinnacle. I put signs everywhere in my dorm room to stay motivated because this guy thought I was as good as I was going to be. I told my brother, ‘Coach Self said you can’t dominate a game.’ I don’t know if that put a little fire under his butt. It seems it has. “I think coach Self is one of the best coaches in the country. I said to him (Tharpe), ‘If he thinks you can’t dominate, either that’s a lack of effort in practice or you are not showing him what you can do. On the court, you are definitely not showing him what you can do.’” That was about the time Jenkins asked Self if KU could provide a counselor to help Tharpe work on some issues regarding his dad’s death. “He spoke to someone the course of the whole year,” Jenkins said, expressing thanks to KU and Self for the forum for Tharpe to speak about his dad. “When you lose your father, you lose your sense of security. You could talk to him. He didn’t make decisions for you but gave you options, methods, ways to go. When you lose that, it’s on you.” Speaking about reasons for his improvement, Tharpe said ... “I just feel like I’m going out and playing basketball. It’s something I’ve been doing my whole life. I know what I need to do on the court — that’s find people and get them when they are open.”

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As far as his scoring 25 points during a three-game stretch in December ... “A lot of coaches that coached me always said I was a good shooter. Growing up, my brother always told me, ‘You’ve got a nice stroke,’” Tharpe said. “Coach Self says the same thing. He gets mad if I don’t shoot open shots so I know I’ve got to shoot the ball when I’m open.” Self is pleased with Tharpe’s progress. He always has been a fan of Tharpe the person, who showed up for his recruiting visit wearing a tie. “What a great kid,” Self said, adding of his game, “There’s no dropoff when we go to the bench, not the last three to four weeks with Naadir. He’s getting more comfortable. He’s more aggressive defensively. He’s getting where he can facilitate really well. I’d say ever since our team started playing well, he’s a big reason why. He’s given us a boost every time he comes in the game.” Tharpe’s baby daughter, Amara Grace Tharpe, has been in attendance for a few of her father’s games in Lawrence. “I just love her. It’s hard not to love her,” Tharpe said of Amara, whose first birthday is Jan. 21. “You look at her eyes. They are so bright. It’s hard to explain.” He enjoyed spending time with his daughter over a short Christmas break spent in Worcester. “I bought her some stuff online as well as a couple toys, stuff like that,” Naadir said. Jenkins said Naadir “is a great father, a great young man. He has manners, morals, values. Honestly, I’ll say this ... you ain’t seen anything yet,” he added, laughing. “I’m excited, proud, right now, but this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this little guy right here.”

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NCAA Mock Tournament selection Story by Tom Keegan

Indianapolis — We broke for lunch and it was then that I learned it was snowing outside. Is that unusual for this time of year? To know that I first had to answer another question: What city am I in again? I was in Indianapolis, one of 20 media members taking the place of the 10 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament selection committee members. We all went through a mock exercise to experience the process of reaching the 68-team field. The non-stop barrage of comparative numbers can wear on the brain. And we spent maybe 20 percent as much time in the selection room as the actual committee members during parts of two days. The real committee members meet from Tuesday through Sunday and don’t put the bracket together until Sunday afternoon. The selection committee members are usually athletic directors or conference representatives. Mike Waters of the Syracuse PostDispatch and I took the place of one member, Wake Forest athletic director Mike Wellman. As do the real members, who went through a similar exercise in the days before we came to town, we received a great deal of help from NCAA administrators Jeane Boyd, Dan Gavitt and David Worlock. It’s not an easy task and selection committee members can be believed when they say they don’t rig made-for-TV matchups. So many other factors such as avoiding teams from the same conference meeting too soon and trying to keep game sites as fair and fan-friendly as possible make it difficult enough to come up with a bracket. One example: Minnesota, a No. 5 seed based on the seeding list that ranks teams from 1 to 68, had to be bumped to No. 6 in order to avoid a Sweet 16 matchup with Indiana. Marquette, originally a No. 6, took the place of the Golden Gophers, setting up a potential Sweet 16 matchup pitting Hoosiers coach Tom Crean against his former school. If “never” is the Roy Williams word that set off Kansas fans when Roy left to coach his alma mater and help with the care of his Alzheimer’s-stricken sister, then “It’s Indiana. It’s Indiana,” is the Crean phrase that stays with Marquette fans. If that game happens in March, guarantee the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel headline will be, “It’s Indiana! It’s Indiana!” Inevitably, matchups with sexy angles take place. And 24 | Men’s Basketball MArch 2013

Photo by Nick Krug

sometimes they don’t, but when they don’t, nobody notices because there is no fan in a conspiracy not taking place. For example, we could have sent Minnesota coach Tubby Smith to Lexington, site of his old school, for his opening game, but Kansas City was closer and whenever possible, geographical concerns are accommodated. So they went to Kansas City. A heavy RPI (Ratings Percentage Index, a computer program) presence struck me as the most disturbing aspect of the process. Each school’s team sheet included references to strength of schedule, wins against teams ranked in the top 50, etc. Those are RPI rankings, a system that can reward teams for losing by a landslide to a good team and can be punitive toward a team that wins against a low-RPI opponent. Every mock committee member added some insight that made the room look a little harder at a comparison, but since this is my experience about which I’m writing, I’ll share mine instead of bragging on someone else. Oklahoma and Notre Dame were on the board together and somebody mentioned the huge disparity in non-conference strength of schedule would sway his opinion. OU’s was ranked 12th, Notre Dame’s 280th. The best Oklahoma defeated during the non-con was West Virginia (a game that didn’t count in the Big 12 standings). The Sooners have such a high non-conference RPI in part because they lost to schools with good records. Never mind that they lost to schools with good records, including Gonzaga (by 25 points) and Stephen F. Austin by a point, they get RPI credit for those games. Notre Dame played a series of schools that would have difficulty blowing out intramural squads from St. Mary’s, Notre Dame’s all-girls sister school, and the RPI penalizes them for winning those games. So it’s imperative committee members look beyond the RPI, but it’s difficult to do so completely because it rears its ugly head in every comparison. On each school’s sheet, the record against top 50 means top 50 in the RPI. Strength of schedule and nonconference strength of schedule, again, are calculated by RPI. Links to other computer rankings are available on each member’s computer, but RPI is the chief resource. Anyway, let’s focus on the procedure that takes place when the selection committee pares down the field and ultimately makes the bracket.

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area. The next thing that appeared on our screens was a list of the remaining 35 schools under consideration. Again, we voted for the eight best and when those results came in we were asked to rank the eight (some for which we did not vote). The four winners there were thrown into the at-large field and the other four were grouped with the four that were placed on hold. We ranked those in order and the top four joined the at-large group and the others were put on hold. If a school is put on hold twice without advancing, it is switched back into the under-consideration pool.

Step 1: CONFERENCE MONITORING Each member is assigned three or four conferences to monitor all season. This enables the committee to stay updated on old injuries that might have affected outcomes of games and current ones that might weaken a team that will be without a valuable player in the tournament. The chairman calls out a conference and asks for the monitor to share a quick review of which teams he or she considers tournament locks and which deserve to be under consideration. For example, as Big 12 monitor, I shared my view that Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State were locks that didn’t not need discussion until the seeding phase. I also shared that Oklahoma, Baylor and Iowa State, in that order, merited consideration. If the monitor believes a conference is a one-bid league he labels it an “AQ,” as in automatic qualifier only. After the discussion, each member’s computer screen lists every eligible NCAA Division I basketball school with a box that can be checked “AL” for at-large (the locks) or “C” for under consideration. If a school receives a minimum requirement of votes it stays in the potential field. Nineteen schools immediately were voted into the at-large pool and 43 others were deemed worthy of consideration. Step 2: PARING THE FIELD The 43 schools worthy of consideration were put on the screen and we each were asked to check the vote for the eight best. Once the eight highest vote-getters were determined we were asked to rank the eight winners in order. The four that fared the best were tossed into the at-large field. The other four were put in a holding

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Step 3: THE INITIAL CRACK AT SEEDING It’s impossible to fill out the back of the field before knowing how many of the teams in the “at-large” pool will win their conference tournaments. So the committee shifts to taking its first shift at choosing the first four seeds. The name of every school that has made it to the at-large pool appears on the computer screen and we are told to vote for the top eight. And then rank them. And the same process is followed as with the under-consideration schools. When there are ties the names of those schools appear and we rank them. Conference tournaments are taking place simultaneous to the discussions and votes. A beeping sound goes in the room as a game concludes. If a team that was in the at-large pool wins its conference tournament, that opens up one more at-large berth. Our first top-line of the seeds read like this: Indiana, Miami, Duke, Michigan State, but not after an intense debate as to whether Michigan State or Florida deserved the final No. 1 seed. That discussion took place with the media members acting as Mark Hollis, Michigan State athletic director, out of the room. Your school is discussed you have to leave the room. Michigan State won the vote by a 7-2 margin, but lost its seed the next day after Michigan won the fake Big Ten tournament. Step 4: THE FINAL SPOT We reached the point where we had either or three or four remaining spots. “This is one vote you really want to feel good about as you rank these teams,” said NCAA Tournament selection committee chairman Mike Bobinski, the AD at Xavier until he moves to a similar post at Georgia Tech on April 1. “It gets a little less comfortable at this point.” After all the comparing and voting, California, Iowa State, North Carolina and Virginia were the final four teams for three or four spots, depending on the outcome of the Alabama-Florida SEC tournament final. Once the alarm sounded informing Alabama

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had scored the upset, North Carolina became the last cut from the field, joining fellow blue-blood Kentucky as schools trying to act excited about participating in the NIT.

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Step 5: SEED SCRUBBING The seeds are listed 1 through 68, but not without intense challenges to each one. It’s called “scrubbing the seeds” and it involves comparing No. 1 to No. 2, and in the event they are flopped, then comparing No. 2 to No. 3 and so on down the line. It’s a fascinating process that puts each team’s credentials through the ringer one more time. “Some years you’ll see a team just start dropping,” said tournament selection committee chairman Mike Bobinski, Xavier University’s athletic director. “One year a team dropped down an elevator shaft. It dropped about 20 spots.” During this process, the numbers still are discussed but take a back seat to more common-sense language, such as, “Shirts and skins,” a term popularized by Stan Morrison when he was on the committee. It means if the teams played each other, which one do you think wins? The scrubbing starts before the full field is in place.


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Step 6: THE BRACKETING The committee is armed with a computer program that reveals the mileage from each institution to each site and sounds colorcoded alerts when conflicts are bracketed, such as schools from the same conference meeting too soon. Each of the four No. 1 seeds, starting with the overall No.1, is placed in a region, based on the mileage. (In some cases it’s not purely mileage and could be where that school has more fans. For example, Lawrence is the same distance from Indianapolis as from Dallas, but Indy is Big 10 country, Dallas Big 12 country.) As of five years ago, the committee stopped following the “S Curve,” which automatically put the last No. 1 seed in the same region as the first No. 2 seed, etc. Now, geography takes precedence, so as to minimize schools’ travel expenses, both in dollars and fatigue to the participating athletes, and to maximize ticket sales.

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1988 1991 1993 2002 2003 2008 2012 NCAA TOurnament




4106 W. 6th, Ste E 1302 S. Main St., Ste 23 (785) 749-1885 (785) 242-7100


Champions 1952 1988 2008 Conference Regular season champions 1908 1909 1910 1911 1912 1914 1915 1922 1923 | Menâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Basketball MArch 2013

Atlanta Monday, April 8

Atlanta Saturday, April 6


Atlanta Saturday, April 6










































First Round









National Champion


(6) (11)










Championship Game


Second Round


Third Round


Regional Semifinals


Regional Finals


Regional Finals


Regional Semifinals


Third Round


Second Round


Serving Lawrence for over 35 years!



Main Location 23rd & Alabama

Tournament Schedule First Round March 19-20 UD Arena, Dayton, Ohio


Second-Third Rounds March 21, 23 The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Mich. Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky. EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah HP Pavilion, San Jose, Calif. March 22, 24 Frank Erwin Center, Austin, Texas UD Arena, Dayton, Ohio Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo. Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

NEW HYUNDAI 2829 Iowa St.

East Regional March 28, 30 Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.


2 PRE-OWNED LOCATIONS 23rd & Alabama and 2829 Iowa St.



West Regional March 28, 30 Staples Center, Los Angeles

ooff N New & Pre-owned Vehicles cles


Midwest Regional March 29, 31 Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

Customer Service


South Regional March 29, 31 Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas



National Semifinals April 6 Georgia Dome, Atlanta

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Championship Game April 8 Georgia Dome, Atlanta

3 1924 1925 1926 1927 1931 1932 1933 1934 1936 1937 1938





23rd & Alabama • 843-3500 •


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FRAMEWOODS GALLERY 819 Massachusetts • 785-842-4900

From one


to another.

Everything from your house to the fieldhouse. Commercial and Residential. - Security System - Home Theatre - Video Surveillance - Telephone and Cable Install - Electrical Service and Repair - 24 Hour Emergency Service - Panel Upgrades - Pole Light Repair/Maintenance

Get Lynn On The Line! 843-LYNN

HigHly ranked: on and off the court #1 in kansas: scholarship funds #1 in kansas: research dollars #1 nationally: city management/urban policy* #1 nationally: special education*

The only school in Kansas with #1 ranked programs *2013 U.S. News & World Report

KU Basketball Magazine 2013  

It's a book about a game and the people that play it.

KU Basketball Magazine 2013  

It's a book about a game and the people that play it.