ESPN's College Gameday was in house preparing for a 10am local broadcast on Saturday and Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Hubert Davis, and Digger Phelps even gave up their chairs for a bit to give Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson a chance to jump start their television careers on the set.
Yes, Robinson was back at practice, a bit gassed at times, but also
playing inspired ball in spurts. For Robinson and his KU teammates it
was step one in the quest to return to normalcy.
"Last night was a good start because I got after them pretty good last
night," said Self prior to practice on Friday. "I think they said, ‘OK,
things are back to normal.' We need to have a routine that we follow. I
think we are all creatures of habit, especially athletes and athletic
teams, and we haven't had any routine."
"I was really tired (when I got to Washington, D.C.)," admitted Tyshawn Taylor. "I didn't sleep too much. We got into the hotel really late.
When we got there, I couldn't really sleep that much. We had to wake up
early and then we were on a plane the whole time. We got back and
practiced. It was a really long day. I was tired. It's been rough.
There's been a lot going on."
"It's been a long week but it's something we wanted to do (attend the
funeral) and something we decided to do as a team," said senior guard
Brady Morningstar. "You're going to be tired when you wake up in the
morning, it's just another day. We came back last night and had a good
practice. We got our legs back. It was a good trip out there and I'm
glad we did (go)."
No one has carried more of an emotional burden this week than Robinson
who is still coping with the unexpected death of his mother Lisa. But
Robinson was on the floor receiving encouraging words from his
teammates and often checked on by Marcus and Markieff Morris.
KU Director of Basketball Operations Barry Hinson spent the week in
Washington, D.C. with Robinson and said Robinson "left Lawrence on
Sunday a boy and returned a man". It is tough to explain all that
Robison has had to deal with but it was such a pleasant sight to see
his smile on Friday prior to practice.
After asking his head coach how he could thank everyone for the
outpouring of support, Robinson opted to write a letter that was
released later in the day by KU athletics. His next question revolved
around how to beat the Wildcats.
Truly getting back to normal means getting back to their winning ways,
especially at home, and this time it's against a vaunted in-state
rival. The game may lack the luster it had early in the season but make
no mistake about it Kansas State will find a way to compete in this
year's Sunflower Showdown. Kansas has won five in a row against
Martin's squad and `10 of the last 11 and the Wildcats will be
determined to earn a feather-in-the-cap win they so desperately need.
K-State's slide has been surprising this season, but remember…
"It's K-State, they're one of our nemesis. We want to play against them
and it's always a pretty competitive game," Morningstar told reporters.
The Big 12's preseason pick to win the conference has had issues in
nearly every area. The leadership, the chemistry, the decision-making
on the court are all things Frank Martin can point to as reasons for a
14-7 record and a disappointing 2-4 mark. The struggles are reminiscent
in some ways of the slide the Texas Longhorns endured last season.
The Wildcats miss the leadership of Denis Clemente and just appear
disjointed on the court. Clemente's backcourt partner Jacob Pullen
leads the team with 17.9 points per game and still impacts a game on
many levels with assists (63) and steals (29).
"He's a lot like (former KU guard) Sherron (Collins)," Self said
comparing his senior guard of a season ago. "I don't know if Jacob will
go down as the winningest player ever at Kansas State, but you
shouldn't evaluate Jacob on his statistics. He should evaluate him just
like you did with Sherron, on wins. He's willed that program in many,
many ways. He's one of my favorite players in the league."
"He's crafty," said Taylor. "He's not the fastest guard, but he's real
crafty. He just knows how to play. He's a senior, he's a smart player,
and he's a veteran so he knows how to play. He knows how to get to the
line. He knows how to get easy buckets to get himself going. I respect
his game a lot. I think he's a really good player."
The Cats are still formidable on the glass outrebounding teams by
almost nine a game plus they get to the line as well as any team in the
league averaging over 15 free throws a game - both focal points for KU
heading into Saturday's contest.
"They do a lot of things well, but the thing they probably do as well
as anything is the percentage of rebounds that they get back (on their
own missed shots), which I am sure they are leading the country in
that," Self pointed out. "I think its well over 40 percent, so we need
to keep that around 25 percent if at all possible. Hopefully our first
shot defense will be good."
For Kansas a handful of critical recruits will be on hand for the game
and Wayne Simien's jersey will be retired at halftime. Simien and Miles
were together again at KU's practice on Friday. Simien looks ready to
take the court at any moment and score another 2,000+ points.
"(He's) An amazing player. I grew up watching him as a Kansas kid,"
said Burlington native Tyrel Reed. "He has accomplished great things
here. Whenever he caught (the ball) on the block it was an automatic
two points. He's an even greater person. I think that shows around the
community (in) the things that he does for kids and everyone. He is
just a great guy and no one is more deserving."
"Wayne is probably the best collegiate player I've ever coached, so he
definitely deserves to be honored tomorrow (Saturday)," Self said. "How
about having your name hung in the rafters and growing up 20 minutes
down the road? This will be a truly special day for Wayne and very well
It will be a special day for all involved with a welcomed return to
normalcy and a hard-fought game against a respected in-state rival.
KU Preps For Sunflower Showdown
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