Simien To Be Honored Tonight

Wayne Simien was destined for greatness after scoring 25 points and grabbing eight rebounds in his first exhibition game as a freshman in 2001 against EA Sports. Then, in his regular-season debut versus No. 23 Wake Forest, Simien was again all the rage with a double-double (10 points and 11 rebounds) in just 15 minutes.

The 6-9 former KU standout was just beginning on his way to a memorable career, becoming one of the all-time Jayhawk greats on and off the court.

At halftime of the KU-K-State game tonight, Wayne Simien will have his jersey retired, where No. 23 will be unfurled in the rafters alongside former teammates Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison and Drew Gooden, plus other  Jayhawk legends like Wilt Chamblerlain, Danny Manning and Clyde Lovellette.

"Knowing all of the names and players who are already up there — Wilt, Danny, Paul Pierce, and Jacque (Vaughn) — those were the guys who I grew up watching play and wanting to be like. Knowing that my name will be up there with those guys, it's really unreal to me," Simien said.

Simien, who played his first two seasons for coach Roy Williams, was at first heartbroken and angry when Williams left KU in 2003, but he connected deeply with coach Bill Self and thrived in his high-low offensive system.
After averaging 8.1 points per game his freshman season and 14.8 points as a sophomore playing in the shadow of Drew Gooden and Nick Collison, Simien became the face of Kansas basketball his junior and senior seasons. He led KU in scoring and rebounding both years (17.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg his junior year and 20.3 ppg, 11.0 rpg his senior season), becoming the Big 12 Player of the Year and consensus first-team All-American his final season in 2004-05.
He was also a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection his junior and senior years. Simien helped lead Kansas to a 110-28 record during his career, along with three Big 12 Championships, four NCAA tournament appearances, two Final Fours and an Elite Eight.

Simien, who persevered through injuries during his career, ranks No. 13 all time at KU in scoring (1,593 points), No. 7 in rebounding (884), No. 11 in field-goal percentage (55.8), tied for fourth in games with double-figure rebounds (39) and No. 4 in double-doubles (38), including five straight his senior year. Simien collected 16 double-doubles that senior season, tied with Collison for fifth-most in a season.

The Leavenworth, Kan., native lived out his "lifelong dream" by playing for KU.
"It's just real good, especially being how I grew up in Kansas," Simien said during his freshman season. "I definitely feel the love from the crowd and people around here. It's just a great feeling to get the support from everyone and run out of the tunnel with the Kansas jersey on."
And Simien was one of the most popular and beloved KU players in school history who endeared himself to the Jayhawk faithful with his genuine personality and tireless work ethic.
"There's no other way to play but just just go out there and play as hard as you can," Simien once said.

He can't wait for tonight when his name and jersey will be part of Jayhawk lore forever.

"It'll be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I'm really excited to be able to share it with some friends and family members who are close to me," Simien said. "The more I've thought about it, I'm particularly excited to be the first of coach Self's players to be able to have their name in the rafters. Just everything that coach Self means to me; personally what he meant to me as a player and what he's meant to the program."
"My last time in Allen Fieldhouse was against K-State," Simien added. "Now I have the chance to step back on the court in front of the fans against K-State, in the Sunflower Showdown. That's Kansas Day and it's also my son's (Simon) birthday, that's pretty cool too."

Self is extremely excited to see Simien have this prestigious honor. Self calls Simien the best offensive player he's ever coached and "probably the best collegiate player I've ever coached."

"We knew this is something that would happen since the day he left," Self said. "With the five-year waiting period I think this will mean so much to Wayne and his family. It will be great to see one of Kansas' very own get recognized in a matter that will probably mean as much to Wayne as anybody who has had their jersey hung. ... 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."

Self felt blessed to coach such a great player and superior person.

"Wayne's senior year was probably the best year an individual has had since we've been here," Self said. "He was a consensus first-team All-America and had many national and Big 12 honors. More importantly, he represented Kansas in a great way all four years. He fought through a lot of injuries and a lot of adversity and performed at such a high level and he is very deserving of getting his jersey hung."

Simien lives in Lawrence with his wife, Katherine, and their three children. He serves as the KU men's basketball team chaplain and is also a volunteer mentor to Jayhawk student-athletes. Simien, who founded Called to Greatness ministry and basketball camp, volunteers with KU Religious Advisors as well.

A first-round NBA draft pick by the Miami Heat in 2005, Simien won a championship with the Heat in 2006. He retired from professional basketball in May 2009 to pursue work in Christian ministry.

Fans are encouraged to meet and greet Simien today from 3:30-4:45 in 1865— KU's Bookstore off The Oread Hotel lobby (1200 Oread Ave.) Following the game, fans can also join Simien in a celebration at The Oread Hotel from approximately 9-11 p.m.

Like many Jayhawk fans growing up, KU senior guard Tyrel Reed enjoyed watching Simien create his magic in Allen Fieldhouse.

"(He's) an amazing player," Reed said. "I grew up watching him as a Kansas kid. 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." Top Stories