The New No. 44

LAWRENCE - Here's what we've seen from David Padgett through two exhibition games.

Forty-one minutes, 11-of-18 shooting, 6-for-7 at the free-throw stripe, eight rebounds, four assists, three blocks, two steals and just two turnovers. Not too shabby for a freshman trying to find his niche on a team that already boasts two of the strongest big men in the Big 12 Conference.

The 6-foot-11 Padgett is a spittin' image of former Jayhawk Nick Collison when he was a freshman. He has got solid fundamentals, a soft touch with both hands and can drain the 17-foot jumper consistently. His six fouls may be the only blemish so far, but that is getting nit-picky considering he is an 18-year-old guy playing college ball for the first time.

With just two exhibition games under his belt, Kansas fans can already feel confident when they see this No. 44 trot onto the court. Previous players donning the #44 jersey include big man Eric Chenowith.

"It doesn't take a real expert to figure out he is going to be real good," said first-year Kansas coach Bill Self, lauding Padgett's effort following last week's victory over the EA Sports All-Stars.

He offered similar praise Tuesday night after the Jayhawks thumped Pittsburg State 103-73 at Allen Fieldhouse in their final tune-up before the regular-season opener next Friday at home against Tennessee-Chattanooga.

There was so much to like about Padgett's game against the Gorillas. The way he got in position for rebounds. How he always got a hand in the face of Pitt State's shooters. How quickly he has adjusted to Self's high-low offense, as evidenced by the way he slipped to the high post and fired on-target passes to Jeff Graves and Wayne Simien for easy lay-ins.

Through all the bright spots in his game, Padgett's most valuable asset is his work ethic. The guy is tenacious. He hustles. He is not afraid to try. He is all Collison and not so much Chenowith. There is no backing down in his game; no shying away from a more experienced opponent.

That effort has been on display during both games, but was encompassed by one play in particular Tuesday. Midway through the second half, Padgett tangled with Pitt State's Wes Thornton for a rebound of Jeremy Case's missed 3-point try. Padgett wrestled Thornton for the ball, tore it away and thrashed his elbows for space. Padgett ultimately got fouled, and the sold-out Fieldhouse crowd gave Padgett a 10-second standing ovation for his effort.

Kansas fans have grown to appreciate big men that hustle during the past 15 years. It has been a love affair, really. The flashy guards have fired up the Fieldhouse for years, but it is the big men that have always blown the roof of the building. Padgett looks poised to be the next in a string of fundamentally sound big guys that run the floor, hit the boards hard and fight for every inch.

Like Danny Manning, Raef LaFrentz, Mark Randall, Richard Scott, Scot Pollard, Drew Gooden, Collison and Wayne Simien before him, Padgett is a big guy to expect plenty from in the coming years. Top Stories