KU Basketball: Senior Leaders

Four seniors. Wayne Simien, Keith Langford, Aaron Miles, and Mike Lee. These men, decked out in suits and ties, sat next to their coach on Big 12 media day. Kansas head coach Bill Self motioned to them with pride.

"A lot of coaches feel a team is only as good as the seniors allow them to be. That's one reason we feel we have a special team, because of these four guys," said Self.

"These guys have been through it. They understand it," emphasized Self.

The cumulative list of individual and team accomplishments was impressive. Wooden award finalists, second team all Big 12, first team all Big 12, academic all Big 12, Naismith Award finalist, Player of the Year candidate, conference champions two Final Fours and one great eight appearance.

The list of obstacles was equally daunting. Two shoulder surgeries, one broken collarbone, a few knee surgeries, groin injury, two suspended teammates and a coaching change. Yes, they have been through it. And they do understand.

"The thing I am most proud about these guys is they are all vocal in some way. Aaron when the ball is in his hands, Mike in the locker room, Wayne by example, and Keith is our energy giver. Everybody is a leader in their own way."

"Our freshmen are going to follow that lead. They have done a great job of setting the tone," asserted Self.

That tone is driven by a need to win. There is no doubt this team is focused on one thing.

"I believe all four of us have the same mind set," said Miles. "We need to work hard to win the national championship. Anything else, I mean, we won't be satisfied at all."

Kansas certainly has all the ingredients to be the next champions. They have experience, they have talent, they have depth, and they have the coach. They enter the season ranked #1 by the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll.

There is just that pesky matter of playing the games.

"One thing that concerns me about this team, the expectations are so high that anything less than winning it all would be a disappointment," admitted Self.

"But you know, there are fifteen or so other teams that feel the same way. The expectations are going to be there, so you might as well get it out there and embrace it," said Self.

"I am more worried about fan expectations then the team. You want a team that focuses on a goal and commits to it. But I don't want to put outside pressure on this team."

Self may have some concerns, but the players appear undaunted.

"Expectations and pressure is part of the game," said Langford.

"This is it," added Simien. "This is the last year."

The media and fans know the mentality of the seniors. "The Time is Now" is a chosen slogan of the KU marketing department. Self is very aware of the final-shot attitude of the team

"They (feel they) have to perform with a sense of urgency," he explained.

"But even though they are seniors, even though the clock is ticking and this is their last go round, they shouldn't feel any pressure. It is their last year. All they have to do is go be themselves."

Nice try, Bill. The seniors have other ideas.

"The only thing I have left to show people is I can win a title, that my team can win a title," said Miles.

"We will do everything to win a championship," promised Lee. "Everything."

Four seniors. One goal. Let the season begin.


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