Kansas has no problem if a different player grabs the headlines every night.
Saturday it was Brandon Rush’s career-high 28 points that
vaulted the Jayhawks over Texas A&M. Sunday it was Mario Chalmers who torched Texas from long range and netted 30 in the Big 12
Tournament Championship game.
“Yesterday Brandon stepped up big for us. Tonight everybody
stepped up,” said Chalmers just minutes after winning the
conference tournament. “We were talking about it yesterday,
that we were going to need a big game from everybody and I think
everybody continued to step up today.”
Imagine the sleep lost by opposing coaches trying to figure out how to
game plan against a roster as talented as KU’s. Once again
it’s been proven that Kansas does not have a go-to-guy
– it has a team full of go-to guys.
“Our opponents can’t focus on one player on our
team and stop him because they have to stop all five of us,”
said Rush who was the MVP of the Big 12 Tournament. “We all
can score, we all can take over a game whenever we want to.”
It doesn’t seem to matter to any player, coach, or fan who
that “man of the hour” happens to be.
Mario Chalmers has been that player before for this Kansas team.
He’s certainly come up big in his share of big spots
– the last three years in the Big 12 Tournament come to mind.
But is it me or does Chalmers feels like a player who’s been
somewhat overlooked over the last month or so? I guess on a team where
every player is just as valuable as the next, it’s easy to
get lost in the shuffle – especially when things are going
well. But Mario showed why you can’t forget about #15.
“The go-to person is the person that’s hot -
that’s doing everything for our team – tonight it
was ‘rio and I helped him out. I was the second
option,” said Rush who put up 19 points in Sunday’s
Head coach Bill Self still runs plays at the end of games and in
critical situations where Chalmers is one of the first options. The
McDonald’s All-American has something you can’t
teach – a zest for the spotlight. By spotlight we
don’t mean he’s looking for headlines, or checking
out which NBA scout is in the crowd – he just wants to make
the big play- no matter which end of the floor it comes on - to help
his team win.
Chalmers leads the team in steals and assists and believe me
he’s just as happy with a critical steal in the waning
minutes against Texas as he is with his point total hitting 3-0. He
actually forces coaches to map out a plan to combat the havoc he also
causes on the defensive end. The number of steals went down in
conference play, I expect them to go back up against unfamiliar
competition. It’s just not everyday teams face the length,
the anticipation, or the quick hands of a player like Chalmers.
Like many of Self’s kids, Mario is all about winning. He
hasn’t been talked about as much as Brandon’s knee,
or Darnell’s improvement, or Darrell Arthur’s foul
trouble, but he’s just proved time and time again
he’s ready – especially when the lights are the
But there are bigger games to come for a team with five seniors and
some underclassmen who will consider leaving early – a little
sense of urgency never hurt anyone. If desire and hunger is a necessary
quality to win a national championship this Jayhawk team has a heavy
dose of both.
“The ultimate goal is to win a national championship and
we’re still going hard after that,” said Chalmers
A year ago I visited Lawrence and the cheer after practice as the
players broke the huddle was “Big 12 Champs”. This
year, despite being in the middle of a tightly contested Big 12 race,
the cheer was “National Champs.” That
doesn’t mean the conference title wasn’t important
it’s just that after accomplishing that three years in a row
(now four), Kansas has its sights set on a much bigger goal –
and the first step to reaching it is beating Portland State on
Mario Definitely Super
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