This will mark Brennan Bechard's first career start, while Matt Kleinmann will be making his second career starting appearance. He started earlier this season against Jackson State on Dec. 6.
Kleinmann, an Overland Park, Kan. native, was named an Academic All-Big
12 First Team selection this season. He's also a six-time member of the
Athletic Director's Honor roll. The 6-10 forward has been a part of
eight Big 12 Championship titles (five Big 12 regular-season crowns and
three Big 12 Tournament championships).
Kleinmann will be making his 69th game appearance for his career. KU is
19-0 when Kleinmann scores in a game, including 4-0 this season. He's
scored 45 points and grabbed 46 rebounds during his career while
shooting an impressive 56.3 percent from the field (18-32 FG).
Kleinmann is the only known player in school history to have won five
Bechard, a Lawrence, Kan. native, transferred to KU after spending his
freshman season at Barton County Community College. He's been a member
of five Big 12 Championship titles (three Big 12 regular-season crowns
and two Big 12 Tournament championships). KU has gone 94-14 (87 percent
winning percentage) during his career and won an average of 31.3 games
The 6-0 guard will be making his 34th game appearance. He's scored 18
points during his career, including 14 last season.
SELF ON THE SENIORS
"Matt will be a trivia question answer for a long time, unless with
Brady (Morningstar) we win the next two Big 12 titles," KU coach Bill Self said. "Then Brady would get five (conference titles) as well.
That's not going to happen very often over time, to have a team win
five in a row and have somebody redshirt during that time.
"Matt is a fabulous young man. He's going to be a great success story,
as will Brennan. They have both put their handprint on our program in
ways that people don't know unless they're behind the scenes. I'm
really proud of both of them. They've both matured, and have both been
a real treat to be around daily."
A DREAM COME TRUE
Both Kleinmann and Bechard grew in Lawrence and Overland Park,
respectively, dreaming of playing for KU. Kleinmann actually turned
down a scholarship offer from Division I Pacific to walk on at KU. He
was also recruited by South Florida, Valparaiso, Yale, William
& Mary, and UNC-Wilmington. Kleinmann actually talked to North Carolina about the prospects of walking on.
"They called me," Kleinmann said. "It was kind of a brief conversation
between myself and (UNC assistant coach) Jerod Haase. They just asked
if I was interested. Pretty early on, I said, ‘Thank you guys, but I'd
rather stick around here and get a scholarship somewhere.' That's when
I first thought of walking on at Kansas, and later that came through."
Kleinmann will never forget the phone call from then-KU assistant Tim
Jankovich asking him to walk on.
"I was at a friend's house and I think my jaw dropped to the floor,"
Kleinmann said. "I went back and told my friends. (While I hadn't
committed), I knew from that moment on I was going to be a Jayhawk."
He's loved every minute of his career, especially last year's run to
the national title.
"I couldn't have imagined what it would have been like to watch the
national championship on TV," Kleinmann said. "Instead I got a chance
to run out on the floor and celebrate with my friends and coaches and
family. Those kinds of opportunities...knowing I made the right
decision as an 18-year-old. And here I am as a fifth-year senior, it's
really been an amazing journey. That's the stuff I'm going to look back
in years to come."
Kleinmann said he doesn't think it will hit him that his home career is
over "until I'm up there starting to talk in the microphone (after the
game for his senior speech) and thinking about all those things I want
to say to everybody. That's going to be when it sinks in that this is
the last chance I have to suit up here at the Fieldhouse and run out of
the tunnel. It's going to hit me pretty hard. Hopefully I don't need
any Kleenex out there."
Bechard, too, is looking forward to his home finale. Aside from winning
the national title, he said the Texas games have been his favorite
memories during his KU career. The Jayhawks have beaten Texas the last
three years in the Big 12 Tournament Championship.
"I'm sure it'll be a great game," Bechard said. "A couple Texas games
in the past have been great games and great memories."
Like Kleinmann, Bechard remains grateful for walking on at KU instead
of attending a smaller school and playing more minutes.
"I probably could have taken a different route," Bechard said, "but
just growing up around here and loving KU basketball, I couldn't ask
for a better experience playing with these guys every day and trying to
make them better."
Bechard admits he's nervous about his senior speech since he's not a
"big public speaker."
"It won't be too long. A couple of minutes and I'm out of there," he
said with a smile.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Self was named the Yahoo! Sports National Coach of the Year Thursday.
This was the first time Self has been honored as National Coach of the
Year by a major publication since he was named National Coach of the
Year in 2000 by the Sporting News, when he led Tulsa to a 32-5 record
and Elite Eight appearance. Self is 166-38 overall at KU for an
astounding 81.4 percent winning percentage.
The Longhorns (20-9) reached 20 wins this year for a school-record 10th
consecutive season...Sophomore guard Dogus Balbay has made a
significant impact since being inserted in the staring lineup on Feb.
10 against Oklahoma State. After previously losing three straight,
Texas has now gone 5-2 with Balbay in a starting role. He's averaged
7.1 points and 6.1 assists per game during the stretch with an
impressive 43-to-12 assist-to-turnover ratio...Texas is the only school
in the country to have a Top 10 pick in each of the last three NBA
Drafts (LaMarcus Aldridge, No 2 in 2006; Kevin Durant, No. 2 in 2007;
D.J. Augustin, No. 9 in 2008).
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