Senior Day and More Notes

News, notes and quotes on KU's Senior Day matchup with Texas today at Allen Fieldhouse, while paying tribute to senior walk-ons Matt Kleinmann and Brennan Bechard. Both Kleinmann and Bechard will start versus the Longhorns.

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 conference championships.

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 per season.

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.

TEXAS NEWS

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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