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"This is the last home game. It's not the last game," Taylor said. "I think we all got that understood. Just try to keep it rolling, man, try to do something special."
It’s only now, as Taylor plays his final games, that the two sides of him are beginning to reconcile: the kid who couldn’t get out of his own way, and the point guard who is playing like an All-American.
How do you explain all of this in a speech, though? Taylor is insightful and articulate in interview settings — he has been known for this throughout his career — but he admitted the idea of speaking in front of 16,300 fans made him nervous. He found himself thinking about it during the game, even while he was scoring 22 points in a 73-63 win against Texas.
...“I can’t even say enough about these last four years,” he said. “They came and went. I’ve been through a lot here. I’ve grown up as a man in front of God’s eyes.
“You’ve seen me at my worst. You’ve seen me at my best. I appreciate y’all sticking with me.”
He walked slowly across the court having just delivered the final words after his final game at Allen Fieldhouse.
Awaiting him stood Kansas coach Bill Self, whom he hugged and handed the microphone to. He took a few more steps to where his teammates huddled to embrace him, swallowing him in their arms.
As much as anyone, Kansas’ 73-63 win against Texas on Saturday night belonged to senior Tyshawn Taylor, the guard who had gone through so much in such a public way. Now, he left on good terms with a win, a 22-point game and a well-delivered senior night speech.
“The focus was definitely on that speech,” Taylor said. “I was thinking about that speech a lot more than I should have during the game.”
Fellow senior Conner Teahan scored three points, fittingly on a 3-pointer, and Jordan Juenemann got a rare start in his final home game.
Yet Saturday also almost certainly marked the final home game for Thomas Robinson, a likely lottery pick at the NBA draft in June. Self even made a rare exception and allowed Robinson to receive a standing ovation right before Taylor gave his speech.
“It was special, man, because coach Self never did nothing like that before,” Robinson said. “There were many great players before me, so I’m thankful for that.”
No manufactured drama will follow Thomas Robinson into the postseason. Everybody, from coach Bill Self to Robinson himself, realized long ago that the issue of whether he would return to Kansas for his senior season was not an issue at all. So why fake it?
Still, because Robinson is not a senior, he did not give a senior speech Saturday night after his final game in Allen Fieldhouse. He got everything but that, though, in the way of being honored by his coach and the 16,300 late-night spectators.
“We’ve all been blessed to watch a kid grow up, right before our eyes, who has a legitimate chance to be National Player of the Year, who has sacrificed so much for the good of all of us,” Self said to the crowd. “Let’s recognize No. 0, Thomas Robinson.”
Robinson faced every direction and waved thanks to the crowd and even blew a couple of kisses.
…Robinson was asked to say what the message of his speech would have been, since he won’t ever get to give one.
“I’m never going to regret being a Jayhawk,” Robinson said. “Ever.”
Tyshawn Taylor, Conner Teahan and Jordan Juenemann thanked their families, coaches and fans after Kansas’ 73-63 triumph over Texas on Saturday, continuing a long-standing tradition of seniors’ bidding farewell.
“Senior night here is special,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said.
Kansas carried on another tradition. The team celebrated a conference championship.
The trophy was already in the case — the Jayhawks were presented with it Monday after beating Oklahoma State to capture the regular-season championship outright.
But KU’s eighth straight Big 12 title was prominently presented on the Allen Fieldhouse video board before and after the game. Kansas wrapped up the first year of a 10-team Big 12 with a 16-2 record, two games ahead of second-place Missouri.
The third-ranked Jayhawks, 26-5, may not have needed to win this one, but losing the season finale would have been unthinkable for a program that had won 28 straight senior sendoffs.
That didn’t occur because the stars were at their best.
Thomas Robinson helped his bid for conference and national honors with 25 points and 14 rebounds. He was especially active early in the second half as Kansas steadily built its lead.
Tyshawn Taylor, one of the seniors honored before and after the game, kept Kansas on track with 22 points, his third straight game over 20.
…After Juenemann and Teahan delivered their speeches, Self recognized Robinson, who was greeted with a rousing ovation.
Only seniors get to speak on this occasion.
“If you want to speak, you could stick around for one more year,” Self told him with a smile.
Texas wouldn’t mind seeing Robinson move on.
“He’s the best player in the country,” Texas center Clint Chapman said.
Longhorns coach Rick Barnes knew the Jayhawks’ inside presence would give his undersized team trouble. Texas ran into more trouble early in the second half when forward Alexis Wangmene went down because of a wrist injury and didn’t return.
“Thomas Robinson, I told him after the game if I had a vote, he’d be my player of the year,” Barnes said.
Taylor also delivered in a big way. The best of his four assists went to Travis Releford, who went high to finish.
…As the top seed in Kansas City, and a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Kansas again will have a target on its back. Robinson said this team is ready.
“I feel more confident with this team,” he said, “than in previous years.”
Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford were the two guys who primarily guarded Brown, though Taylor had him some as well.
“The way we guarded Brown the second half took more out of me than anything else,” Self said. “We did a miserable job the second half. He put on a clinic.
“Travis has to become a lock-down defender. Travis let his man catch it. Right now he’s not guarding,” the coach added of Releford, who chipped in five points and five rebounds. “Elijah is tired. He looked like he’s sick.”
Johnson, who Self later said does not have a (flu) bug, had nine points and six rebounds, the exact line as center Jeff Withey.
“I think with everything going on,” Taylor said, “and the emotion in the air, it was a little tougher for us to get up and excited for this game. Knowing it’s the last one for a lot of us, we did pretty well. It was a slow first half, but then we picked it up and played better.”
It ended up being about twice as long.
“You get caught up in the emotions, and you don’t want to leave anybody out,” Teahan said, “but then there’s so many people here that have made such a big impact on my life. I didn’t want to go without properly thanking them.”
Teahan spent the end of his monologue thanking his family, telling his three brothers and sister how much they meant to him.
When he moved on to thank his parents — Donna and Mark — he noticed both were wiping away tears.
Teahan also broke down.
“I don’t tell them how much they meant to me enough,” Teahan said. “I don’t know if I just expect them to think that, but they’ve just been the best support system that I could ever have. I was glad to be able to tell them how I felt.”
KU coach Bill Self even relayed a funny story about Teahan’s mother, who told him on a visit that if he didn’t take care of her son, she would kill him.
Once Teahan’s speech was over, Self cracked a joke of his own, saying it was important for Teahan to thank the people in his family. But it also was important for Teahan to guard the ball better for the next four weeks.
“I felt like off-ball, I was fine today,” Teahan said. “I had my hands on some (passes) and everything like that. But on the ball, I got beat.”
Juenemann, who broke down and cried early on in his speech, had a lighter moment in revealing that one of his cousins was responsible for his nickname, “Flash.”
He thanked KU All-American Wayne Simien for working out with him prior to tryouts his freshman year: “We ran laps, stairs. He said, ‘Do you really want to run out of the tunnel? A lot of people want to do that. You know what you’ve got to do. Work toward it.’’’
Juenemann made the team in tryouts his freshman year.
Teahan, 6-6 out of Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst High, was second in line to speak. His talk lasted 13 minutes.
He thanked trainer Andrea Hudy. “She transformed a slow white guy to not-a-slow white guy, I guess,” he said to laughter. “Some still say I’m slow. She gave me some six-pack, I guess.”
He recognized Self, indicating: “At times I’ve been frustrated at KU with playing time or whatnot. I’d not play for any other coach, ever. He is the best coach, not only for what he teaches on the court. He teaches you be a man ... to face adversity, qualities important in life. I respect that man as much as anybody.”
Kansas basketball looked doomed on Dec. 19. That’s the day that Davidson, fresh off a 23-point loss to Charlotte, beat KU at the Sprint Center despite being outrebounded and shooting 41 percent.
Even as it is now part of this team’s accepted bio, it is easy to forget how rotten this team looked back then.
Criticism came from the media (“clearly” Self’s “worst team at Kansas,” wrote one national columnist), the message boards (“thirteen losses here we come” is representative) and even the head coach (“this team is not that good,” Self said).
Around this time, Kansas, normally a public darling, was 25-1 to win the NCAA championship. Tyshawn Taylor had 37 turnovers in six games, and his teammates had 16 combined career starts entering the season.
Kansas will always have talent, but relatively speaking, this version is ordinary. There isn’t a McDonald’s All-American in the bunch. Elijah Johnson is the only five-star recruit. Taylor was the No. 70 recruit in his class, Thomas Robinson was No. 31 — behind four recruits who went to three other Big 12 schools.
All of this and KU is playing without three of its top four recruits.
This team has Robinson — college basketball’s MVP, if not the player of the year — Taylor and a bunch of backup singers.
They’ve won because each player has progressed. There are no mistakes here. Travis Releford had a 28-point game, Johnson had an 18-point half, Jeff Withey had his Dwight Howard stretch, Conner Teahan hit all four of his three-pointers against Mizzou, and Kevin Young helped beat Ohio State.
KU is doing this with 61/2 players because they are 61/2 players strong.
The biggest difference — the thing that takes this from an OK team to a conference champion and Final Four favorite — is Taylor. He’s surer now. No more wild attacks with no idea what he’ll do with the ball.
He shot 46 percent and averaged 4.1 turnovers in KU’s first 18 games. He’s shooting 52 percent with 2.6 turnovers since. He made four or more turnovers 11 times in that first stretch, and has only done it twice in the second.
KU has gone from a seemingly inevitable disappointment to the nation’s top five because two stars do the heavy lifting and five others fit in.
Nobody could’ve predicted this, not even Self, who has said repeatedly this team is better than he thought it would be.
KU’s odds of winning the national championship are now 10-1.
KC Star Mellinger: This is the best it will ever be for college basketball in KC
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Kansas is already a No. 1 seed in our latest NBC NCAA Tournament projections so, following the Jayhawks’ 73-63 win over Texas on Saturday night, the logical question arises: Is No. 3 Kansas in line to cut down the nets in New Orleans?
First, the vital details:
-In what was arguably the toughest conference in the country, the Jayhawks won the Big 12 by two games.
-Along the way, they beat Baylor twice, Missouri, and Ohio State.
-They’ve got National Player of the Year Candidate Thomas Robinson, who is averaging nearly 18 points and 12 rebounds.
But how can they put it all together?
Tyshawn Taylor has found himself since mid-January, only having one game with over four turnovers, and was big on Senior Night, Saturday, with 22 points and four assists.
Making his way from being one of the most oft-criticized players in the country earlier in the season, Taylor’s increased basketball security is part of the reason the Jayhawks are on their way to a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
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To be among the national leaders in anything is a big deal to many people. Angel Goodrich isn’t one of those people.
The 5-foot-4 University of Kansas junior and Sequoyah High School graduate ranks second nationally in assists per game with 7.4 while playing for the Jayhawks.
Goodrich may be the least excited about that.
“I’m just passing the ball to an open player and she’s hitting the open shot,” Goodrich said. “I’m not much of a stat person. I just do what I can to get us a win. I know I can’t do it without my teammates. I just don’t look at that at all.”
Others prefers to look at her assists. Earlier this season, she had 16 in the 85-61 against Texas on Feb. 8 to break the Allen Field House record for both men and women.
She also became the fastest player in KU women’s basketball history to record 100 assists in a season, getting them in just 13 games. She’s third on the Lady Jayhawks’ career assists with 491.
KU coach Bonnie Henrickson marvels at watching Goodrich on the court. “She can thread the needle like nobody else can,” Henrickson said. “She was off the charts in that one game (against Texas). I never take her for granted because there are things she sees that I don’t know how she sees them. She can make it real easy for her teammates to get high-percentage shots.”
But she’s also taking some of those shots herself this season.
Henrickson has wanted Goodrich to shoot more as the Jayhawks wrap up the regular season at 2 p.m. today at Oklahoma.
“She’s been incredibly valuable to our program but her offensive game has grown so much,” Henrickson said. “I credit that to the hard work that she’s put in. She’s a threat from the outside and that makes it hard to guard her now.”
The Jayhawks will meet OU at 2 p.m. today with a shot at the No. 7 seed instead. KU would get that seed with a win or with a loss by Texas to Texas A&M at noon today.
Either the 7 or 8 seed, KU regardless will play on Wednesday, the tournament’s opening day, despite the fact that, a couple of weeks ago, it looked as if the Jayhawks were destined for a first-round bye.
Regardless of their seeding, the Jayhawks know they will play in the Big 12 Tournament. Whether they reach their ultimate goal of playing in the NCAA Tournament the following week depends a lot on how they perform in Norman today.
Many feel that the Jayhawks (18-11 overall, 7-10 Big 12) must win today against the Sooners (19-10, 11-6) to have a shot at playing in the NCAAs. Doing so won’t be easy. The Sooners sit in third place in the Big 12, have a 7-1 record in home conference games and feature a balanced lineup that includes three starters who average in double digits.
The last time these two met, the Jayhawks were 16-4 overall, 5-3 in league play and appeared to be headed toward uncharted waters as one of the top teams in the conference. The Jayhawks opened play against the Sooners on the final day of January ranked in the Top 25, but since then have lost seven of their last nine games, along with leading scorer and All-American candidate Carolyn Davis. Although Davis was injured against Kansas State in mid-February, it’s easy to point to the OU game as the night things started to slide downhill.
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The Star’s all-Big 12 team
• F Thomas Robinson, Kansas, Jr.
• F Royce White, Iowa State, So.
• G Marcus Denmon, Missouri, Sr.
• G Pierre Jackson, Baylor, Jr.
• G Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas, Sr.
• F Perry Jones III, Baylor, So.
• G J’Covan Brown, Texas, Sr.
• G Mike Dixon, Missouri, Jr.
• G Rodney McGruder, Kansas State, Jr.
• G Keiton Page, Oklahoma State, Sr.
• Player of the year: Thomas Robinson
• Newcomer: Royce White
• Freshman: Le’Bryan Nash, Okla. State
• Coach: Frank Haith, Missouri
In a year when some of his strongest competition was from a teammate, Kansas’ Thomas Robinson is The Star’s Big 12 player of the year.
In his first year as a starter, Robinson blossomed into one of the nation’s dominant forces, averaging 18.0 points and 11.9 rebounds a game.
“Defenses are designed to stop Thomas,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said.
Robinson is the post half of one of the nation’s top inside-outside games. Guard Tyshawn Taylor, having his best year as senior, is the other half. Taylor averages 17.2 points and has shored up a weakness, ball-handling skills, throughout the season.
Self thought conference player of the year was a “coin flip” between Robinson and Taylor but quickly added Missouri guard Marcus Denmon to his list. Denmon, a senior guard from Kansas City, is the Big 12’s second-leading scorer at 18.0 points per game.
Those three are joined on The Star’s all-Big 12 first team by Iowa State point forward Royce White and Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson.
…Self will receive national coach of the year attention. So will The Star’s choice for Big 12 coach of the year, Haith.
With the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments looming for Missouri, which finished the regular season 27-4 and 14-4 in the Big 12, (Matt) Pressey couldn’t have picked a better time to get back on track. He made a season-high four three-pointers, adding to Missouri’s season-high 16 threes for the game.
“I know we’re going to try to make a long (run) in the postseason,” said Pressey, a 6-foot-2 senior guard. “We’re going to need everybody … at our best. And if we’re at our best, we’re tough to beat.”
Texas Tech, which dropped to 8-22 overall and 1-17 in Big 12 play, saw this first-hand Saturday in the second half. Missouri blew open a four-point halftime lead with a 35-21 run in which 30 — count ’em, 30 — of those points came on three-pointers. By the time a three by junior Michael Dixon gave Missouri a 67-49 lead at the six-minute, 21-second mark, the Red Raiders were out of it.
Senior guard Marcus Denmon, who was held scoreless at halftime, made four three-pointers during the run and finished with 17 points. Dixon, who scored 13, made two threes during the run, while senior guard Kim English, who scored a team-high 20 points, and Phil Pressey each made one.
Texas Tech shot almost 55 percent from the field — almost 16 points above its season average in Big 12 games — but Missouri’s second-half offense was too much to overcome.
K-State answered a Keiton Page three-pointer at the beginning of the second half with 14 straight points for a 54-36 lead.
The Wildcats have been known to ease up in that situation. Baylor, Iowa State and Texas all rallied to beat K-State in the final moments. The Cyclones and Longhorns rallied from double-digit deficits in the second half.
But the Wildcats apparently learned from those mistakes. After pulling ahead by 18, they stretched their lead to 22.
“Kansas State made a statement,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “And we just did not respond.”
The game was never again close, and Samuels and fellow senior Victor Ojeleye were able to celebrate a drama-free victory.
“They owed it to me and Victor to have a great second half and try to extend the lead,” Samuels said.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State’s basketball coach, had a few choice words during Saturday’s news conference following the Shockers’ 65-64 loss to Illinois State in the semifinals of the MVC Tournament at the Scottrade Center. Then, when he encountered Valley commissioner Doug Elgin outside the Shockers’ locker room, he had a few more.
As Marshall was heading into the locker room, Elgin told him to stop saying what he was saying, then went down the hallway to have a 15-minute conversation with WSU athletic director Eric Sexton and assistant AD Darron Boatright.
Later, Elgin insisted he wasn’t angry when he addressed Marshall, despite appearances. But as Marshall left the dressing room to get on the team bus after another too-early exit, he turned and glared at two of Elgin’s assistants, Mike Kern and Jack Watkins.
It was reminiscent of the Shockers’ loss here to Creighton in the 2009 semifinals, when Marshall and the Valley were at odds over the management of the game clock as Creighton’s Booker Woodfox made a jumper at the buzzer to beat WSU.
After Saturday’s unexpected loss, Marshall and players Garrett Stutz, Joe Ragland and Toure Murry went to the interview room ahead of Illinois State’s coach and players, who were supposed to be first.
Marshall didn’t attack the Valley on the podium, at least not directly. But his hints weren’t subtle. When he was asked about the strangeness of the Shockers’ continuing struggles in St. Louis — they have played in one championship game since the tournament was moved here in 1991 — he veered in another direction.
“I saw some strange things today,’’ he said. “That’s your word and I’ll go with that. It’s pretty tough to win when you see some strange things like I saw today.
“I’m looking forward to going and playing on a neutral court. I like my chances.’’
The insinuation there — if you can call something so obvious an insinuation — is that Marshall does not feel like the Valley tournament provides the Shockers with a neutral court.
There were some questionable calls, no doubt. Marshall was surprised, to put it mildly, about a technical foul called on Stutz after he got mixed up inside with Illinois State’s John Wilkins with 11:59 to play. Wilkins also was assessed a technical, his second, which resulted in his ejection. But it was also Stutz’s fourth foul.
Some guy in Dallas is on my case about supporting Louisville for Big 12 expansion. You can make arguments both for and against Louisville. The same guy seems to hold up SMU as some sort of Big 12 blind spot, that the Mustangs should be considered for expansion. Only one problem: You can not make a case for the Big 12 inviting Southern Methodist University.
I really didn’t think we needed to go over this again, but I guess we do. The driving force in conference expansion, the No. 1 criteria, is television money. Not geography. Not culture. Not academic reputation. Not even athletic success. All those things have their various value. But television money is No. 1.
The Oklahoman Tramel
Two years ago, the state of Oklahoma's college basketball attendance decline might have been classified as "a situation."
When attendance averages dipped again during the 2010-11 season, it could have been described as "a problem."
Now, as the 2011-12 regular season rolls to a close, it seems appropriate to call it "a crisis."
While the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder has played before a sellout crowd during each of its last 39 home dates, attendance for University of Oklahoma men's games has dropped 26 percent since the 2008-09 season. At Oklahoma State, attendance decreased 12 percent just since last season.
"To have tickets for Thunder games - that's prestigious, isn't it?" former OU basketball coach Billy Tubbs said. "Being seen at a Thunder game is a big deal. It's a big social event."
…"You need star power and you need to win big and kick the (bleep) out of people. That's not happening now at OU or Oklahoma State."
…The college basketball attendance decline is not an Oklahoma issue. It's a national issue. Attendance is down even in the Atlantic Coast Conference. When Wake Forest hosted North Carolina in January, the crowd was nearly 2,000 shy of capacity.
For the second straight game, senior standout Anrio Adams was forced to cheer from the sideline after early foul trouble, but Davis kept attacking.
"Marquis was a blessing in disguise," said Adams, who scored seven points in his final high-school game. "All the pressure was on me and he stepped up and did what he was supposed to as the leader of this team. I was just another role player."
…After the game, Adams was the first player to climb the ladder and cut down a piece of the net. He said "it felt like the beginning."
For the Kansas-bound Adams, it is the start of a future his determination will dictate. But, with 10 players returning, it is also the beginning of what Rainier Beach expects to be a special run.
"This is the happiest I've ever been," Davis said. "We're No. 1 in state."
Like he said, Beach is back.
Rainier Beach had to withstand a furious fourth-quarter rally from Seattle Prep, but even after star Anrio Adams fouled out with almost two minutes remaining the Vikings managed to hold on, 61-58, to win the 3A championship.
Adams was saddled with foul trouble for the second consecutive night, forcing the Kansas University recruit to sit large chunks of the second and third quarters. He finished the game with just seven points and four rebounds.
The Prestonwood Christian Academy boys basketball team left no room for doubt as the final buzzer sounded on Saturday's TAPPS 5A State Championship Game.
At that moment, the Lions swarmed the court for all manner of elation and celebration, resuming their perch atop the TAPPS 5A hoops ranks following a 72-46 demolition of rival John Paul II.
An and-1 conversion by junior Julius Randle got the ball rolling with 7:15 left to play. The forward followed up with a putback dunk four minutes later and found himself on the receiving end of an alley-oop from senior Zach Peters to extend the Lions' cushion to 66-46.
"We had such a big height advantage and size inside," Randle said. "That's when we were able to increase our lead is when we used those mismatches and didn't hang out so much on the perimeter."
Senior Claude Person chipped in six points during the run, while freshman Mickey Mitchell added an emphatic dunk with 1:50 left that preceded a Peters fade-away to put the finishing touches on a 24-point fourth quarter.
"We were wearing them down the whole game," Peters said. "We weren't able to get in transition at all in the beginning but at the end, we took our athleticism to another level and took over on the fastbreak."
Randle led the charge with a game-high 26 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, while Peters posted 16 points and five boards in his Prestonwood finale.
The North Redskins are known for their offense, specifically Conner Frankamp’s offense. On Saturday night, that offense sputtered, but North found a way to win with a defensive masterpiece of a performance by a score of 46-26.
"I told the kids tonight to get us to the state tournament we have to play defensively,” Squires said.
That started with causing havoc for Maize’s guard play.
"We put a lot of ball pressure out front on their guards because I noticed their offense started with guard action out front, so we tried to deny that passing lane that starts their offense," Squires said. "We tried to push them outside their comfort zone defensively."
North was able to forced 18 turnovers and got 13 points off of those turnovers.
The Redskins shot just 30.4-percent from the field in the first half, and Frankamp had just six points going into the break, but North still led 18-12 despite the struggles.
"I thought the rims were tight. Conner (Frankamp) had a lot of good looks in and out. We missed a lot of little bunnies there in the lane too," Squires said.
The rims loosened up in the second half for North as it shot over 50-percent from the field in the final 16 minutes, but Frankamp never got on a roll and finished with just 12 points. Well below his 35-point-per game average.
“I can’t even explain to you how hard this season has been for us,” Auer said.
For everything Heights has accomplished, this team risked being remembered as one that inexplicably lost it at the end. The pressure to win was immense, especially for Perry Ellis, the Kansas-bound forward who ranks among the most decorated players in state history.
The pressure was apparent early, as Ellis committed four quick turnovers and the Falcons fell behind 23-20 at half.
“Perry got off to a really poor start tonight, fumbling the ball, not in rhythm,” Auer said.
In the second half, though, Auer saw it, proof his team still knows how to win. Heights clamped down on East’s top scorer, and Ellis made his final eight free throws to finish with 22 points. The Falcons won 60-56, and they advance to the state tournament having learned a profound lesson.
“I think (losing a game) really made us better,” Ellis said. “You can’t win forever.”
Senior Tanner Adrian had a season-high 22 points, and the David Douglas Scots escaped with a 54-53 home victory that ended the season for the Westview Wildcats -- and closed the book on senior Landen Lucas' high school career.
Lucas, a 6-foot-10 senior post who has signed to play at Kansas, was forced to deal with double- and triple-teams throughout a 12-point night. He struggled from the foul line -- missing 4 of 5 -- and committed three turnovers.
The top-rated unsigned basketball player in Georgia stands at the end of the bench encouraging his teammates in the final quarter of a blowout victory in the state playoffs.
When Miller Grove’s 83-35 rout of New Manchester is over, center Tony Parker and the other players retreat to their locker room.
Ohio State assistant coach Dave Dickerson, who flew in for the game, is waiting outside to spend a few minutes with Parker, who is leaving the next day for an official visit to Kansas.
The player rated as the nation’s No. 21 prospect by ESPNU would fit wonderfully into Georgia’s starting lineup right about now. His former Miller Grove teammate, Donte’ Williams, is playing out of position a little more than 50 miles down the road in Athens this season at center, and Georgia coaches have told him they would love to see a reunion.
…Parker says he hears from Georgia coach Mark Fox every day, either directly when permitted under NCAA rules or through Miller Grove coach Sharman White.
“Coach Fox makes sure he gives me a call,” Parker said. “He makes sure he gets in touch with me.”
That persistence isn’t any different than that of coaches from the tradition-rich programs still on Parker’s list. Besides Ohio State and Kansas, there’s Duke, Georgetown, Memphis and UCLA. The late signing period begins April 11, and Georgia is anything but a lock to land Parker.
“I believe Georgia has a chance, but I can’t really say they’re his No. 1 school or anything like that,” said Miller Grove’s Brandon Morris, a Georgia signee. “They stand in a pretty good lineup.”
Parker tweeted to his 7,000 followers during his Kansas visit that, “I sat next to (former Jayhawks and long-time NBA coach) Larry Brown today at the game,” and Parker called it “the best atmosphere in my life.”
Georgia, though, has used its location to appeal to Parker.
Fox’s pitch, according to Parker: “I can change the program and it’s an in-state school. ‘You can be close to your parents. Your mom can’t hug you through the TV. She can hug you in person at Georgia.’ That’s what any coach in that position would do, really.”
Parker, the youngest of three children, says his mother, Hazel Parker, loves Fox and that “all moms wants to be close to their baby boy.”
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