It was October 2004, and Mario Chalmers, then a senior in high school, arrived at Allen Fieldhouse for his first glimpse of “Late Night in the Phog.”
On the floor, KU seniors Aaron Miles, Keith Langford and Wayne Simien went through the usual song-and-dance routine. But as Chalmers remembers it, he took a few moments to soak in the atmosphere and gaze up at the jerseys hanging in the rafters. Chamberlain. Manning. Pierce. And so on.
“I recognized a lot of those names,” Chalmers says.
More than eight years later, after a three-year career at Kansas that included an NCAA title and one unforgettable moment, Chalmers is joining those names in the rafters. Kansas announced Thursday that Chalmers will have his No. 15 jersey retired during halftime of the Texas game on Feb. 16 at Allen Fieldhouse.
“It means a lot to me,” Chalmers said Thursday, after finishing up a practice with the NBA’s Miami Heat. “Being up there in the rafters with guys like Paul Pierce, Drew Gooden, Wilt Chamberlain, it’s a great accomplishment, and it makes me proud to be a Jayhawk.”
…“You never forget your college experience,” Chalmers said. “That was three of the best years of my life. I made some close friends there, and just really became a man at that school.”
Kansas is going to hang Mario Chalmers’ basketball jersey in the rafters.
Good deal. He was the most outstanding player in the 2008 Final Four when the Jayhawks captured the NCAA title.
Not only that, but no matter where Chalmers ranks among KU’s vast array of all-time greats, he will always wedge his way front and center.
As long as the video board works above center court in Allen Fieldhouse, Chalmers’ clutch 3-pointer that sent the national championship game against Memphis into overtime will forever be replayed.
At some games, that clip — Mario’s Miracle — sparks the loudest ovation of the day. Still. Five years later.
“Not surprised,” Chalmers said, matter-of-factly. “To be able to bring a championship to (fans) and the program, I’m sure people are going to appreciate that for a long time.’’
On Thursday, after KU announced it was retiring Chalmers’ No. 15 jersey, I asked Bill Self if Mario is remembered as fondly as anyone the 10th-year coach has had in the program.
At first, Self seemed unsure how fans felt. So I kidded him that every sellout crowd offers more than just mild applause whenever the biggest 3-ball in KU history is synced with Bob Davis’ call.
“(Chalmers) probably is as liked, or loved, as anybody, in large part because of who he is, but because of the shot obviously. It didn’t hurt at all,’’ Self said.
“I would have to say that he, probably more so than anybody because of the moment, is more recognized. We’ve had more dogs and first-borns named (after) Mario or Rio than probably anybody else we’ve had here.’’
…When reviewing Chalmers’ numbers, the one stat that jumps out is his steals. He ranks second all-time at KU with 283 over three seasons. Only Darnell Valentine (336) pickpocketed more.
“(Chalmers) wasn’t the best defender at all. He was the best stealer of the ball I’ve ever seen in my life,’’ Self said. “I once told him, ‘You don’t guard anybody. All you do is run around and steal the ball,’ which worked out pretty good for us.’’
As for points, Chalmers ranks 27th all-time at KU with 1,341. In addition, he is seventh in 3-pointers made and 14th in assists.
However, the use of sheer numbers, or even honors, makes any appraisal of Chalmers incomplete.
“He was as clutch a player as we’ve ever had here,’’ Self said. “He was a guy that seemed like the bigger the stage, the brighter he shined. He had an orneriness and toughness that a lot of people didn’t see because they saw the smile. He was an assassin on the court.’’
Hard work pays off. Thank you KU for honoring my jersey and thinkin so highly off me. Thanks to my teammates and my coaches at KU
Big ups to @mchalmers15 on getting his jersey retired against Texas #clutch = #understatement
Congratulations!! to mr bro @mchalmers15 , getting his jersey hung in #AFH... Amazing! Joining great company! Keep it up!
Mario So proud of you You deserve to have a banner hung In building you love See you Soon Good luck
KUAD Quotes, Video: Kansas previews Oklahoma
KUAD: Kansas vs Oklahoma pregame notes
This week is basically an Illinois reunion tour for Bill Self, who will face the coach he preceded and the one he replaced in the span of five days.
After beating Bruce Weber and Kansas State on Tuesday, Kansas will play host to Lon Kruger and Oklahoma on Saturday. Kruger coached the Illini from 1996-2000 before leaving for the Atlanta Hawks, with Self moving from Tulsa to Illinois as his replacement.
“I followed him at Illinois, so I know firsthand talking to those guys, he has a great way with people,” Self said Thursday at his weekly news conference. “He’s the same all the time, so consistency should not be shocking with his programs, that he’s been able to accomplish that.
“That’s who he is. He’s not an emotional rollercoaster like I can be sometimes. He’s pretty low-key and stable.”
Kruger is known as a program builder, having coached NCAA Tournament teams at K-State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV. Another rebuild appears to be in progress at Oklahoma, with the Sooners sitting at 13-4 and 4-1 in the Big 12 after finishing 15-16 last season.
“Three guys who started for them last year don’t start – they come off the bench – so they’ve recruited well,” Self said. “Guys that have given us fits like (Andrew) Fitzgerald are coming off the bench. They’re more athletic and they’re deeper.”
…KU could have a claim to the No. 1 ranking in at least one major poll if the Jayhawks beat Oklahoma.
Duke, the No. 1 team in both the coaches and the Associated Press polls, lost 90-63 to Miami on Wednesday. The Jayhawks are No. 2 in the coaches poll and No. 3 in the AP behind Duke and Michigan, which travels to Illinois on Saturday.
Attaining the No. 1 ranking isn’t anything Self will celebrate.
“We were on the bus the other night, and you had young kids that said, ‘Why couldn’t we be No. 1 when Louisville lost?’” Self said. “And you had a fifth-year guy in Travis Releford that said, ‘Hey, guys, we’re right where we need to be.’ I think that’s fine to be where we’re at. That would not disappoint me or thrill me either way.”
Most coaches are loath to consider hypothetical situations, and Self is no different. But Self was asked on Thursday if he’s ever wondered how redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore could have impacted last season’s team, which finished one victory short of Self’s second national title. McLemore had to sit out the season as an academic partial qualifier, and he watched Kansas’ Final Four run from the sideline.
“We would have been deeper,” Self said, “we would have had better practices. We’d be better this year, because they would have practiced last year. There’d be a lot of things that would have made us better. But I’m not sure, at the end result, winning 32 games and playing in the national championship game, we could have done a lot better.”
But is there a little bit of Self that wishes McLemore and fellow redshirt freshman Jamari Traylor could have suited up against Kentucky in the NCAA title game? Maybe.
“It would have been fun,” Self said, “running another couple athletes out there against Kentucky.”
• Self said he watched the last 10 minutes of Texas Tech’s upset over Iowa State on Wednesday night. It was a surprising result — Texas Tech was 1-4 in the Big 12 with its only victory against winless TCU — but Self said it was a good reminder about how precious league road victories can be.
“Life on the road in our league,” Self said. “I think so many times we get hung up on maybe not looking great and winning on the road, and people think that’s a big deal. Really, any win on the road is a big deal. You look across America last night, and what happened at different venues, it was a pretty shocking night.”
Even in brief conversations with the young guard, he rarely misses the chance to mention that he plays for one of the national powerhouses in college basketball - and is grateful for it. Since being given full clearance by the NCAA, McLemore has started all 12 games for Kansas, but still finds himself in awe.
"The first game, it was unbelievable," McLemore recalled from KU's season opener against Southeast Missouri State. "To hear my name in the starting lineup, I was thinking to myself at the time 'I'm starting for the University of Kansas, one of the best programs in the nation.' There was so much stuff going through my mind. I was nervous, but I went out there and just played. It was great."
It has been nothing short of great ever since. After falling short of a double-double by a single point in his collegiate debut, McLemore scored in double-digits in 10-consecutive games, including a team-best 22 points to power Kansas past then-No. 7 Ohio State, one of four 20-point games already in his young career.
Nevertheless, his starting role hasn't changed his outlook on the importance of practice. After making the grades in the classroom and steering clear of the practice court in the fall semester of 2011, McLemore was finally cleared to practice with his teammates last spring. He remembers the first practice being at the Sprint Center prior to the Jayhawks' meeting with Davidson in the annual Kansas City game.
Still not able to play in games at that time, McLemore made the most of each practice, treating them with as much intensity as the contests he wasn't allowed to play in. Becoming a regular starter, however, has done little to dampen his practice spirit.
"I'm definitely looking at practice the same way," McLemore said. "Last year, I was looking at it like every practice was a game for me so I'm going out there and giving it my all. This year, I'm still giving it my all. I still go out there aggressively and playing hard every day in practice. I still choose to treat practice like a game...because what you do in practice you might do in a game."
That sentiment and the grin that followed marked the increasing maturity level that coaches and teammates like to see. McLemore had no shortage of veteran guards to learn from during his season on the sidelines as he cites Tyshawn Taylor as one he looked up to a year ago. Now that he's on the court, he's still grateful for direction from his backcourt, including senior guards Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford as well as fellow seniors Kevin Young and Jeff Withey. He credits each of them for helping his rapidly-increasing maturity level.
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If you were watching closely in the second half of Miami's 90-63 whipping of Duke, you saw a subtle gesture of defiance.
The Blue Devils were bringing the ball up the floor when a few Hurricanes went for it.
They slapped the floor.
Why's does that matter? Well Duke is famous for the move to fire up the crowd in big moments. Miami flipped it on them and it wasn't by mistake.
And that's were it gets a little crazier.
UM sophomore guard Shane Larkin was shooting free throws immediately before the slapping.
"I just heard somebody scream my name," he said. "It was Warren Sapp. He was like like 'slap the floor on D."
It worked, too.
"I think we got the stop," he said with a smile.
Sapp, the 7-time Pro Bowl product of UM, was sitting a few rows behind the broadcasting table of ESPN's Dick Vitale.
Bama closes out Kentucky. Wildcats still haven't beaten anyone ranked higher than 68th in RPI, are 0-6 against top 60
The attorney at the center of the NCAA’s potentially damaged University of Miami investigation spoke out Thursday in her defense.
Miami-based lawyer Maria Elena Perez, who represented imprisoned booster Nevin Shapiro and was said to have been paid by the NCAA to obtain information in its case, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that she has done nothing wrong.
“I think this is completely insane,” Perez told the Sun-Sentinel. “I think there’s absolutely nothing here to investigate, and like I told everyone, everything I did was above board.”
…Perez told the Sun-Sentinel that the NCAA paid her a small amount of money for her services but said she did not consider herself a member of the NCAA’s legal team.
“At the end of the day, that does not establish an attorney-client relationship between me and the NCAA,” said Perez, who did not explain what she was exactly paid for. “It establishes that they wanted to pay for certain things to help Shapiro where there were issues of common interest. Period. There’s nothing wrong with that. They didn’t pay me to get testimony. They didn’t pay me to get a story. There’s a huge difference.”
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2014 PG Tyus Jones tells me that he'll take an unofficial visit to Kansas Feb. 23-24
DraftExpress on Brannen Greene at HoopHall Classic
About to board the plane in a little to N.C. St with my beautiful mother .. Looking forward to it ! instagr.am/p/U400JrxKzi/
In between shooting simulated jumpers with the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony in NBA2K13, Rashad Vaughn imagined what it would be like to have his name on an NBA roster.
The 16-year old Cooper junior, wearing a school sweatshirt with "Mr. Showtime'' plastered on the back, still has several years until that is even a possibility. But his big imagination motivates him.
"I ain't never satisfied," Vaughn said after defeating his younger brother in the video game. "If I can't be No. 1 [in recruit ratings], I have to be No. 1 in the draft."
The flashy nickname doesn't seem to match Vaughn's personality off the court, where he's soft-spoken and gentle. With a basketball in his hands, it's a much different story. Before he developed his highly sought-after jump shot, Vaughn was known for his two-handed dunks and even a 360. These highlights earned him the nickname that used to identify him on Twitter. He also has been known to oblige random requests for dunks from the star-struck student body.
"There are a lot of people in his ear," Cooper coach Steve Burton said. "But he's handled it well. It makes a difference when you're relaxed and happy."
For about 26 minutes on Jan. 5 at Target Center, he managed to steal the spotlight normally directed at top-touted recruit Tyus Jones in a game against Apple Valley.
The 6-6, 201-pound shooting guard made nearly everything he threw up that day, scoring 35 points. Jones was just as impressed with Vaughn as the big-time college coaches in the crowd.
"Any time you're in the same state as the No. 1 player in the country, it's tough to get more attention," Vaughn said. "All the hard work is paying off. But I have to keep grinding and move up [in the rankings] and be the best. Every player would like to be No. 1. And I feel like I can get to that."
He calls his mentor, assistant coach Pete Kaffey, at 1 a.m. to find a gym to shoot in. He wakes up Kaffey for church every Sunday. He takes cones to a park on a 30-degree day to get in extra agility work. It's all part of the work ethic and discipline that Vaughn believes will get him to the top.
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