An excerpt from a new book on KU basketball’s Big 12 conference title streak

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By Gary Bedore gbedore@kcstar.com

Former Kansas City Star sports writer Jason King of Bleacher Report has written a 512-page book about KU’s 13 straight Big 12 Conference titles entitled: “Beyond the Streak: Untold Stories from Kansas Basketball’s Unrivaled Big 12 Reign.”

The book features thoughts and reflections from 107 Kansas players and coaches — and also many of KU’s opponents. Each of the Jayhawks’ 13 championship seasons has its own chapter, with many of the most memorable games examined.

Included in the book is an oral history of the final “Border War” game at Allen Fieldhouse in 2012.

“What I thought would be a fun summer project ended up dominating my life for five months,” King said. “It was worth it, though. What KU is doing right now is something we’ll never see again. It needed to be commemorated in book form. And selfishly, I had a lot of fun catching up with so many of the guys I used to cover,” added King, who covered KU basketball for The Star for several years and also worked covering college hoops for Yahoo! Sports, ESPN as well as his current position at Bleacher Report and Turner Sports.

King in interviewing subjects traveled to Los Angeles to speak with Thomas Robinson and Philadelphia to check in with Marcus Morris. There was a trip to Houston for dinner with Mario Chalmers and a road trip to Memphis with contributing writer C.J. Moore to meet with Ben McLemore and Wayne Selden.

Almost all of the interviews lasted 45 minutes or longer. Sherron Collins, Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson talked for more than an hour-and-a-half, King stated.

 

“Guys like Sherron and Tyshawn and Keith Langford and Russell Robinson are a writer’s dream,” King said. “But I knew they’d be good. Two guys that surprised me were Wayne Selden and Thomas Robinson — simply because they never seemed to enjoy being interviewed in college.

“C.J. Moore interviewed Wayne in Memphis at the same time I was interviewing Ben McLemore about 20 feet away. Each time I looked across the room, Selden was laughing and getting animated. He seems like he’s in a really happy place in life right now (with NBA’s Grizzlies) which is good to see. And Thomas … wow. He just really opened up. I’ll leave it at that. It was a very moving interview that made me see him in a completely different light.”

King quoted coaches Fred Hoiberg, Rick Barnes, Frank Martin, Scott Drew, Bruce Weber, Frank Haith and Bob Huggins as well as players Jacob Pullen, Georges Niang, A.J. Abrams, Pierre Jackson, Kim English, Marcus Denmon, Phil Forte — and NBA all-star Kevin Durant, who played for Texas.

“I met with Durant the day after the ESPYs in his hotel suite in Augusta, South Carolina,” King said. “He was there for the Peach Jam. Literally all we talked about was the 2007 game at Allen Fieldhouse. He genuinely seemed to enjoy the interview. He remembered every KU player, specific plays from the game and who was guarding him. It was amazing.”

“Beyond the Streak” will be available at local Rally House stores beginning Nov. 24. Details about book signings will be available later this week on kubook.net, where the book can also be purchased.

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An excerpt from the book about the KU-Texas game —which KU won over Durant’s Longhorns, 90-86, in 2007 — appears below.

From “Beyond the Streak: Untold Stories from Kansas Basketball’s Unrivaled Big 12 Reign.”

Russell Robinson: “In the back of my mind I was thinking, ‘Sure, he (Durant) has been playing really well. But he’s still a freshman. The pressure of the Fieldhouse is going to get to him. The fans are going to be turned up and we’ve got a strong team with lottery picks, as well.’” We felt like we’d be fine. How much can he really do? We thought it was more about keeping guys like A.J. Abrams and D.J. Augustin from getting hot.”

Durant — the Big 12-leader in points, rebounds and blocks — opened the game by making 8 of his first 10 shots. He hit the 20-point plateau with a three-pointer at the 7:55 mark, as Texas surged to a 51-35 lead.

Russell Robinson (laughing): “Boy, did he surprise us that first half. I remember going back to the bench for a time-out. I walked in last, just as the coaches were huddling up, and I heard coach Bill Self asking coach (Joe) Dooley, ‘What are we going to do with this guy?’ Dooley was speechless for a minute, and then he just shook his head and said, “I don’t know. I really don’t know.’”

Kevin Durant: “I was just lost in the game. I was so happy to be there and to be playing in that arena at that time against that great team.

“They had Chalmers, Shady, Julian Wright, Brandon Rush, Darnell Jackson, Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun … they had a squad. They were all pros. I’d known Julian for a long time. He started off on me and then they switched to Brandon Rush and eventually to Darnell Jackson.

“My first shot went in and, from there, my confidence level kept rising and rising and I was able to knock down some shots.

“It was fun, man. It was fun to look over and see coach Self shaking his head and to hear the crowd get quiet when we built that lead. We were up by 16 at one point. To suck the air out of that historic arena, even for a half … I’ll take that.”

Assistant coach Kurtis Townsend: “Julian Wright started off on him. He’s a good athlete and we thought he could give Durant some trouble with his length. But he was just killing Julian. He had 25 in the first half. We switched Julian off of him and gave Brandon a chance. Brandon was our best perimeter defender and we thought maybe Brandon playing underneath him would be good. That was eight minutes into the first half. I remember the next timeout Brandon came to the bench and said, ‘“I can’t guard that (bleep). He’s too big. He’s too good.’”

Assistant coach Tim Jankovich: “We started Julian on him and Durant starts shooting it from 25 feet. Then he moves back and tries to hit a shot from every logo on the court. He was making every shot.

“I look up at the 8:00 mark of the first half, maybe just under eight minutes, and they’ve got everyone’s scoring total up on the scoreboard. He had 20 points! I leaned over to Bill and whispered, ‘He’s going to get 80 on us! He’s going to score 80!’ I’ll never forget thinking, ‘Oh my God, this guy is going to come into the Fieldhouse as a freshman and hang 80 on a team that has five pros on it.’”

Assistant coach Joe Dooley: “Jank was always so positive.”

Bill Self: “At one point, I turned to Danny Manning, who’d had a decent game or two at Allen Fieldhouse during his career. I said, ‘Danny, you have any ideas?’ And he said, ‘That’s the baddest man to ever play on the this court. He’s a baaadddd man.’”

Director of Student-Athlete Development Danny Manning: “You always appreciate guys that are able to do things you hardly ever see. You can’t help but marvel at talent like that.

“You’d like to think you could play better defense, but he was making some tough shots. He was catching the ball, squaring guys up, jabbing them off, rising up, shooting pull-up Js and scoring at all three different levels. He was out there balling and we didn’t have anything to stop him.”

Jeremy Case: “I remember sitting in there thinking, ‘“Can anybody guard this guy?’ Coach Self’s like, ‘OK, Julian, you try to guard him.’ He scored like five straight on Julian. ‘OK, Darnell, you try.’ I’m sitting there like, ‘We’re going to have Darnell guard him? Come on, coach, what are you thinking?’ Then he scores on Darnell. I’m like, ‘Are we going to box-and-one this dude? What are we going to do?’’’

Brandon Rush: “I didn’t know he was that good and that tall. He was killing Julian. He was tearing Julian’s (behind) up, left and right. Then it was my turn.

“Then they put me on him and, right off the bat, he hit a shot over me and he goes, ‘Uh oh, it’s about to be a long night! You’re too little!’ He was talking trash and I couldn’t say anything back. How could I? He damn near had 30 points—in the first half!”

Texas coach Rick Barnes: “The first 20 minutes of that game was the best half of basketball Kevin Durant ever played collegiately. We were isolating him and giving him the ball, just daring them to double-team him. They tried to double-team him from every possible angle you could double-team him, and he always made the right read. He got wide open shots. That first half … they had no answer. No matter what they did, he had an answer for anything.”


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