Growing up with the Jayhawks: My Journey

I’ve been a Kansas University basketball fan for almost my entire life.

It all started when I was in third grade. I was born and raised on Long Island.  Up until last year, I had never even been to the state of Kansas, unless flying over it one time counts for anything. But, I had never stepped foot in the state. Being from Long Island, and up until very recently never been to Kansas in my lifetime, I am frequently asked one question, “Why in the world do you root for Kansas?” I don’t just root for the Jayhawks, I live for Kansas basketball. Ask any of my family or friends. I am obsessed with the Jayhawks basketball team. They are basically my entire life. When I’m watching games, I yell at the TV, I throw the remote across the room, I take off the jersey I’m wearing. I know, it’s bad, but it’s my life and I love this team.

It all started back in 2005

My parents signed my brother and me up for a subscription of Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine. We’d read them, but the main reason we got the magazine was for the trading cards in the middle. However, one day an article caught my eye. I saw a big picture by the trading cards and it was a guy dunking the basketball, he was yelling in excitement and in the background, there were thousands of people screaming, hands in the air, excited. So I decided to read, I wanted to know what the excitement was about. The article described the Kansas basketball season thus far in that 2005 season.

It was a story about Julian Wright, Kansas’ best player at the time, and the fans at Kansas. I found the article so interesting, and on the side of the article it said that Kansas was playing against Texas Tech on ESPN that week, and I decided I wanted to witness all that excitement for myself. I tuned in for the first time in my life. Sitting down to watch my first Kansas basketball game, I saw a rout of Tech by 34 points. And from that moment on, my life changed forever. I officially became a Kansas basketball fan.

I expected some criticism, it was only natural.

When I said I rooted for Kansas, people just called me a front runner and a fake fan. And yeah, it did get me upset. People would ask me questions about the team and their roster and the history of the team to test me, but I knew all the answers, this team became my life. I studied the team’s history and their former players and coaches, I watched highlights of their old games. Just everything about their history.

This team has become my life. I bought my first jersey the year after I became a fan. I thought I bought a Julian Wright jersey, the player that made me want to become a Kansas fan. However, when I got the jersey, I realized I ordered a #25 jersey. #25 was Brandon Rush, not Julian Wright. I was like 8, lay off me. I was upset at the time, but it was Brandon Rush who later became my favorite player. By the time I got really serious about Kansas Basketball, Julian Wright was already off to the NBA and Brandon Rush was becoming a star.

It was 2008, the year I fell in love with this program.

Kansas has a good team that year: Brandon Rush, Russell Robinson, Mario Chalmers, Darnell Jackson, Darrell Arthur, and the greatest head coach in Kansas history, Bill Self, all led the team to a 31-3 regular season record. Kansas rolled through the NCAA Tournament until they got to the National Championship game, where they played the Memphis Tigers, the #1 team in the nation. Down 9 points in the final two minutes of the game, Memphis helped out by missing their free throws. Kansas made an insane comeback, and with 10 seconds left, they inbounded the ball down three to Sherron Collins. Collins drives up the court, almost lost the handle, and passes it quickly to star shooting guard Mario Chalmers.

The call went as follows, “Kansas has only made two threes on the night, they must make one here to extend the game. Collins drives almost lost the handle, Chalmers for the tie, got it, with two seconds left. Unbelievable. Dozier at mid-court for the championship, no and were headed to overtime in San Antonio.” The game went to overtime and Kansas dominated. This was their first National Title game since 1988. It was the happiest day of my life.

Kansas hasn’t won a National Championship since.

They came close in 2012, but they lost the title game. I’ve been through it all with his team. 14 straight Big 12 championships, which ties an all-time NCAA record, a national championship win, a national championship loss, losing early in the NCAA tournament to teams like Bucknell and Northern Iowa (I hate Northern Iowa with everything in me), losing late in the NCAA tournament to teams like Villanova and VCU (I also hate VCU with everything in me). I’ve even seen the last Border War game, the rivalry between Kansas and Missouri, where Kansas came back from 21 at home to win in overtime, which was sent there because of Thomas Robinson’s insane block.

I saw many Kansas greats come through as a fan:

Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Tyshawn Taylor, Jeff Withey, Thomas Robinson, Ben Mclemore, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Tarik Black, Kelly Oubre, Wayne Selden Jr, Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham, Josh Jackson, Malik “Mr. March” Newman and every person who put the Crimson and Blue on. I’ve never met those guys and I love them. It doesn’t stop when they graduate or go to the NBA. I watch the NBA draft to see where my guys go, I check their box scores every game they play in the NBA, G League or overseas, I read articles about them, I follow them on all social media, they’re like part of my family. These guys all helped welcome me into the Kansas family.

I could go into detail about every big play, like Mclemore’s bank three to send Kansas into overtime against Iowa State. Or the Andrew Wiggins dunk against Kansas State, or his half court three pointer at the end of the first half at Baylor to get his first points of the half, or his dominating performance against West Virginia. I could talk about Wayne Selden’s dunk over Baylor that sent the world shaking or his dominating performance against Kentucky, scoring 31 points and willing the Jayhawks to a victory. Devonte Graham’s breakout performance against Buddy Hield at Oklahoma to basically clinch another Big 12 title. I could talk about when Kansas and Oklahoma, who were both ranked #1 in the country at the time in 2015, played each other in Allen Fieldhouse that lasted into triple overtime.

The Jayhawks name

A lot of people refer to the team as Rock Chalk or Rock Chalk Jayhawks. That’s because back in 1898 a science professor and his students found chalk rock on Mount Oread, the site of the campus of Kansas. At the end of the home games, after Kansas had a sizable margin of victory they used to chant “Rah, Rah, Jayhawk, KU.” However, after the study of the chalk rock, the chant became, “Rock Chalk, Jayhawks, KU.” That chant has stuck from 1898 until present day. I explained that story plenty of times in my life because that’s what happens when you grow up on Long Island and root for the University of Kansas.

Allen Fieldhouse “The Phog”

The stadium holds 16,300 fans and they sell out every game. Kansas basketball players get to run out of the tunnel to 16,300 fans every single game. I can only imagine that feeling every game. The stadium is named after Phog Allen, one of the greatest coaches to ever coach at the University of Kansas. He was the second coach in Kansas history and changed the program history from below average to absolute powerhouse. Dr. James Naismith was the first coach in Kansas basketball history. He is also the creator of basketball.

The creator of basketball was the first coach in Kansas basketball history. That just oozes with all the history this program has. In the 118 years of Kansas basketball, they’ve only had eight coaches. That’s crazy. But the funny part? James Naismith, the creator of basketball, is the only coach in Kansas history to have a losing record as a coach. He went 55-60. The court in which Kansas plays on is Naismith court because what James Naismith did for this sport and what he did for the University of Kansas.

A kid from Long Island, I never thought I would make it to Kansas. I never thought it was feasible. But when I finally made that dream become a reality, and I got to Lawrence, I swear, the smile never left my face. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, a kid in a candy store. I got to AFH so early, they weren’t opening the doors for another 2 hours. And that was for tickets to the girls game. (The men’s team was playing in the Spring Center that night where I say court-side thanks to Bob McKillop). When hey finally opened the doors, security had to shut the doors quick because I was about to storm through. Not even kidding. I was that excited and I didn’t even care. The security guards had a nice laugh, because they saw the pure happiness on my face. And then, I felt like I was in heaven. From the Kansas Basketball Hall of Fame, to seeing the original rules of basketball, to sitting on he bleachers, to STEPPING FOOT ON THE COURT, it was all a dream to me. I was the happiest person in the world that day. And that’s what Kansas Basketball brings to me. Sure, there are ups and downs. But at the end of the day, Kansas Basketball is family and at the end of the day, I smile because I’m a Kansas fan.

So now we start a new year, a new chance and new hope. This team is going to be good, like really good. And I explain why here.

And here

And here

And you can read all my Kansas blogs by clicking here

Or you can follow my twitter page where I talk all things Kansas Hoops and I want to have discussions with you all. Kansas basketball is a family, so follow the page and let’s get this season started. !!

OR you could follow the other page I have

Follow us @Wingspansports for all your Kansas Jayhawks blogs, stories and live reactions throughout the year.

OR !! You can even follow me !

Twitter: @joeywingspan

I do and I WILL follow back. I want to grow the Kansas Jayhawk community even more. Let’s cut some nets this year!

Rock Chalk, Jayhawks.

2 comments

  1. The Bucknell loss was 04-05 — Julian Wright was 05-06; I think you meant Bradley who we lost to that year in your tragic experiences section

    Like

    1. Yeah I know. I was really to young for either game. It’s the Bucknell game, after watching the game back so many times, and researching that team, that still haunts me and a lot of Kansas fans. That’s what I meant by that

      Like

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