4 Kansas Smaller, faster, finish higher: That's the motto of the new and improved Jayhawks

November 19, 2001

In recent years, as elite teams opted for speed over size,
installing three-guard offenses and abandoning plodding
7-footers, it seemed that Kansas had missed the boat. No longer.
With the departure of underachieving 7'1" center Eric
Chenowith--and the resulting liberation of dynamic forwards Nick
Collison and Drew Gooden--the Jayhawks have joined the 21st
century. "With Eric we had to run more of a half-court offense
than a transition game," says Gooden, a coltish 6'10" junior who
led Kansas in scoring (15.8 points a game) and rebounding (8.4)
last year. "This year we can run up and down the court with the
guards."

For the first time in 11 years the Jayhawks will have three
starters shorter than 6'4", all of them guards. Kirk Hinrich, a
6'3" junior, shot 50.5% from three-point range and was eighth in
the nation in assists (6.9 a game) while manning the point last
year. He'll get extensive time at the more physically demanding
small forward spot. To that end he has worked particularly hard
on his legs in the weight room. Jeff Boschee, a 6'1" senior,
averaged a career-high 11.1 points last year but must relocate
his three-point touch, which dropped from 41.5% to 36.0%.
Joining the returning starters is McDonald's All-American Aaron
Miles, a mature 6'1" freshman, who will take over at point guard.

As excited as coach Roy Williams is about Kansas's upgraded
speed and defense, he's worried about how these smaller Jayhawks
will work the glass. "Some teams can still rebound pretty well
with three little guys," he says, "but if one of our big guys
gets out on the floor, it's hard for him to get to the boards."
Fortunately for Kansas, Gooden, whom Williams calls the best
offensive rebounder he has ever coached, can.

It certainly helps that the 6'9" Collison and Gooden complement
each other, whether they're combining on high-low passes against
zones or instinctively covering for each other on defense. It's
also especially felicitous because their demeanors aren't in any
way alike. "I call Nick the 'conflict mediator' because he's
always saying, 'Can't we just get along?'" says Gooden. "He
always calls me 'volatile.'" In turn Collison says, "Sometimes I
have to calm Drew down, but other times he knows how to fire me
up."

The Jayhawks, who are nine seasons removed from their last Final
Four, say they're ready for a long run in March. "We've had a lot
of years with good players, but the players didn't fit together
right or have the right type of skills," says Collison. "This
feels like a team that fits together better and has better
leadership. We feel like we can do something big this time
around."

--Grant Wahl

COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS Collison made nearly 60% of his shots from the field last season, but he's excited that he'll have even more room to operate on the low post now.

REPORT CARD

GRADUATION RATE: 64%
AVERAGE NUMBER OF WINS: 27.9
NCAA TOURNAMENT RECORD: 19-10
TRANSFERS: 4
McDONALD'S ALL-AMERICANS: 13
PLAYERS IN NBA: 7

COMMENT: Biggest rap on Jayhawks is they have only one Final
Four appearance in last 10 years, despite all those McDonald's
All-Americans and being No. 1 seed in NCAAs four times. Still,
coach Roy Williams is held in high esteem for running clean
program (though he made questionable decision in signing
transfer Lester Earl in 1997, despite Earl's admission that he
was paid a reported $5,000 while being recruited to play for LSU).

GRADE: A-

STARTING LINEUP

POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT

SF Kirk Hinrich[#] 6'3" Jr. 6.9 apg
PF Nick Collison[#] 6'9" Jr. 14.0 ppg
C Drew Gooden[#] 6'10" Jr. 15.8 ppg
SG Jeff Boschee[#] 6'1" Sr. 11.1 ppg
PG Aaron Miles 6'1" Fr. 20.0 ppg*

2000-01 record: 26-7
Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 7
[#]Returning starter
*As high school senior

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)