LAWRENCE | Kansas coach Bill Self stressed to his seniors that their senior night speeches could not go longer than four minutes.
Sure, Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Mario Little may not have approached a half-hour like Wayne Simien in 2005, but once Little kicked things off with a soliloquy that approached 10 minutes, Self knew that his players had decided to ignore his preference.
Unlike during a game, their insolence was acceptable to Self because, hey, this is Kansas, where players are treated like Gods. Wednesday night was their last chance to hold Allen Fieldhouse captive, and they were going to soak up every second.
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Little, who became emotional talking about his grandmother, was so diligent with his thank-yous that he even remembered to thank KU mascots “Big Jay” and “Baby Jay.”
“Was that longer than four minutes?” Self joked as he took the microphone from Little. “I’m not sure. Good job, ‘Rio.”
Then it was on to Morningstar, who grew up down the street from Self as a star at Lawrence Free State High. Morningstar, who turned 25 in January, has been a part of 157 victories during his five years on campus.
“He’s the oldest player I’ve coached, and he still hasn’t matured,” Self joked. “He’ll go down as one of my all-time favorites. So often, the guys that score the majority of the points and grab the majority of the rebounds get the credit for teams’ success. There’s no way we’d be 157-21 the last five years if it weren’t for Brady Morningstar.”
Morningstar fired back at Self during his speech with an age-related crack of his own.
“Coach Self, people look at you like a father figure,” Morningstar said. “You’re more like a brother to me, since we’re about the same age.”
Reed spoke last and recalled what it was like for him as a skinny, 170-pound kid from Burlington, Kan., showing up on campus.
“At first I was really scared,” Reed said. “A small white kid from Kansas, I didn’t really know if I was going to fit. But with all my teammates’ help, and coaches’ help, I was able to succeed. Thank you for all of that.”
Reed and Morningstar were instrumental in KU’s 64-51 victory over Texas A&M. Reed scored 12 points, and Morningstar had nine points and four assists in helping Kansas to a share of its seventh straight Big 12 regular-season title.
“Isn’t it amazing,” Self said, “regardless of who you recruit, you’ve got to have a kid from Lawrence and a kid from Burlington in the game in order to look good. Certainly, those two played really, really well tonight.”
Little missed all five of his shots and had no points.