LAWRENCE — Kansas guard Brady Morningstar, being a Lawrence native and a starter for the KU basketball team last season, pretty much assumed every fan sitting in Allen Fieldhouse knew why he had been relegated to the bench for this season's first semester.
But Morningstar could take comfort that at least one fan was unaware of his suspension for an October arrest on suspicion of drunken driving.
"I was walking after a timeout, and some little kid asked me 'How come you're not playing?' " Morningstar said. "I had a boot on my foot, and I pointed to the boot on my foot. He was like 'All right.' I guess he didn't know."
This morning against Michigan, Morningstar will make his return to the Jayhawks' lineup, and at that moment, the questions will be about basketball again. Morningstar welcomes that change, but he says he has nothing to hide.
"Everyone knows what the deal was," Morningstar said. "It was pretty tough, knowing that you could have been able to play but you couldn't because of something you did that was pretty stupid."
Simply put, Morningstar messed up at the wrong time.
A week after the Jayhawks were in the news for public brawls with the KU football team, police pulled Morningstar over on Interstate 70 heading west between Kansas City and Lawrence. The next day, KU coach Bill Self suspended him for the first semester.
"The punishment I think was pretty stiff in large part because it came at a time when we couldn't afford for anything like this to occur," Self said. "This has been an embarrassing, disappointing, in his mind humiliating experience that I think he's handled beautifully."
As soon as Self reintroduced Morningstar into a normal practice regimen earlier this month, he began to see very clearly why Morningstar played 30 minutes per game last season.
The Jayhawks just look better when he's out there. The ball moves quicker, the defense pressures more, and there's a certain calm that isn't there without him.
"He makes a lot of things easier," KU guard Sherron Collins said.
Self will not hesitate to play Morningstar today against Michigan guard Manny Harris, who is averaging 22 points per game.
Redshirt freshman center Jeff Withey will be eligible to play for the first time because of NCAA transfer rules, but Self seemed doubtful Withey would make an impact this quickly. Either way, the top-ranked Jayhawks appear to have improved with these... transactions.
"Major-league baseball trade deadline, are they still wheeling and dealing?" Self asked. "Next to (Roy) Halladay going to the Phillies and (Cliff) Lee going to the Mariners, I think our acquisitions are about as good as anybody's have been. And we didn't have to give anybody up."
When Morningstar jogs to the scorer's table for the first time this season, he'll be able to put the first semester behind him.
"The punishment is over," Morningstar said. "Now it's time to go out there and play."