Archive for Thursday, January 19, 2006

Opinion: Look who’s winning

January 19, 2006

There are probably a lot of University of Kansas fans who are pretty discouraged by the Jayhawks' 10-6 start and the recent losses to Kansas State and Missouri. I think the 'Hawks are just going through some growing pains and they'll be fine by March.

But if you're interested in watching a great KU squad before then, consider going to a women's basketball game.

In case you hadn't noticed, the Kansas women are 12-3 this year. With thousands of open seats every game, the women haven't enjoyed nearly the same home court advantage as the men, but they've still excelled and are flirting with being ranked for the first time in a while.

There are a number of reasons to check out the KU women this year. The fieldhouse is revamped, for one thing. There's a new video board, better lighting and sound and renovated bathrooms. There's also new exhibits and interactive displays about KU's best teams and athletes, making the fieldhouse historic not only in age, but in content.

Speaking of history, the KU women have already made it this year. Their 12-0 start was the program's best ever, and a fitting way for seniors Crystal Kemp, Kaylee Brown and Erica Hallman to start their last season. The trio has stuck by KU through some real down years and changes in coaches and athletic directors.

Kemp, Brown and Hallman have grown with the program and are a huge reason for the turnaround this year after five straight losing seasons. Hallman and Brown are sweet-shooting guards and Kemp is a left-handed post player who opens up those outside shots by being an interior scorer that other teams have to key on.

The Jayhawks have a host of young talent to complement the three seniors, but it's clearly their team and their year. If you've never seen them play before, this is your last chance.

The final reason to check out the KU women is their coach, Bonnie Henrickson. She arrived in Lawrence from Virginia Tech after the 2003-2004 season and the Jayhawks have improved every game since.

Besides just being an outstanding coach, Henrickson is an outstanding person. She visited me several times while I was hospitalized with meningitis and we still keep in touch.

Henrickson played her college ball at St. Cloud State University, in my hometown, but that's not why she came to see me. She visited because she knew what my family was going through -- she too had watched someone close to her suffer horribly from meningitis. Rayna DuBose, a promising freshman on one of Henrickson's Virginia Tech teams, got the disease in 2002 and ended up with tissue damage even more extensive than mine. She had to have both arms amputated below the elbow and both legs amputated below the knee.

Henrickson told my family Rayna's story and comforted us by pointing out that Rayna, with the help of prosthetics, had finished her degree and lived on her own. The story was incredibly inspiring for me, and it was wonderful for Henrickson to take the time out of her schedule to tell it.

She's an outstanding representative of KU and the entire state of Kansas. Under her guidance the KU women are quietly having a great season and it's a shame that more people aren't at the fieldhouse to see it.

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