As many witnessed on television the other night, the Notre Dame and Louisville game that went into 5 overtimes saw many of the reserved players on the court. These are the players we typically see in practice where they are hustling as much as the starters and bench players but seldom do we see them in action on the court. These are the players that have either walked on or received a scholarship. Though they are rarely on the court come game time, occasionally in the final minute, when the team has blown out the other team, these players get to go in and try to score.
Every team has its bench players and supporting cast and these players are usually the scout team in practice. These walk-on players could have gone to any college to play but they chose to put on their college uniform even if they never see the court. As for these select members of the Kansas Jayhawks, it meant the chance to play in Allen Fieldhouse and become part of the tradition at Kansas.
There have been some outstanding walk-ons in Jayhawk history that made an impact on the court. One of those players was Christian Moody. Moody was recruited by Coach Roy Williams as a walk-on and he earned his way into the starting five for the Kansas Jayhawks during his junior year as well as earning a scholarship during his final year at the University of Kansas. Moody was very passionate about basketball and the Jayhawks. It was this passion that made him a force to be reckoned with on the court and a legend in the NCAA with CBS analyst Billy Packard hailing him as “the greatest walk-on in the history of college basketball.”
This season, two famous walk-ons joined the team: Tyler Self and Evan Manning. They are probably best known for their famous fathers, Bill Self and Danny Manning. Self, when he decided to walk-on, said this about playing for Kansas: “I think that KU is just an awesome place. I honestly don’t see how anybody would want to go anywhere else…I am excited to be part of the team, to do whatever I can to contribute. I think ‘excited’ is the right word for it.” Manning showed similar enthusiasm saying, “It is a dream come true. It is such a unique opportunity. It’ll be cool to wear Kansas across my chest. It’s unbelievable.” Another famous walk-on is, Niko Roberts because just like the other two his dad is Norm Roberts who took Danny Manning’s coaching spot as Manning became the head coach at Tulsa this season. These guys are not the only ones who contribute to this team day in and day out and they might not get the playing time but they sure do help this team get prepared for the next contest.
The other more unknown walk-ons are Christian Garrett (who, by the way, we are naming our son’s middle name after) and Justin Wesley. Garrett is a passionate and promising athlete who has played a few minutes in the past few seasons. He had scholarship offers from other division 1 colleges but chose to be a Jayhawk. I had the opportunity to interview him last season where he talked about his passion for his team: “Playing for the Jayhawks is awesome. The coaching staff is great, the environment is great, everyone works hard, and the fans love it.” Wesley is a walk on transfer who is on scholarship this season. He is also the younger brother of former Jayhawk great, Keith Langford. Wesley hasn’t been a great contributor this season due to an injury but we can expect to see more of him in the upcoming games like tonight’s.
Then you have the two guys who, though they don’t get much playing time, will be forces to be reckoned with next season: Andrew White III and Rio Adams (Both being on scholarship). White is a threat from the top of the key and Adams is a great defender. Last but not least is the red-shirt freshman, Landen Lucas whom I also had an opportunity to interview this summer. In the interview, he mentioned that he chose Kansas because of the great coaching staff, the tradition, and his opportunity to develop his skill and play. Lucas decided to sit this season but right now I think the Jayhawks could use his big structure.
These guys might not get all the headlines but they all contribute in their own way to help the Jayhawks win. They are the team’s supporting cast.