The best moment of Chris Huey’s college life began with a couple of white lies.
First, the KU basketball coaching staff told Huey, a senior manager from Kansas City, Kan., that he would need to become NCAA-eligible to work as an intern in the KU basketball office. Then the Jayhawks’ trainer told Huey that he would need a physical exam to run on the KU scout team, which he often did during practices at Allen Fieldhouse.
None of this was true, of course. And even when one of Huey’s roommates became a little suspicious, Huey never really imagined he might be suiting up for an actual game.
“I didn’t really believe it,” said Huey, a graduate of Bishop Ward, “because I didn’t think it was a possibility.”
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That changed on Thursday, when Kansas coach Bill Self revealed the secret plan. Because Huey, a 6-foot-7 former high school player, had spent the season as the honorary fifth member of KU’s scout team, spending time on the practice floor each day, Self wanted to reward him by suiting him up Saturday against TCU.
“I knew it’d mean a lot to him, growing up in Kansas City,” Self said, “and certainly, I think it’d mean a lot to his family.”
Self and KU kept the gesture quiet until Saturday, but staffers spent the week finding Huey the proper gear and adding him to the official roster, which took a little bit of paperwork.
On Thursday night, Huey called his mother, Joanne, telling her, “You might want to sit down — but it’s all good.”
On Friday evening, after a story about his role with the team appeared on KansasCity.com, his phone started to blow up with text messages.
“I didn’t sleep a whole lot,” Huey said.
In the final minute Saturday, with the Jayhawks’ lead safe, Self motioned over to Huey and sent him in the game. The crowd inside Allen Fieldhouse erupted, and in the stands, Huey’s mother turned to the people sitting behind her.
“That’s my son!” Joanne said.
Moments later, Huey had his chance, attacking the basket before putting a guarded layup off the glass too strong.
“If I could have jumped, I would have,” Huey said. “But my legs were just shaking.”
Saturday will be Huey’s only game in uniform. But he will now go down as an official player in Kansas basketball history. His shot attempt was recorded. His name is in the official box score. He also enjoyed one standing ovation, which, he admitted, was pretty cool.
“I actually felt really comfortable today,” Huey said. “(But) definitely getting in there and just hearing the crowd, there’s nothing like that. Even not as a player, the crowd is amazing. But that’s the best feeling I’ve ever had.”