Like his coach, former Kansas standout Jerod Haase, Stanford senior point guard Christian Sanders is quite familiar with Allen Fieldhouse.
“I am very excited. I grew up going to KU basketball games,” Sanders, son of former KU player Brad Sanders, said Friday in advance of Saturday’s KU-Stanford game.
“I understand what that environment is like. It is cool to go back. It’s fun to go where my dad played and where he spent a lot of hours and time,” added Christian Sanders, a starter who averages 3.6 points, 3.6 assists and 19.6 minutes for the (6-2) Cardinal.
Brad Sanders, who is a member of KU Endowment’s Board of Trustees, played in 91 games for KU coach Ted Owens’ Jayhawks from 1975-79. He hit 80 of 185 shots for 43.2 percent.
“It’s always been a dream of mine. I just didn’t know it would happen this way. We are really excited and look forward to it,” Brad Sanders said of watching his son play in Saturday’s game.
“Start with nervous, very nervous,” Brad added of his emotions. “We want the kids to play well, do well, compete and for Christian to play well, do well, compete. We are hopeful for them. (But) KU is KU.”
Brad, who is originally from Leavenworth but has worked in Houston for several years, and his wife Linda — they also have a house in Lawrence — have accumulated 16 tickets for relatives and friends of Christian.
“Stanford has become a huge part of my life, obviously. I’m very proud of it,” said Christian Sanders.
Christian Sanders was born in Wichita and moved to Houston when he was in middle school. Brad had a 32-year career with Wichita-based Koch Industries. After retiring, he became executive vice president, chief commercial officer at USD Group in Houston.
“My family in Kansas, they are very proud of Kansas,” Christian Sanders said. “I hope they actually wear some Stanford gear and not KU gear. It’ll be fun to play in front of them.”
Chances are some of the fans in the Sanders section of the fieldhouse — and even some who come to see Haase patrol the sidelines — will wear Cardinal red.
“I really love my son. I am a Stanford fan tomorrow,” Brad Sanders said, when asked about his rooting interests.
Christian Sanders, like his dad, doubles as a KU fan, when Stanford is not playing KU, that is.
“Growing up in Kansas, it’s an easy thing to become and remain a Kansas fan. He’s a Kansas fan today,” Brad Sanders said. “When he made his choice, he wanted to define his path and we very much support that.”
Christian Sanders — he has dished 29 assists against 16 turnovers and has made 41.7 percent of his shots so far this season (2 of 6 from three) — did make an unofficial visit to KU during his days at Houston St. Thomas High School where he led the squad to a state title his junior year. He was recruited by Maryland, Colorado, Texas, Harvard, Oklahoma State and others.
It turned out the 6-foot-4, 192-pound floor general gets to play his final season for a former Jayhawk in Haase, who is in his first year at Stanford after four at UAB.
“It’s funny. Christian used to attend the North Carolina basketball camps (where Haase worked for Roy Williams from 2003-12) and wear his KU gear, so he and Jerod became not only acquaintances but actually quite good friends during that time. So they knew each other well,” Brad Sanders said. “That was fun for Christian. He was excited when Jerod was named the coach. Jerod and his staff have been spectacular. Not only is the team playing well but the experience with the kids is spectacular. Jerod and his staff deserve a lot of credit.”
Stanford, which is coming off a 66-51 loss to No. 12-ranked Saint Mary’s on Wednesday night in Stanford, Calif., has wins over Harvard, Cal State Northridge, Weber State, Colorado State, Indiana State and Seton Hall. Stanford has also dropped a game to Miami.
“I haven’t watched a ton (of tape on KU),” Haase said Thursday. “Whether we are playing them or not, I always keep tabs — watching KU when I can.”
As such, he had a head start on developing a game plan for the Jayhawks.
“It’s a typical Kansas team, very talented, very well coached,” Haase said. “They play hard, get out in transition. It will be a heck of a challenge.”
The Saint Mary’s game was a bit disappointing for a Stanford team off to such a good start.
“Our last game, we broke down a bit,” Haase said. “We haven’t had a lot of practice time in the last month. That makes it difficult. In terms of buying into the system and the coaches, they (players) have been great. On this trip, as a whole, we are going to find out a lot more about our team. Playing Saint Mary’s and this game, we’ll continue to find out who we are and how we are going to compete in the Pac-12.”
KU coach Bill Self said Stanford is “good. They lost to Saint Mary’s and Saint Mary’s could beat anybody, any time, anywhere. They (Cardinal) have a great player inside (6-8 junior Reid Travis, 16.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg). Travis is a McDonald’s All-American everybody wanted. We’d have loved to have him. They will trap the post, do some different things. They run great stuff and I think he’s got a really nice team. Jerod obviously has done a great job.”
No. 4-ranked KU has won six straight games since its season-opening overtime loss to Indiana. The Jayhawks have topped the 90-point mark the last two victories — 91-61 over Long Beach State and 95-57 over UNC Asheville. KU averages 85.1 points per game and 51.5 percent shooting from the field. Stanford has averaged 66.8 ppg off 42.5 percent shooting. Dorian Pickens, a 6-5 junior guard, joins Travis in double figures at 13.8 ppg.
The Cardinal next face Cal State East Bay on Dec. 16 at home. KU will meet UMKC at 7 p.m., Tuesday in Allen.