Add “daredevil” to the words used to describe former Kansas basketball guard/second-year Stanford coach Jerod Haase.
“It was good. It was fun. It was an adrenaline rush,” the 43-year-old Haase said of rappelling down the side of the Hilton San Francisco Union Square Hotel last April as part of Outward Bound California’s annual City Skyline Challenge. It’s an event in which celebrities scaled down the side of the 46-story skyscraper to benefit youth scholarship fundraising.
“I did something like that — rock climbing — when I was young in Tahoe with my brothers and sisters. Jumping off the side of a building 40 stories high was an incredible experience. I wasn’t concerned about my safety. It was clear there were plenty of safety measures in place,” Haase, a native of South Lake Tahoe, Nev., added in a phone interview with The Star, referring to having no fear during the event.
Haase — who clearly is not afraid of taking risks: remember his senior year (34-2 in 1996-97) in which he played the entire season with a broken wrist? — on Thursday brings his (6-6) Cardinal to the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif. for a nonconference clash against No. 14-ranked Kansas (9-2).
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Tipoff is 10 p.m., or 30 minutes after a 7:30 p.m. game between Sacramento State and Portland.
“I think they are still really good and we still are a work in progress,” Haase said, assessing KU and Stanford. “I think we are progressing. That’s the exciting part. We’ll try to put a game plan together and do better than last year.”
KU defeated Haase’s first Cardinal team, 89-74, last season at Allen Fieldhouse in the first game of a four-year, four-game series between the two schools.
“It won’t be a reunion of people clapping (for him) before the game,” Haase said of Thursday’s contest. A year ago, he received a standing ovation during pregame introductions and acknowledged that the response of KU’s fans meant much to him.
“Anytime Kansas or North Carolina … when we play them there’s an emotional level (added to game for him). But it won’t be the same feeling fans brought me last year.”
Last year’s game was remembered for former North Carolina assistant coach Haase’s return to KU as well as the performance of Stanford forward Reid Travis, a 6-8 junior from Minneapolis who scored 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds. He hit 19 of 22 free throws, the most free throws made and attempted by an opposing player in a single game against KU.
“He has been awesome. He’s so effective scoring the ball in a variety of ways,” Haase said. “He’s done a great job working on his ballhandling and shooting. His confidence continues to grow. He’s most effective putting the ball on the ground, having the ball on the perimeter more and dribbling. He’s made consistent progress. I feel his numbers (22.2 points, 7.3 rebounds per game) will continue to improve.”
KU coach Bill Self, who has just two available scholarship bigs in Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot, realizes stopping Travis is pivotal.
“I don’t think we can totally,” Self said. “He’s shot 101 free throws this year (making 72 for 71.3 percent). We as a team have shot 132 (98 makes, 74.2 percent). That tells you he gets fouled. He is something else. He is a load. We’ll need to play smart. We may have to play some zone or whatever. We need to try to keep the ball out of his hands on the low block. He can draw a crowd, but more importantly, he can draw fouls.”
Self added: “He’ll be licking his chops because we didn’t defend him very well last year.”
Stanford of the Pac-12 enters as a .500 team. KU has dropped three straight to Pac-12 teams — to Oregon in last year’s Elite Eight and to Washington and Arizona State this season.
“No. 1 is our ability to handle the ball. We can’t have 20 plus turnovers,” Haase said of keys to a Stanford victory. “I don’t know if we can have 10 turnovers. We have to handle pressure, not turn it over, get shots. On the defensive end … they have tons of weapons. We have to do our best to eliminate threes as well as easy baskets.”
The game is being contested in the home of the Sacramento Kings, far from Stanford’s campus. Next year’s game will be back in Allen Fieldhouse and the following season the series concludes in Stanford’s campus arena.
“The contract was done before I got the job,” Haase said. “It’ll be great for our fans to show up and Kansas fans on the West Coast (to travel to Sacramento for game). I don’t know what to expect atmosphere-wise. It is a great venue that fans should enjoy.”
KU’s players will travel to their hometowns or towns of friends after the game for the Christmas holiday and return to Lawrence for practice on Dec. 26 with the Big 12 opener at Texas looming on Dec. 29.
“We’ve played well before in this game, not so well in other years,” Self said.
Indeed, in road games immediately preceding the team’s Christmas break, KU has defeated UNLV, San Diego State, Ohio State, Southern California and California and lost at Temple, Arizona and Nevada.