Kansas basketball coach Bill Self doesn’t cry often in public, but he couldn’t hold back during forward Jamari Traylor’s senior speech after the Jayhawks’ 85-78 victory over Iowa State on Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
Traylor — Self had called him “one of my all-time guys” earlier this week after he overcame obstacles like homelessness in high school — was emotional during his time at the microphone when recalling a story from his freshman year. KU was having a bad practice, and Self called his players together in a huddle, telling them that no one should be having bad days, as no one had been through difficulties like Traylor had earlier in life.
“I was looking at you while I was talking, and your eyes got watery. I was like, ‘Man, this guy really cares about me,’” Traylor said, bringing his jersey up to his face to wipe his eyes.
The Allen Fieldhouse videoboard immediately showed Self, who wiped away a tear running down the left side of his face.
“From that point, I knew that I didn’t want to play for anybody else, that I didn’t want to play anywhere else, and when I was going on that court, I was going to do whatever I had to do to make sure we got the win,” Traylor said, “because I wanted to play hard for you, because you cared for me. … I’d never seen that from anybody, so I just want to say I love you.”
Self said afterwards he didn’t see anything keeping Traylor from becoming a success in whatever he chose to do professionally.
“He said some really nice things that he means in his heart,” Self said, “because he knows this place has changed him forever.”
Perry Ellis’ laugher
KU senior forward Perry Ellis embraced the “Ellis is old” jokes on social media during his postgame speech.
“You know, many people would say I’ve been here forever. And you know, they’re right. I had a chance to play with Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning. It’s been great,” Ellis said. “You know, I’ve been thinking: Since I supposedly have unlimited eligibility, why don’t I just come back again next year?”
Teammates lauded the one-liners from the typically stoic Ellis.
“He came out and actually was talking for the first time,” guard Devonte’ Graham said with a smile.
Perry’s mother, Fonda, said her son had only told her that his speech was going to be “short and sweet” with a joke thrown in somewhere.
“I thought he did an awesome job,” she said.
Bob Davis honored
Bob Davis, who has spent the last 32 seasons as KU’s radio play-by-play voice, was honored at halftime of his final home game. He announced his retirement, effective after the season, on Nov. 24.
“It was cool,” Davis said of his final home game. “The best thing, of course, is that the team won the game. That was a little bit in doubt for a while. But senior day is pretty magic here.”
Davis also introduced each of KU’s four seniors before their postgame speeches. He was preceded at the mic by Self, who called Davis “the greatest announcer in all of America.”
“He’s awesome, and everybody knows it,” Self said.
Davis is still hoping his career extends with a deep KU postseason run.
“Let’s play another nine. What do you say?” he said with a smile. “Wouldn’t that be great?”
Big 12 bracket set
Top-seeded KU will open the Big 12 tournament at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Sprint Center against the winner of eighth-seeded Kansas State and ninth-seeded Oklahoma State. If the Jayhawks win, they would play at 6 p.m. Friday against fourth-seeded Texas or No. 5 seed Baylor.