Brandon Rush left Kansas for the NBA after his junior season in 2008, and never spoke to Jayhawks fans per tradition on Senior Day.
Nine years later — at halftime of Wednesday’s 6 p.m. KU-TCU game — Rush, the 31-year-old Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard, will speak from the heart to the Allen Fieldhouse faithful during his jersey retirement ceremony.
“I was talking to my wife (Ashlee) about that last night. She asked was I nervous? I am kind of nervous. I really don’t like public speaking, and speaking in front of 16,000 people,” Rush said Tuesday in a teleconference. “My nerves are rattled, but I’ve just got to go through it.”
Rush, a Kansas City native, said he is honored that his jersey No. 25 will hang forever in Allen.
“It means all the hard work has paid off,” said Rush, who ranks 24th on KU’s career scoring list and led the Jayhawks in scoring in each of his three seasons, including 2007-08, when the Jayhawks won the national title.
“Growing up 30 minutes outside of Lawrence, to have my name in the rafters is a pretty big deal for me and my family. I was really excited,” Rush said of his reaction upon learning his jersey would be hoisted into the south end zone rafters. “I knew sometime it was going to come, but for me and my family, it’s a really exciting time for us to have my name going up in the rafters.”
Rush said his good buddy, former 2008 title teammate Mario Chalmers, will attend Wednesday’s ceremony. Chalmers had his jersey retired at KU in 2013.
“Mario has been waiting on this day to happen for me since he got his jersey retired in 2013,” Rush said. “He is real excited for me. He said he’ll definitely be there. He’s real excited for me and my family.”
Rush said winning the NCAA title was his greatest memory as a Jayhawk.
“I would say coming back from my ACL injury, hearing the crowd after my first game coming back (against Washburn in exhibition game his junior year) was a real special moment,” said Rush, who hurt his knee in a workout right after the conclusion of his sophomore campaign. “I’ll never forget that.
“My favorite thing is him (coach Bill Self) making me run on the treadmill whenever I didn’t shoot the ball at practice. That always stands out to me.”
“Sixty seconds as fast as you can, come back next time and shoot the ball,” he added of Self’s command when putting him on the treadmill. “No, it didn’t work. I still wasn’t aggressive enough for him. That’s one of my all-time favorite stories about coach Self.”
Of the NCAA title, he said: “I think about it all the time. We have a lot of fans nationwide, and everywhere we go I always run into some Kansas people. They always congratulate us on winning the national championship. That kind of brings back memories. On Twitter, I always see they’ve got a little picture with the North Carolina score (NCAA semifinal). We had 40, they had 12 and I had 12 points. That brings back a lot of memories.”