KU coach Bill Self reunites with 2008 NCAA championship team: ‘This is a special group’
Former Kansas basketball forward Perry Ellis may have come up with a new name for the festive, summertime Rock Chalk Roundball Classic.
“It’s KU Day, man,” the 2016 KU graduate, who played for the NBA Development League’s Greensboro (N.C.) Swarm last season, said with a smile. He scored 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the Blue team’s 104-101 loss to the Red squad in Thursday night’s ninth-annual KU alumni game/cancer fundraiser before an overflow crowd at Lawrence Free State High School’s gym.
“Everybody KU … it’s all family,” added Perry, a 6-foot-8 NBA free agent from Wichita.
Ellis was one of the many fan favorites participating in an exhibition game that featured more than 40 former KU players and coaches including 12 members of Kansas’ 2008 national title squad.
This year’s Roundball Classic was billed not only as an event to assist five local families battling cancer, but also a mini 10-year reunion for the 2008 champs.
Among the 2008 players: Mario Chalmers scored 22 points, Sherron Collins 18, Cole Aldrich 15 and Brady Morningstar four for the winning Red team, while Tyrel Reed scored seven points, Jeremy Case six and Darnell Jackson two for Blue. Russell Robinson took just three shots and did not score.
“(I was) just thinking about that, 10 years? To still be healthy is a blessing,” said 31-year-old power forward Jackson. He played professional basketball in Poland last season. He’s also played in the NBA for Cleveland, Milwaukee and Sacramento as well as teams in Russia, Ukraine, China, Venezuela and Philippines.
“This 10-year anniversary … it means a lot. We’re still part of this tradition. Getting a chance to be around all these guys and all the young guys (current KU players he played against at Bill Self’s camp on Wednesday) … I love to come back and look at all the pictures, the posters, the jerseys. There are guys here still making history. The next thing is to win another championship,” Jackson added.
Jackson’s Rosa Radom team actually played against former KU teammate Robinson’s Wilki Morskie Szczecin squad last season in Poland.
“It was great to see Russ,” Jackson said. “We beat them twice (in Poland). You know how it goes, big guys always win. I loved playing there last year. I got a chance to play in the championship league, see some beautiful countries. I’m just happy to be home.” Jackson lives in Los Angeles with his wife and 2-year-old son.
Two-time NBA champion Chalmers — he had been sidelined the past year-and-a half because of an Achilles tear — hit 9 of 17 shots on Thursday to lead all Red team scorers in victory. Chalmers, an NBA free agent, cashed three three-pointers. Wayne Selden of the Memphis Grizzlies had 16 points also for the winners.
Chalmers and his 2008 teammates posed at center court for a picture during a break in the action.
“The main thing about that,” Chalmers said of winning the national title, “is you have to have a little bit of luck, but you also have to be together as one. That’s what KU has always been, together as one. No one person is bigger than the program. That is the mindset you have to have that coming here and it’ll all gel together.”
Chalmers is a free agent who starting in July will be able to sign with any team.
The leading scorer in Thursday’s game was fourth-year NBA guard Ben McLemore of the Sacramento Kings. He scored 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting for the losing Blue squad. He had five three-pointers and an assortment of dunks. He did, however, miss a pair of threes in the closing seconds that would have forced overtime.
“Man, I’m frustrated,” McLemore said. “But again, it’s not about winning or losing the game, it’s about the kids,” he said of youths battling cancer.
McLemore, who becomes a free agent in July, tried to sneak into the picture with the 2008 team. KU coach Self playfully made sure he was outside focus of the camera.
“You saw me trying to go out there. I wish I won the championship,” the 6-foot-5, 24-year-old McLemore said. “It was great playing here for the University of Kansas and great to see the ’08 team. I come back here every year,” he added of the Roundball Classic, “because it means a lot to me. It’s just fun to see all my brothers and my (KU) family get together in one family unit.”
Roundball Classic game highlights
McLemore and Selden ripped home a series of one-handed dunks. McLemore may have had the best of all, driving the baseline for a vicious one-handed jam. … Tyler Self cashed a three-pointer in the first half that had KU coach Self’s full attention. Bill Self stood and cheered the shot, and fans around Bill Self celebrating with the Jayhawk coach. … Jeff Withey of the Utah Jazz, who had 12 points for the losing team, forcefully blocked an inside shot of Mario Little. … Sherron Collins hit five threes for the winners. … KU coach Self spoke to the fans after the picture of the ’08 team was taken at halfcourt. “After watching these guys so far, I’m surprised they won one game that year,” he joked.
(Unofficial; no official box was kept)
RED (104): Drew Gooden 1-4 0-0 2, Wayne Selden 8-15 0-0 16, Brady Morningstar 2-3 0-0 4, Cole Aldrich 7-9 1-2 15, Mario Chalmers 9-17 1-1 22, Mario Little 2-4 0-0 4, Sherron Collins 5-8 3-3 18, Billy Thomas 2-3 0-0 6, Elijah Johnson 4-7 0-0 10, Nick Bradford 1-1 0-0 2, Natalie Knight 0-1 0-0 0, Three-point field goals: Collins 5, Chalmers 3, Thomas 2, Johnson 2; a young fan in attendance played a few minutes and scored 5 points.
BLUE (101): Russell Robinson 0-3 0-0 0, Tyrel Reed 3-5 0-0 7, Ben McLemore 13-22 1-1 32, Perry Ellis 5-9 0-0 11, Darnell Jackson 1-1 0-0 2, Tyshawn Taylor 10-14 0-0 20, Jeff Withey 6-7 0-0 12, Jeff Graves 1-4 0-0 2, Kenny Gregory 1-2 0-0 2, Tyler Self 1-1 0-0 3, Chris Zerbe 0-1 0-0 0, Christian Garrett 2-2 0-0 4, Jeff Hawkins 0-3 0-0 0, Jeremy Case 2-2 0-0 6. Three-point goals: McLemore 5, Case 2, Ellis 1, Reed 1.