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11/30/2006 11:25:00 AM
Blog Q&A With ... Kansas' Julian Wright
Kansas' Julian Wright, a star on the court and at the lanes.
As part of an ongoing series of Blog Q&As, I chatted with Kansas' Julian Wright on Wednesday. The versatile sophomore power forward helped spark the Jayhawks' overtime upset of top-ranked Florida in Las Vegas last Saturday night, scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in 42 minutes.
Luke Winn: You committed to play for Kansas on the day Bill Self visited your home in Illinois, without ever even seeing campus first. What, exactly, did he say that convinced you?
Julian Wright: I was comfortable with him and Kansas. I was already starting to get recruited by him when he was at Illinois, so I was familiar with what he was about. He was straightforward; he talked about the Kansas family, and how I could play a lot, with some great guys, but I had to earn it first. Looking back, that was the truth, I wasn't ready to come in and start and play 30 minutes right away. I had to get better in practice first.
LW: There was some kind of apology in there, too, right? I had heard you were upset because KU had given up on recruiting you for the whole summer after [assistant] Norm Roberts left for St. John's ...
JW: At first I didn't want to hear from them again. Kansas had been my favorite -- even if I didn't say it -- way back in the spring, and I was upset during that summer, thinking, couldn't they have at least sent me a letter telling me what was going on, or why they weren't interested? My mom asked me to give [Self] the chance to explain what happened. So I listened, and knew I had to make a grown-man decision. I could have held a grudge like a little kid and not thought about it, and let someone else get that last scholarship. Or I could go ahead and play for the team I wanted to play for, with guys like Mario [Chalmers], who I had already gotten to know at the USA Basketball camp.
LW: The whole impromptu, players-only clearing-of-the-air session you guys had in your hotel the night before the Florida game is becoming Kansas legend. Can you tell me exactly what you said that evening?
JW: It'll need to be censored. Basically we all knew that coach [Self] was frustrated, and we were starting to get frustrated, too. He was on us all the time, and we needed him to be on us, but it got to the point where I could sense a lot of players starting to plant negative seeds, in terms of making small excuses or pointing fingers. And excuses are coach's pet peeve. I just started saying, 'What are we doing? This is not how we can play. How are we going to be good until we start playing the way coach wants us to? He's on us because he knows we can be better.'
I heard a lot of 'Shut-ups' from people, and I later apologized, because I was saying a lot of personal stuff, just to fire them up. It was basically the same stuff that coach says, but maybe in terms that a player could relate to a little more. I was frustrated. Not because people happened to have bad games, but because the way we were playing, there wasn't any zip to us, no passion or energy. I said we shouldn't be stressed out, we should be living for these moments.
LW: If the night before the Florida win was serious, what was the night after like in Vegas?
JW: We actually left right away. People were happy, but they were tired, too -- it was a high-intensity game. We watched the tape on the plane on the way back, and even though we won, we knew we still had work to do, that it's just a stepping stone to getting better.
LW: So you're telling me no one wanted to pull an all-nighter on the Strip.
JW: I think a lot of guys wanted to stay a little bit longer, but it was a tiring trip. We didn't even get back into our rooms [in Lawrence] until sunrise. Had we gone out [in Vegas], I would have been more scared for the staff than the players. (Laughing.) LW: And what was your favorite moment from that win?
JW:Brandon Rush's winning shot. Not that I thought Joakim Noah was going to block it, but I was in position to get the rebound just in case. At the same time, as a spectator, I knew he was going to finish strong and make it. Our main focus was to get in the paint and put pressure on Florida's defense, so it was fitting that the game-winner was scored in the paint.
LW: Switching sports here, I've heard you're big into bowling. True?
JW: I was actually a little late [for our interview] because I was bowling. I hadn't been to the lanes in a while.
LW: And you have your own ball?
JW: Yeah, it's called the "Big Bully." It's a dark red ball, with a logo of a guy with some big muscles on it.
LW: Is this a long-time obsession? Tell me how you got into the sport.
JW: I bowled once in seventh grade, and I didn't bowl again until my freshman orientation here at Kansas. ... This summer was when I got serious about it. I was up there [in the student union's J-Bowl] almost every day, trying to take it to another level. Some of the guys there had been bowling since they were 5, and they were brutalizing me by 50 pins while I was just struggling to not get any gutters. That's not the case anymore -- my motivation was to become the best bowler possible in the quickest amount of time, and my average is up to the 160 range now. I've gone from barely breaking 100 at the start to almost hitting 200 every third game or so.
LW: What's your taste in music like? Not bowlers' polka, I assume?
JW: My iPod has a little bit of everything, over 1,500 songs now. I mostly listen to R&B, though. A little jazz, a little hip-hop. But I'm not a big hip-hop head like a lot of players are. There are just too many songs out there that talk about the same stuff. It gets repetitive. I'm more of a person who appreciates the actual substance of the music, not just the music itself. LW: So who are your R&B All-Stars?
JW: Of all-time, the top three are probably Joe, 112 and R. Kelly. Lately I've been listening to a lot of Bobby Valentino, Eric Benet and Justin Timberlake, though. Gotta have Justin Timberlake on there.
LW: Back to hoops. You have pretty unique passing skills for a big man. How did that part of your game develop?
JW: I don't think I take it for granted, but when I start watching other guys my size with the ball, I start to appreciate my ability to see the floor. Coach gets mad at me sometimes because he says I think too much looking for the extra pass, rather than just going ahead and scoring. I guess I have a willingness to give. I'd rather see someone else get the basket. It comes from back home [near Chicago], when as a kid I'd play about two grades higher than mine, with guys who were stronger and faster. I've never been a ballhog, and and usually that's the only way they'd let me play -- if I promised them I'd pass the ball around.
The concept of creating your own shot was pretty much foreign to me until I got to college. And I still don't feel like I need to score a lot of impact the game. I'd rather pass it. LW: You've been creating a lot of looks for your new star freshman, Darrell Arthur. How happy are you with his progress?
JW: I was really proud of the way he played down the stretch against Florida. He's coming along faster than most freshmen. We took him under our wing this summer, and told him if he didn't worry about playing well, or being great right away, that's when he'd start to get good without even noticing it. The way he runs the floor and rebounds really helps us a lot.
LW: Finally, if you had to pick a College Dream Team -- four guys to play alongside you -- and you couldn't choose any other Jayhawks, who makes the roster?
JW: Man, that's tough. Since Al Horford blocked my shot like that, I'll take him at the five. I've got nothing against 7-footers, but I'll take him because I want all of my guys to run the floor. At point guard, I'll go with Acie Law [of Texas A&M]. He's smooth and knows how to play under pressure; I got to see him a lot this summer. At the two, I'll go with youth and use Kevin Durant [of Texas]. He's really skilled, long and athletic and can shoot the ball. I'll put him on my team any time -- he can explode for 20 points and plays far beyond his years. At the three I'll take Alando Tucker. He's pretty good up there at Wisconsin, a real tough-nosed player. I've never faced up against him, but I know he's from my area of Illinois, too. And I'll play the four -- I'm pretty comfortable with that now.
Julian will go down as an all time favorite Jayhawk not only because he is a unique, gifted basketball player, but because he has been nothing but a role model since he arrived at KU. His intention at this time is to play another year at KU and earn his degree.
hey, this article is over julian wright...not over who would win if florida played kansas again...so, if florida were 100%, and julian played to 100% of his potential and brandon rush was at his 100% potential and sasha kaun was at his 100% potential etc. etc....KU WOULD WIN AGAIN...u'll have to admit, both teams played their hearts out!! florida lost, get over it...
btw, julian is amazing, ur right, i can't stop thinking of the harlem globetrotters when i see him play. i think as the season ended last year, with the highlight of the big XII championship 360 jam, we knew just how good he was. and his plan to graduate in 3 years, while still being the top player on the team...ROLE MODEL!!!
Julian, Great Leadership. Thank you for representing the university in such a fine fashion. You will go far in the world. As an Ohio-based Jayhawk,looking forward to an exciting year in KU basketball. Thanks for all of your hard work. GO HAWKS!!!!!
No one said that UF wasn't trying. Yes they played hard but that is not the same UF team that won the National Championship...The defensive intensity just was not there. Not to mention Horford fouling out.
Julian Wright is a really cool dude! He seems to be very humble and a TRUE team player, probally, the only TRUE team player in the country. As for the Florida game, i'm tired of hearing that Florida was sick before the game started. Hey, if Florida had of won, we would not be hearing this crap about how sick they were, so take your lost with the punches that you've gotten from KU and as far as meeting again down the line for a rematch, i doubt it because everyone who saw the Florida, KU game knows that the gators are OVERATED and do not have the kind of talent that KU has, they'll lose in the second round of the NCAA's. Rock Chalk Baby!!!!
Hey, The fact remains that KU played sloppy down the stretch of that game. They could have buried the Gators, but Florida showed some heart in taking that to OT. Horford fouled out because he was not quick enough to guard KU down low. Florida had a wide open 3 to win it too, but Brewer was pretty tired from having to chase our guards all day. Rock Chalk Jayhawks!
ok, so it looks like florida fans want to put them up against ku on floridas best day...ok, then if thats the case, put floridas best day against kansas's best day and guess what, KANSAS STILL WINS!!! too much talent for florida to handle!! plus, i'd argue that the ku you saw beat the "worn down" florida team, wasn't at it's full potential either...just look at the output of brandon rush, or sasha kaun, or sherron collins. come on now, fouling out is just part of the game. ku was in foul trouble too, you just didnt notice it because of all of their talent on the floor!!!! so please quit arguing this point or we will start accusing you of having an iq of a missouri fan!!
"No one said that UF wasn't trying. Yes they played hard but that is not the same UF team that won the National Championship...The defensive intensity just was not there. Not to mention Horford fouling out."
Blah, blah, excuses, excuses...please, if UF defensive intensity was not there, I don't know when it would be there...I mean come on, KU vs. UF, how can you not be intense and psyched to win...and Horford fouling out, I believe that should be a credit as to how KU was always attacking the basket...KU won the game and UF is lucky that it was as close as it was...KU is a much quicker team and passes the ball and moves down the court much better than UF does...I would take KU over UF again if they met in March..oh yeah, did anyone happen to notice that KU had many players in foul trouble too....I hate excuses...
Julian,I'm from wichita and I know you know about the shockers. My question is,if the Jayhwaks met the WSU down the road.Lets say first round of the big dance, would it bet a rock chalk shock,or would you prove who wears the daddy pants in the sunflower state.
Florida starting five are more matured players (Jrs and Srs). The fact that KU beat them says a lot about KU talent level despite of being younger. We'll keep maturing fast this season, and when it comes to March, hopefully we'll separate ourselves from the rest of the teams in the country. Go Hawks!
IF Florida and Kansas meet again, Kansas will win by 20. Think about it for a second. Kansas starts Junior, Sophomore, Sophomore, Sophomore, Freshman. Their top reserve is also a Freshman. By tournament time Florida will be trying to maintain the level they are already at, and Kansas will be peaking, along with other young squads like UNC and Ohio State. Florida doesn't have a chance to repeat, the odds are all against them. Noah and Brewer should have taken the money and ran while their stock was up. Brewer looks average this year at best, while Noah got schooled by a Sophomore and a Freshman and to top it off he cried like a baby every time something didn't go his way. Reminded me alot of David Harrison of Colorado actually. He could have been a lottery pick, now he's down to a late first maybe second round pick in my estimation. Horford plays all out and has good game so he'll probably still be a high pick, but Wright will go before any of the three if he decides to make the jump after this year.
yeah, i agree with that one guy, if Florida had of won, we would not be hearing of this. Look, i'm not either a KU or Florida fan, but i do know one thing, Florida did not win, KU did and you Florida fans need to be a good sport, know when you've been beaten soundly, re-group and come out to fight for another day. Good game by the way, the best i've seen in recent memory.
Horford actually committed about 8 blatant fouls in that game and should have been out by halftime. Give me a break with the "Florida wasn't the same Florida" garbage. They played hard and they got beat. Noah and Horford are tortoises compared to Arthur and Wright and if they played again, Wright and Arthur's quickness would dominate once again. Florida is last year's story and will probably go out in the 2nd Round of the tourney this year.