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11/30/2007 02:58:00 AM
Blog Q&A With ... Kansas' Brandon Rush
Kansas junior Brandon Rush declared for the Draft before tearing his ACL.
Scott Sewell/Icon SMI
For the latest edition of the Blog Q&A series, I chatted with Kansas junior Brandon Rush, who returned to the Jayhawks on Nov. 15 -- well ahead of schedule -- after rehabbing from an offseason ACL tear and subsequent surgery. Rush was KU's leading scorer as a sophomore and had declared for the 2007 NBA Draft, but was forced to remove his name following the knee injury. He scored 17 in each of the Jayhawks' victories this week (over Arizona and Florida Atlantic). The following is an edited version of our phone conversation from Thursday:
Luke Winn: Before you played your first game at Kansas, you were asked to describe your offensive repertoire, and you said, 'Highlights.' Is that still the description you'd offer, or would you revise it?
Brandon Rush: I wouldn't say it's highlights anymore. It's smooth plays. That's my style now. Guys on the team -- mostly [sophomore guard] Brady Morningstar, whose locker is right next to mine -- will call me 'Smooth.'
LW: The 55-footer you took at the end of regulation against Arizona got a lot of rim before missing. [Here's the YouTube.] If the Jayhawks held a beyond-halfcourt shooting contest in practice, who would win?
BR:Brady [Morningstar]. That's all he does during practice: shoot from halfcourt. He's redshirting this year, so he doesn't have to do too much.
BR: My first year in college, I was really nervous, and my hands were getting covered in sweat. Coach [Bill Self] told me that if I wore wristbands in that first game, I had to wear them the rest of the year. He's superstitious like that. So I had to wear them the rest of the year.
LW: Was there ever a point where you wanted to ditch them?
BR: No. I would have had so many turnovers if I did. The ball would have been slipping out everywhere.
LW: KU made a controversial font change on the front of your jerseys for this season, going with "Trajan" lettering. How do you feel about the new look?
BR: As long as it says Kansas and has our numbers on the back, it's fine with me. I heard they paid a pretty penny for this font, too. [It was $88,900.] Some people are upset about it, but there's nothing we can do; it was a thing the athletic department decided.
LW: If you could pick any college retro jersey to wear, whose would it be?
BR: I like the Tar Heels jerseys -- the baby blues -- and I've always loved Jordan, so I'd wear his old 23. I don't have it, but I'd wear it if I did. People on campus might get mad about that, though.
LW: You went to high school in North Carolina [at Mount Zion Academy] but you're a local kid, from Kansas City. Did you get to spend your Thanksgiving with family?
BR: I got to go home for a few hours. I went over to my grandmother's. We had a big Thanksgiving dinner down here, with my mom, uncles, all of them came. It was fun. Most of the [Kansas] players who didn't get to go home either went to Mario [Chalmers]'s or Brady's, since their families live in Lawrence.
LW: What's your favorite Thanksgiving food?
BR: This apple salad that my grandmother makes only once a year, for Thanksgiving. I don't know how she makes it, but it's got apples and mayonnaise and a bunch of other stuff.
LW: Last Sunday -- three days after Thanksgiving -- you guarded Arizona's Chase Budinger while you were still recovering from the knee injury, and he scored 28 points. That had to be a tough matchup, but who's the most difficult guy you've guarded in three years at school?
BR:Kevin Durant. He could do everything possible to score: he could shoot in your face, go off the dribble, post up. He was the complete package, the toughest guy to defend. I was trying to guard him before he caught the ball, so he wouldn't even get a chance to make moves, but that didn't work out too well.
LW: Do you guys play pre-game music in the locker room to get yourselves ready?
BR: Shady [Darrell Arthur] will come in sometimes and play some of his crazy Texas music.
LW: Crazy Texas music?
BR: Just crazy stuff that Texas people listen to, all the Chopped and Screwed stuff. If I'm on my iPod I only do Lil' Wayne. Anything by Lil' Wayne is my pre-game stuff.
LW: Students at Allen Fieldhouse have been waving those giant-head cutouts of Jayhawk players, which are kind of eerier. Which one do you think looks the scariest?
BR: I'd have to say Sasha [Kaun]'s, because his sign has got such a mean look to it, it is scary. I think it has more of an effect on people too, because they don't hold it up that much. It comes out, maybe, when he makes a free throw or a big dunk.
LW: Do you own any of those giant signs, by any chance? Maybe for your place?
BR: Naw, I don't own one. Darnell [Jackson] and I just have a giant, five-foot poster of the team in our main room, though.
LW: I've read a lot about all the rehab you went through on your knee before coming back to the court in the past few weeks. What was the lowest moment during that whole process?
BR: Just watching everybody else play. Watching everybody else get better in the summertime, when I couldn't do anything but rehab. It was depressing not to be able to get my reps in. I found ways to work. I couldn't run or anything, but I would dribble in place, and shoot without jumping. That was all I could do.
LW: Who was the first person you called when you hurt your knee in that pickup game in June?
BR: I called my mom first. Then I called my AAU coach [John Walker]. Then I called coach Self, and then my teammates. When it happened I didn't know what it was at first; I just told my mom I tweaked my knee a little bit, and that I was going to be out for a while. Then I came back to school, and it was still swollen, and I got an MRI. Before I even got the MRI, the doctor was saying there was a strong chance I tore my ACL, and that's what it turned out to be.
LW: Had you already packed up your college stuff to move out of Lawrence? You had declared for the draft the month before, and it seemed like a lock that you would stay in.
BR: I didn't have any of my stuff packed. I was really going to wait and see how the draft stuff worked out anyway.
LW: You declared for the NBA Draft out of high school in 2005, then pulled out, and now you're in your third year of college. Honestly, back to '05, where did you expect to be in '07?
BR: I was expecting to be in the NBA. But it didn't happen that way. I stayed an extra year at Kansas, then I got hurt this summer, and that changed some things. It's been a good experience. I'd had a lot of ups and downs in my life, but I've learned a lot just by being at a school like Kansas.
LW: What's the funniest thing you'll remember Bill Self telling you as a player?
BR: Just how he always talks about how my left arm is crooked. That brings a smile to my face all the time. I broke my arm when I was 11 doing backflips, on concrete, and I had to go through years of healing to get it back to normal. It's still a little crooked, though, and everybody on the team loves to make fun of it. If I fumble away a ball or something, coach Self will be like, "Just straighten out that left arm, and you would have caught it."
LW: Finish this sentence for me: If we don't make the Final Four this season ...
BR: It would be kind of a disappointment, because we've got the team to do it. We've got the team to make it happen. But even if it doesn't happen, I'd be happy that we went as far as we did.