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Larry Keith
February 13, 1978
Nowhere is college basketball a bigger spectacle than at Kansas, where every game evokes vivid memories of Naismith, Allen and Chamberlain
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February 13, 1978

The Tradition

Nowhere is college basketball a bigger spectacle than at Kansas, where every game evokes vivid memories of Naismith, Allen and Chamberlain

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Lovellette and Chamberlain did come to Lawrence, along with other All-Americas, such as Walt Wesley, Jo Jo White and Bud Stallworth. Players like these have made the Jayhawks second to Kentucky in victories (1,140) and fifth behind UCLA, Ohio State, Kentucky and North Carolina in trips to the NCAA final four (six). Playing at various times in the Missouri Valley, Big Six, Big Seven and Big Eight conferences, the Jayhawks have won or shared 36 of a possible 70 league titles.

The Kansas tradition is so overwhelming that not only is the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. named for Naismith, but it also includes eight Jayhawk players and coaches—more than from any other school. Indeed, it seems that almost everything that matters in the sport is somehow connected to the school. The national sales manager of Converse shoes, the director of the Pizza Hut Classic, an extra in the movie One on One and the executive director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes all attended Kansas.

All of this history and tradition are put to good use by the current coach, Ted Owens, and his staff when they go recruiting. One of their gimmicks is a picture of Allen Field House atop Mount Oread, with the faces of Naismith, Allen and Owens gazing from the side of the hill like the Presidents on Mount Rushmore. Actually, Allen Field House is at the foot of Mount Oread, which is hardly more than a bump on the landscape.

But there is nothing contrived about Owens' record. Since succeeding Dick Harp in 1964-65, he has won the Big Eight five times, gone to seven postseason tournaments and reached the final four twice. This year's team, with its 18-3 record and No. 8 ranking, is one of his best. "People talk about the other coaches who have been here, but Owens is the only one I've heard of," says freshman star Darnell Valentine. Oldtime Kansas fans would have cringed had they heard Valentine and another freshman, Wilmore Fowler, try to recall the name of the man who went from Kansas to Kentucky to the Naismith Hall of Fame. "Adolph Rump," said Valentine. "Rudolph Hupp," said Fowler. As for Naismith, Guard John Douglas asked recently, "Was he the dude who invented the ball?"

Senior Center Ken Koenigs is more familiar with the Kansas legend, because his father is an alumnus. "I'm a born and bred Jayhawk," he says. "I grew up listening to the games on the radio. The tradition is one of the reasons I came. I wanted to go somewhere where the students were knowledgeable and loved the game. That's the way it is here. When we finished fourth in the conference the last two years, it hurt the kids on campus as much as it hurt us."

Just such a student is Larry Hallenbeck, a senior chemical engineering major from Lawrence. In keeping with the family custom started by an older brother, Hallenbeck spends the night before every Kansas State game stationed outside the northeast gate of Allen Field House. If there are tickets available, he will charter an airplane to watch the Jayhawks play on the road. Hallenbeck is also president of the Big Mo Fan Club, Big Mo being a player named Paul Mokeski, who has the size but not the talent of Chamberlain.

The vice-president of the club is freshman Tim Jones, and its only member without a title is freshman Kelly Knopp. "That's because I have the only other T shirt," said Knopp, one of the early birds on the line for the K-State game. And sure enough, he unbuttoned three outer layers of clothing to show off a blue shirt with red lettering that read I'VE GOT "BIG MO" MANIA. Hallenbeck formed the club this year, when Mokeski finally began to show signs of becoming a solid player. "This means a lot if you waited three years for it to finally happen," the president explained.

Hallenbeck, Jones, Knopp and another Acacia fraternity brother, sophomore Tim Stewart, arrived at the field house in the wee hours after an evening of fortifying themselves in various pubs. They did not bring any food, but they had a $12.57 bottle of Bacardi, a couple of Cokes, ice, swizzle sticks and drinking cups with the KU insignia. At 10 a.m. they emerged from their two tents after a night of testing each other's knowledge of KU basketball. When the icy temperatures froze their Cokes and made their ice unnecessary, they started taking their sustenance straight. "When you're sober your brain understands that it's cold," said Stewart, "but not when you're drunk." Stewart, understand, carries a 3.4 average in architecture.

By midday the four students were tired, hungry, cold and sober as judges. "We've got our priorities straight," said Hallenbeck. "Basketball comes first, ahead of the fraternity and ahead of school. The Notre Dame fans think they're pretty good, but somebody ought to point out we've been doing this for almost 100 years. Did you know James Naismith coached here?"

Hallenbeck and his friends had their strategy planned to the minute. At 1 p.m. a fraternity brother will bring lunch. At 3:30 another one will come to take away the camping gear. At 5 the doors will open, and they will take the seats of their choice in the bleachers behind the Kansas bench. Their spirits had received a boost at 11:30 a.m. when Owens came to the door and gave them a wave. Earlier, during the team's game-day shooting practice, Owens had said, "If something like this doesn't inspire a team to play well, I don't know what can."

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