N.C.A.A TOURNAMENT: MIDWEST; The Top Scorer for Kansas Is on the Comeback Trail


Published: March 24, 1995

All season, they sit in their father's den and watch their father's son on their father's television set. If the Haase family did not have a little brother, Jerod, and did not have Kansas basketball via satellite, the mourning would linger day and night. But these telecasts to South Lake Tahoe, Calif. -- and specifically, this weekend's Midwest Regional -- serve as Jerod Haase's upbeat letters home. One of his floor burns is worth a thousand words.

Two Februaries ago, he was a University of California freshman, until one horrifying weekend made him him feel like a 10th-year senior. In a span of 12 hours, he lost a game at the buzzer and then awoke to hear that his father, Gary, had died from a freakish foot infection. Jerod Haase needed out, and he needed out fast, and, this winter and spring he has risen again as a Kansas transfer.

He is the Jayhawks' leading scorer, Coach Roy Williams's model student in practice and the perfect theme for the weekend's action at Kemper Arena.

This is the comeback regional. Haase is coming back from devastation and his team's semifinal opponent Friday night, Virginia, is coming back from injuries. Arkansas, in the other semifinal, is coming back tentatively from a National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament championship and its opponent on Friday, Memphis, is coming back from ridicule.

But few of the players here have seen what the 6-foot-3-inch Haase has seen. In his innocent days, he was a workaholic who treated the basketball court like a king-sized bed. He dived for everything.

Lou Campanelli, who recruited him at Cal-Berkeley, had to sell the family on the scholarship, but all he had to do was flash his Berkeley blazer because Gary and Carol Haase were Cal graduates. That night, they discussed another Cal recruit, Jason Kidd, and by midseason, Haase and Kidd were starting together, the backcourt dreams are made of. Then, in late January, the team flew to Los Angeles.

On Thursday night, at Southern Cal, the score was tied as the last seconds flew by, and Haase -- doing his routine dive for a loose ball -- was whistled for a foul. The free throws went in, and Haase went over and out.

In the locker room, he was beside himself, practically slamming his head against concrete. "Forgive me," he told his team, and barely slept that evening.

The knocks came early the next morning. It was the Cal assistant, Jeff Wilburn, who had taken a call from Carol Haase. Gary Haase had sustained a foot infection that had spread to his spleen and then the rest of his body. He could not fight off the infection; Jerod Haase's father had died. "Grew up real fast," the Kansas guard said today.

He was inconsolable initially, and, while the rest of the Cal team practiced that Friday, Haase and an assistant coach roamed the Los Angeles beaches and malls. The staff did anything to preoccupy his mind, but soon Haase was knocking on a door himself.

"Coach," Haase told Campanelli, "I want to play Sunday. My dad would've wanted me to play my first game against U.C.L.A."