Book Review

jerod_haase_floor_burns.jpg (17560 bytes) Floor Burns: Inside the Life of a Kansas Jayhawk
By Jerod Haase & Mark Horvath
H & H Enterprises
photos and text
Retail cost: paperback $19.95
220 pages

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Floor Burns, by Jerod Haase and Mark Horvath, takes us inside the 1996-97 Kansas University Jayhawks basketball season. What makes this book such a unique and fascinating read is that it doesnít follow the trend of many recent books on college basketball. Instead of telling the story through the eyes of a prominent sportswriter and focusing primarily on the head coach, Floor Burns gives us the perspective of someone who is actually playing the game. Jerod Haase, one of the Jayhawk co-captains, gives us a feel for what he experiences as a member of one of the top programs in America.

The book takes the form of a diary in which Haase shares his thoughts about his team, his senior season, and the quest for a national championship. After a brief introduction from co-author Mark Horvath, an Indiana high school teacher and KU basketball fan, the story of the season takes the form of Haaseís journal, written in the first person and from the heart.

The book really gives us a feeling of what makes up this Kansas team. From the stars, like Jacque Vaughn, Raef LaFrentz, and Scot Pollard, to walk-ons Steve Ransom and Joel Branstrom, Haase gives us a sense of what each is like as a teammate, a person, and a friend. We learn of the personal relationships which develop and the strong feelings that the players have for each other and for the team. He tells of Vaughnís pre-season wrist injury which would keep him out of the early games and of how his friendship with Vaughn grows in their final season together. He relays how reserve Ryan Robertson moves into Vaughnís starting position, and then back to a backup role, all without disrupting the team. We also learn about the free spirit of Scot Pollard and the quiet demeanor of Paul Pierce. We learn of the highs that accompany the number one ranking, the pressures that go with it, and the lows that come with the bumps in the road, and eventually the NCAA tournament loss to Arizona.

The thing which really stands out, however, is not so much the on-court activities of the Jayhawks. Instead, we get a glimpse of the private lives of Haase and his teammates. From a cliff diving excursion to a bowling outing, we get the picture of a close knit group that shares more with each other than the basketball. We see young athletes from all types of backgrounds bond with each other as they pursue a common goal. We also see the respect that Haase has for his coach, Roy Williams, and the entire coaching staff. Even when Haase hints at disagreeing with the coaches, he still respects their decisions and defers to their judgment.

We also get to see Jerod Haase from the inside. From the tremendous excitement and anticipation he feels for his senior season, to the frustrations and disappointments which sometimes creep in, the book gives us the sense that we really are in touch with Jerod. He often flashes back to his past: playing days at South Tahoe High School and the University of California, times spent growing up with family and friends, and the tragedy of his fatherís death. He touches on the less glamourous aspects of playing major college basketball, such as the time demands, the feeling of always being in the public eye, and the occasional absence of college social life. He also shares with us what he was going through as he endured a wrist injury which became progressively worse as the season wore on. Finally, we experience a little of the sadness, emptiness, and frustration that Jerod feels as his dream season ends up shy of its goal.

This book is a great read for not only Jerod Haase fans and Kansas Jayhawk fans, but for all fans of college athletics. In fact, if you arenít a Jerod Haase fan when you start the book, you will be by the time you finish. He not only gives us an insight into the deepest feelings of a high profile college athlete, but in doing so reveals in himself an image of everything that is and can be good in college sports today.