I’m a short, old, slow guy who’s eternally cursed with
a love for a game for tall, young, fast guys.
I was born in Ashland, Kansas in 1941, and later moved to Topeka, Kansas
where I attended Topeka High School (class of ’59) and Washburn University (BBA
’67). In between, I spent
three years in Europe, courtesy of the US Army.
I then went to graduate school at KU, getting an MS in Business in 1970.
Upon graduating from KU, I landed in Des
Moines as the
State Registrar and Director of Records and Statistics with the Iowa State
Department of Health. After two
years, I went to work for the Iowa Hospital Association for 14 years, Blue Cross
Blue Shield for six years, and then owned and operated an insurance firm,
providing consulting and educational services, while spending
considerable time teaching business and healthcare
policy at two local universities.
considerable time teaching business and healthcare policy at two local universities.
When I was ten years old, my Dad and I
drove from western Kansas to Lawrence to see the University of Kansas Jayhawks
play. The year was 1951. I was becoming a fan then, listening to most of their games
on radio (TV didn’t reach out that far then).
The Jayhawks played in Hoch Auditorium, and its small capacity was
overflowing -- with people and
excitement. Big Clyde Lovellette
and Dean Kelley were the stars that night as they won, on the way to a 16-8
record. The next year they won
the NCAA national championship and went on to the Olympics! I was hooked forever as a KU basketball junkie.
At Topeka High, we had what was reported to be the tallest
high school basketball team in the US, averaging 6’5” (extremely tall for
that era). The starting center was
6’5 Fred Slaughter, who later went to UCLA as a starter on the first of their
long string of national championships. The
off guard was 6’3 Jim Dumas who later started for KU.
His brother Fred, at 6’0 the shortest starter, was the point guard. The
power forward was 6’8 Owen Quick, who went on to star for Washburn.
The team went undefeated (26-0) and won the state tournament.
During that time, Wilt Chamberlain starred for KU.
On several occasions he attended Topeka HS basketball games (KU was
heavily recruiting Slaughter). It
was rumored that he bedded some of my classmates.
I didn’t even come close to making the team at THS, but did play a lot
of basketball in the Army. The
highlight of my career was guarding Bobby Joe Hill who had starred earlier at
Bradley. (He torched me for 30+ points in the Battalion championship
game). After the Army, I played
YMCA ball until I reached about 43, at which time I decided to retire as I was
getting to be the last guy chosen.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to see the Jayhawks up close. Chamberlain played when I attended Topeka High School, JoJo White starred when I was in graduate school at KU, and Danny Manning excelled while both my daughters attended Kansas. My oldest daughter was in the same class as Manning, and the youngest two years behind. So, from ’84 through ’90, I spent a lot of time in Lawrence. Living in Iowa, I also had the great opportunity to see Raef LaFrentz, Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich during their high school years.
Both daughters married Jayhawkers, and we now have six thoroughbred Jayhawk grandchildren, one of which is now a third-generation Jayhawker. One son-in-law starred on the KU diving team, and the other served as backup quarterback on the KU football team from 1987 to 1989 (he had the misfortune of being there at the same time as Kelly Donahue ). He’s now the head football coach at Holland Hall High School in Tulsa, which won their league championship last year.
Kenneth N. Johnson