OUT OF THE PHOG.............                                   

BY TODD PANULA                                                                                        February 20, 2001

Hawks Make Crash Landing

Well once again I come to you from Mount Oread.  But this time I have very little good to report on our beloved Hawks.  As often happens in sport, the Jayhawks have hit a skid.  The way things are going right now resembles doing a bellyflop into a pool with no water.  But the high point for the Hawks, if any, is that this downward trend is not totally their fault.

First off the team has been hit by the injury bug.  For those who don't know about the injury bug, it is a horrible insect that tends to bite good players at the worst time.  After it's venom is injected, the team's play suffers and it has even been known to derail teams almost certainly bound for a championship.  This foul little bug has managed to get into the Hawk's nest.  It has taken out Luke Axtell and Drew Gooden, who is not only a great player but has been an emotional leader this season.  Add to that the fact that Mario Kinsey left the team due to academic reasons, and the Jayhawks have hardly any depth.  Kinsey may not have been a huge offensive threat, but he was a quick defender and could run the point adequately if Hinrich or Boshee were tired or in foul trouble. 

Axtell has once again been injured, his back now.  I know it's not his fault, but I honestly think he has missed more games the last few years than he's played.  Finally the loss of Drew Gooden has really hurt the team.  He was a rock of consistency that played hard at both ends of the court.  In his absence, Eric Chenowith has tried to step up, but his inconsistency has proved to be a dagger towards the Hawks.  But despite his many critics, and there are a lot here, he has improved. 

The Hawks have also been slowed by a team that will now most likely pass them in the rankings.  The Iowa State Cyclones have been hot recently and showed that against KU.  In my opinion their victories have been a combination of bad luck for the Hawks and good shooting on the part of the Cyclones.  The guards for Iowa State shot the lights out in both games, but the Hawks had a much better shooting percentage both times.  Mental mistakes and way too many turnovers led to the Hawks demise. 

The sudden absence of Axtell and Kinsey along with Gooden also marred the Hawks performance as well.  I honestly believe that the Hawks can defeat Iowa State, but they have to believe it and that is hard to do as the Cyclones are the only team to beat KU five times straight in Roy Williams' tenure as head coach.

As for the loss to Baylor, I really don't know what to say.  I will admit that the game made me too sick to watch most of it so I don't know exactly what we did wrong.  Obviously, not having Gooden hurt, but our shooting must have been horrendous.  The only bright spot from the game, as was pointed out to me by my barber, was the fact that we have a team good enough to score as many points as we did in the second half. 

Unfortunately this skid has come towards the end of the season.  The injury bug has done its job well as far as timing.  There is good and bad as to this bug.  It has given Gooden plenty of rest as well as Axtell.  The horrible thing is that it is unknown whether either will make it back.  I have heard both extremes.  Axtell might have only needed the one game to rest his back or he might be gone.  Same for Drew.  I have heard that the cast might come off Monday and he would play against Colorado on Wednesday and I've heard he might not return either. 

Right now it looks very unlikely that the Hawks will win the Big 12 regular season title.  They will have to win out the rest of the season and hope that the Cyclones lose three, since they obviously have the head to head tiebreaker.  The Jayhawks cannot afford to think about such things though.  They now need to take everything one game at a time because they could win out and still not win the conference.  If that happens they must concentrate on winning the tournament. 

The Jayhawks are by no means through with this season and if/when they get their wounded healthy they will once again be a force to be reckoned with. We still have, in my mind, one of the best shooting backcourts with Hinrich and Boshee.  Add in one of the taller tandem of big men and you've got a championship team.  The Hawks will have a tough road ahead of them that will be full of potholes.  But you can ask any team that has won and they all have stories about the bumps they hit.  Perseverance is all that is needed. Champions are looked at as the kings of the hill, and a quote from Gettysburg fits nicely for us:  "Sir if we can take that hill..." "We can, and we will." 

Until we meet next time when I come...


Todd Panula

Comments or questions may be sent to [email protected]. I will do my best to make any return comments as quickly as possible keeping schoolwork in mind.  Thank you.