Surprise! Uninvited Kansas looks to crash NCAA party

What you want in a basketball team, Kansas' Mike Maddox says, the Jayhawks have got it. What you need, the Jayhawks have got it.

All they're asking for, as they approach this weekend's NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis, is a little respect.


"Everybody wants respect," Maddox said recently. "People don't even talk about us. It's like we're not even here. It's something that makes you upset. It's something that makes you play harder."

For such a clean-cut and relaxed young man, Maddox seems to be angry a lot of the time, usually about how the rest of the basketball world views his team.


Maddox, a 6-foot-7 senior forward from Oklahoma City, and his Kansas teammates have taken a series of perceived slights during the last two weeks and used them to fuel a run to a possible second national championship in four years.

"The card here doesn't say New Orleans, it doesn't say Pittsburgh and it doesn't say Indiana," said Maddox, referring to three of the four teams that Kansas dispatched to win the Southeast Regional and advance to the Final Four.

"I mean, nobody thought we'd win any of those games. There's no surprise to us that people are surprised that we've won."

Perhaps the biggest slap to Jayhawk pride came when Arkansas center Oliver Miller was quoted as saying he was disappointed Kansas had beaten the Hoosiers, because the top-seeded Razorbacks had wanted to beat Bobby Knight. Miller said Arkansas would serve Kansas the beating the Razorbacks had intended for Indiana.

The quote was picked up by Kansas coach Roy Williams, who made sure to post it in the Jayhawks' locker room. And although Arkansas jumped out to a 12-point halftime lead in last Saturday's regional championship game, Kansas battled back to win going away, 93-81.

"I bet they're really disappointed they didn't play Indiana now," Maddox quipped afterward.

On a team with players the caliber of regional most valuable player Alonzo Jamison, backcourt bookends Terry Brown and Adonis Jordan and fellow senior forward Mark Randall, Maddox is hardly a star. His 7.5-point and 3.2-rebound averages bear witness to that.

But Maddox is doing all the little things that need to be done for a team like Kansas to get to the Final Four. Though weighing only 200 pounds, Maddox -- an All-Big Eight Academic Team member with a 3.25 grade-point average in business administration -- has been known to set fierce picks in the Jayhawks' regimented offensive system.


"We have a lot of offensive sets, but if they don't work, we go into a motion offense," Maddox said. "We set a lot of picks, so our opponents had better get ready to get hit a couple of times."

Both Maddox and Randall were part of the 1988 NCAA championship squad, though Randall was a medical redshirt who did not play for most of the season. Maddox, however, did see time in the title game against Oklahoma, playing just one minute and one defensive sequence, in which he fouled Stacey King.

"Then I came back to the bench and started cheering again," said Maddox.

Maddox, who plans to be married in August and attend law school next fall, says he sees parallels in this current Jayhawks club and the team that won the championship. "It's a very exciting time. Our team has a lot of confidence, like we did in '88.

"We didn't get much respect at the end of that year, either," Maddox said. "Nobody expected us to win the national championship then either.

"It's funny, but I looked in the paper the other day and I saw the odds about who thinks we're going to win the championship. My freshman year, the odds were 50-1. This year, it's 30-1, so maybe we're getting more respect."


Of course, with the pleasure of winning the title in 1988 came the next year's shame of being the first school to be unable to defend its championship because of NCAA recruiting sanctions, which prohibited Kansas from playing in the 1989 tournament.

Coach Larry Brown left for the San Antonio Spurs, and Kansas gave Williams, a longtime assistant at North Carolina, his first college head coaching job. Maddox said it was "difficult" for the Jayhawks to play in 1989, knowing that the season would end with the Big Eight tournament. But Kansas achieved a 19-12 mark in Williams' first year.

"That was a year that we could have given up knowing that we didn't have anything to look forward to," said Maddox. "But we stayed together and played hard."

Maddox retains some bitterness for the NCAA ruling that kept Kansas out of the tournament in view of this year's decision to postpone sanctions against defending champion UNLV.

"I don't think that's fair. We weren't allowed to do that," said Maddox. "I don't understand how the rules can be changed like that for different people."

He'll get his chance to exact his revenge and get some R-E-S-P-E-C-T this weekend.