Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Kansas unfazed by media spotlight

The Associated Press

        LAWRENCE, Kan. — Jeff Boschee moved smoothly from a national radio interview to a press conference. Kansas' shooting guard fielded questions ranging from 3-point shooting, to the Jayhawks' Final Four matchup with Maryland, to a couple who named their infant daughter “Deavynn Boschee Christine Schlesener.”

        “It's flattering,” Boschee said. “I guess it's a credit to what I've accomplished here in my career and what the team has accomplished.”

        The Jayhawks have handled the media crush all season and are about to step onto a bigger stage, making their first Final Four appearance since 1993.

        Kansas players have had a sampling of what to expect from the national media from their fans in Lawrence.

        The Jayhawks are treated like a boy band — especially Boschee, the team's designated heartthrob.

        “They crowd in on us, scream at us, grab at us,” forward Nick Collison said. “It's good to know that those people support you, but sometimes it's tough when all those people are up in your face, screaming for an autograph from like a foot away.”

        The Jayhawks have received plenty of national attention throughout the season with media reporting on the squad that spent a number of weeks as the top-ranked team.

        “It seems like you just keep answering the same questions over and over,” guard Kirk Hinrich said Tuesday. “It's a good problem to have, though.”

        In addition to basic statistical information, Jayhawks fans now know All-American forward Drew Gooden spends his summers in Finland with his mother's family, and that coach Roy Williams once threatened to send him back to Oakland on a bus if he didn't buy into Kansas' game plan.

        Gooden doesn't shy away from the attention — and if he gets a bit prickly fielding questions about the Jayhawks' inside toughness, he generally remains gracious even through long interview sessions.

        “Coach told me that I was going to get a lot of media attention this year, and the media can either make you or break you,” Gooden said. “So I try to get along with the media and not turn anybody down. I know everybody's got a job to do.”

        Fans also know that Boschee and Hinrich have had dates interrupted by fans, and that there was a Boschee impostor was on the Internet — until the university tracked the culprit down and put a stop to it.

        The Jayhawks, and even Williams, seem more amused than distracted by the offbeat questions and the spotlight.

        “This team's composed of old guys and a couple of freshmen who have really handled themselves well this year,” Boschee said. “We don't let the media hype get to our heads. We've still got a job to do.”

        That job, Collison said, is winning the Jayhawks' first national title since 1988.

        “We realize how close we are to our goal, and we realize we can enjoy the journey and get into the media hype after the season,” he said. “We realize now that it's all about basketball.”

        That's exactly what Williams wants to hear.

        “I think this team's mature enough to handle the attention,” he said. “Every once in a while, they'll say a little bit more than maybe they should.”


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