Native Kansans Shine on Senior Night

March 3, 2011


It couldn’t be more fitting that a kid who grew up just miles from Allen Fieldhouse and another who was raised just a car ride away, were the stars of senior night, Wednesday.

Tyrel Reed from Burlington, Kan., and Brady Morningstar from Lawrence combined for a total of 21 points, eight assists and five rebounds in KU’s 64-51 victory over Texas A&M.

“It is a pretty special night when you can win seven in a row to send these seniors out in style,” Kansas Head Coach Bill Self said after his team clinched at least a tie for their seventh consecutive Big 12 regular season title.

Special it was, especially for Reed, who arrived in Lawrence four years ago as just a skinny 170-pound kid from Burlington. Fast forward four seasons and 857 points, the now 190-pound senior took the microphone at mid-court to make the traditional senior speech in front of the sellout crowd of 16,300 at the Fieldhouse.

“At first I was really scared,” Reed said. “As just a small kid from Kansas, I did not really know if I was going to fit in with all my teammates.”

Reed, who contributed 12 points and grabbed four steals in the senior night victory, ended up fitting in quite well and in the process became one of the biggest favorites among fans at the Fieldhouse. For the small town kid, these past four years have literally been a dream come true.

“I grew up an hour away and was Paul Pierce in my backyard,” he said. “I idolized those guys and I was just so thankful that Coach Self offered me a scholarship here and helped me play at the University of Kansas like I always wanted to.”

“His dad told me when we signed him we would win at least one national championship,” Coach Self said.

That championship would come in 2008 during Reed’s freshman season at Kansas, and as fellow senior and Kansas native Brady Morningstar hinted to after the game as he was thanking the coaching staff, it would be nice to go out with titles as bookends to his and Reed’s careers.

“Coach D. (Danny Manning), I want to thank you for all you have done and I just hope we get to go out like you did,” Morningstar said.

Morningstar is referring to the National Championship that Manning and Coach Larry Brown, who was also on hand to witness senior night, won in 1988.

Morningstar closed out his final performance at the Phog with nine points to go along with his four assists and a career-high four steals.

Brady, the son of Roger Morningstar who played with the Jayhawks from 1973-75, bested his dad in Morningstar senior night history. The son’s nine-point stat line Wednesday night edged his father’s eight points he scored during his senior night at Allen Fieldhouse on March 8, 1975 against Oklahoma.

Poking fun at the Morningstar’s age, Coach Self said after the game that the 25-year-old is the oldest player he has ever coached.

“Roger and Linda (his parents) must have redshirted him when he was about six years old,” he said.

Switching to a more serious tone, Self described what an important part of the team the Free State High School graduate is to his team.

“I promise you there is no way we would be 157-21 the last five years if it was not for Brady Morningstar,” Self said. “He will definitely go down as one of my all-time favorites.”

While Morningstar has been a part of an impressive 157-wins in the Crimson and Blue in five seasons (one as a redshirt), Reed has seen fans chant ‘Rock Chalk Jayhawk’ following 125 games during his Jayhawk career and now sits just a NCAA Tournament run away from passing former Jayhawk Sherron Collins (2006-10), who has 130 victories under his belt for the title of all-time winningest KU basketball player.

Rather than all the victories, Coach Self thinks what Reed did off the court is what he will most be remembered for.

“To think that a young kid from Burlington, Kansas has all these dreams to come to KU and play, it is fitting that for the rest of eternity, Tyrel Reed’s name will hang in Allen Fieldhouse,” his coach said.

Self is referring to the banner that hangs to the right of the five national championships, that reads ‘Academic All-American First Team’, that the 6-3 guard was named to last week. Reed joins 14 other Jayhawks to garner such honors including his former roommate Cole Aldrich who was named to the team last season and now plays for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.

No matter what kind of final stats the two seniors from the Sunflower State ended up with in their final game in Allen Fieldhouse, the 16,300 fans inside made sure they knew how much the two have meant to the program during the past four to five seasons as they, along with fellow senior Mario Little, were given rousing ovations as they were subbed out with just 26 seconds remaining in the game Wednesday night.

“Is it not amazing that regardless of who you recruit, you have to have a kid from Lawrence and a kid from Burlington, Kansas in the game in order for you to look good?” Coach Self asked in his post-game press conference. “

The two Kansas kids, as well as the one from the streets of Chicago, will look to close out their regular season KU careers with a win against their most heated rival in Columbia, Mo., Saturday morning for a chance to win the Big 12 outright.