Throwback Thursday

Sept. 23, 2010

Wayne Simien (men’s basketball, 2002-05)

Simien was selected to the All-Big 12 team in 2004 and 2005. His senior year he averaged 20.3 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. He was named the 2005 Big 12 Player of the Year and a consensus First Team All-American that season. Simien finished his career with averages of 15.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. He still ranks in the top five of many all-time KU career lists, including double-doubles, 30-point games and 10-rebound games. Simien also ranks in the top 10 in career rebounds and top 15 in career points. He was selected by the Miami Heat with the 29th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. He spent three seasons with the Heat, where he was a member of the 2006 World Championship team. Simien also spent one year playing in Spain before returning to Lawrence with his wife Katie. The couple, along with their three children, currently reside in Lawrence where Simien runs his Called To Greatness sports ministry.

What have you been doing since graduation?

“After I graduated I was drafted in 2005 by the Miami Heat. I went and played there for three seasons and in one of those seasons we won the World Championship, which was really cool. Then I went overseas to play in Spain. My wife lived in Spain for quite some time when she was a youth, so I went over there and played professionally for another year. Then I retired from professional basketball to go into the full-time ministry here in Lawrence at Morningstar Church. We have a sports ministry named “Called to Greatness” that I started for youth. I also do ministry here on KU’s campus. I got married in 2006 to Katie. We have a two year-old daughter named Selah, a one year-old daughter named Rael and a seven-month old son named Simon.”

Why did you choose to attend KU?

“I grew up in Leavenworth, Kan., which isn’t too far away from Lawrence. I grew up cheering for the Jayhawks, coming to the games and camps when I was a young kid. When I had the opportunity to come and play basketball here, I jumped right on it. I’m a Kansas kid so I wanted to go to school here.”

When did you first start playing basketball?

“I was probably six. My dad was a pretty good college basketball player and got me interested in the game. It started out as something fun that he and I did together as father and son in the driveway. Then I began to excel at the game and he began to teach me more. I began to enjoy it and then it became a tool for me to use to get a great college education and to go on to be a professional for a while.”

What was the highlight of your KU playing career?

“I guess it’s all right if I can’t narrow one down because all of them were really good. Obviously the Final Fours were really great; two Final Fours, three Big 12 Championships, never losing to Kansas State. Senior Night was great. I really can’t put my thumb on one particular moment but I remember my college experience really exceeding any expectations I had coming in. One of my favorite things about the college experience, more so than the success we were able to have as teams, was the camaraderie that was built between teammates and the family-type atmosphere. We were like brothers in that locker room on all of the teams that we had. We had a lot of great moments on the court and off the court. We even had some tough moments that we had to battle back from. Those types of memories and relationships that were cultivated over that four-year time frame here is one of the things that I really hold closest to me.”

Do you still keep in touch with your former teammates?

“Absolutely. Several of the guys still live around here in the Lawrence-Kansas City area. Some of the guys are still playing professionally. That’s one of the reasons that I’m really excited about the 2004 team being inducted into the Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame this weekend. It will be great being able to get those guys back together, see how our families have grown, see how life has been going and tell a few stories as well.”

What does it mean to be inducted in the Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame as an entire team?

“It’s great to be able to do that. The 2002 and 2003 teams that I was on were already inducted. The overall legacy that not just Kansas basketball has, but Kansas Athletics in general, the richness of that, being able to have your team considered one of the best is a great honor. I’m excited not only to be a part of that but to share the honors with other guys like Charlie Gruber, Harold Patterson and some of the other inductees will be a great moment.”

The 2004 team being inducted was also Bill Self’s first year at KU. What was the transition like?

“It was a difficult transition but it was great to be a part of that new era of Kansas basketball, coming in, still continuing to have great success and to see Kansas basketball still meet its high standard. I know a lot of coaching changes might not be able to sustain that, especially when you’ve had such a great coach as Roy Williams be here for so long. It was really exciting to be a part of that, to get Coach Self and have another amazing coach come in and then continue to see the program’s success with him at the helm.”

What are your thoughts on the Allen Fieldhouse renovations and the Booth Hall of Athletics?

“They did a tremendous job getting everything nice and shiny around here. It’s great how they were able to keep the tradition of Allen Fieldhouse but then also bring a little more flare to it as well. It really makes it enjoyable, particularly for alumni when they come back to be able to take their families and their friends through the Booth Hall of Athletics and share the tradition of KU Athletics with other people they love.”

Why did you choose to come back to Lawrence?

“We had lived in a number of places across the country and the world. We really loved each and every one of the cities we lived in but I had established a lot of roots here with my hometown being so close, my roots with the university and the relationships I had with the ministry I’m involved with. Of course, Lawrence is a great town, too. It just seemed like the perfect location to put our own roots down as a family and we plan on being here for a while.”

What are your future plans?

“We’re going to stay the course with the ministry and continue to raise and grow our family. We hope to have some more children and continue to support Kansas Athletics and the university in general.”