Kansas Men’s Hoops Host 30th Wilt Chamberlain Special Olympics Clinic
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas men’s basketball played host to 100 Special Olympians at the 30th Wilt Chamberlain Special Olympics Clinic Sunday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse.
The annual Special Olympics clinic began in 1984 by former Kansas men’s basketball head coach Larry Brown. It was then renamed for Chamberlain, who left money from his estate to sustain the program.
Prior to the 2014 clinic, Special Olympian Chevi Peters from the New Hope team in Pittsburg, Kan., 2013 Big 12 Special Olympian of the Year Beckah Henderson from the Topeka Junior Blues and Chris Hahn, president and CEO of Special Olympics Kansas, presented KU head coach Bill Self with a plaque commemorating the 30-year history of the event. The plaque included photos KU coaches Brown, Roy Williams and Self with Special Olympians from past clinics.
“I’ve always wanted to be part of a team,” the 29-year-old Peters, who has endured 38 surgeries, told the crowd when presenting the plaque to Self. “Special Olympics has allowed that dream to come true. In addition to being part of a team, Special Olympics has extra cool things athletes can do. The KU Clinic is one of those cool things. You have touched the lives of thousands of Special Olympic athletes and friends in the past 30 years. Thank you for being cool and spending your Sunday afternoon with us.”
The Special Olympians at the 2014 clinic represented just a portion of 10 different programs from throughout the state of Kansas. Teams gathered from Derby, Wichita, Olathe, Douglas County, Topeka, Pittsburg and other Kansas communities to spend a few hours with the No. 8 Jayhawks who they cheer on throughout the season.
“There are so many great traditions around here and this is certainly one of them,” Self said. “This is one our players really enjoy doing. No matter what kind of day you are having; no matter what’s going on, this certainly takes priority on a Sunday afternoon. I think we get as much out of it as the (Special Olympic) athletes do.”
The goals in Allen Fieldhouse were lowered as the Special Olympians stretched with the Jayhawks, worked on basketball skills and scrimmaged for two-plus hours on legendary Naismith Court. Before, during and after, the participants were able to take pictures and get autographs from the KU’s nationally-ranked team and staff.
“It’s always fun to come out here,” KU sophomore Jamari Traylor said. “I enjoy everybody’s smiles. It feels good to come out here and have some fun with these guys.”
The Wilt Chamberlain Special Olympics Clinic is just one of many community service activities that the Kansas men’s basketball team, coaches and staff participate in each year.
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