Jayhawks aplenty at Rock Chalk Roundball Classic
LAWRENCE, Kan. – More than 40 former KU basketball players and coaches dating back six decades drew the attention of a sold-out Lawrence Free State High School gymnasium at the ninth annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic to fight cancer Thursday evening.
The Rock Chalk Roundball Classic is an annual fundraiser that benefit local families who are dealing with cancer. The event is spearheaded by the Voice of the Jayhawks, Brian Hanni. This year’s event included five families Hanni referred to as “the starting five.”
The 1,600-plus in attendance enjoyed a basketball exhibition game that included former KU All-America selections such as Drew Gooden, Sherron Collins, Wayne Simien, Bud Stallworth, Perry Ellis, Ben McLemore and Cole Aldrich. Twelve members from the 2008 NCAA National Champion Jayhawks and head coach Bill Self were honored as the upcoming 2017-18 season marks the 10th anniversary of the title run. Included were 2008 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Mario Chalmers and fellow 2008 starters Darnell Jackson and Russell Robinson.
“It was our best event ever in terms of number of players and the quality of the players speaks for itself,” Hanni said. “Hopefully that will show up when everything is tabulated and we can give that final total to these kids. Our goal this year was $40,000 with five beneficiaries, which would be $8,000 for every family. I think we are going to come very close.”
Included in the more than six decades of KU men’s basketball represented was former KU coach Ted Owens who guided the Jayhawks from 1964-83. Other honorary coaches from the Owens era were Stallworth and Roger Morningstar who played for Owens in the 1970s. The 1980s and 1990s had players such as Mark Randall, Kenny Gregory and Billy Thomas participate with many other players from the early 2000s and the Self period.
“This is my third time at this event. I’m happy and blessed to be here with the atmosphere and the fans and interacting with all these players from different eras,” Jackson said. “This is a great cause. You see all these families that have gone through trials and tribulations. We can come in here and put a smile on their face, even though they are in pain with this terrible disease.”
Though former men’s basketball players took the spotlight, KU Athletics was well represented with administrators, coaches and former student-athletes from a wide variety of sports participating and supporting the event.
“It will be a sense of relief when we get to that $40,000 total,” Hanni said. “Cole Aldrich came up to me today and said, ‘Brian, I have had so much fun already this week, I talked to my wife, Brit, and we want to write a personal check for $1,500.’ Its stuff like that that blows you away and makes you realize how awesome some of our Jayhawk ambassadors are. Those are the highlights of this week for me. Those and seeing ‘the starting five’ get introduced with all five beneficiaries running out and the generosity of Cole and Sherron (Collins) who on the spot, impromptu, gave us a $500 donation of one of his KU jerseys. That’s what it is all about. Those are the magical moments of tonight.”
“This was unbelievable. To see former guys and different generations of Jayhawks together,” Robinson said. “This was a great experience and I am happy for all the families that were honored.”
Fans can learn more about the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic and its assistance to benefit local families fighting cancer and how to donate to the cause by going to its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rockchalkroundballclassic.
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