Jayhawks’ spirits lifted by hosting Special Olympics Clinic
LAWRENCE, Kan. – A regular-season finale loss could not dampen the spirits of the Kansas men’s basketball team Sunday afternoon as the Jayhawks welcomed approximately 120 Special Olympians at the 34th Annual Wilt Chamberlain Special Olympics Clinic Sunday afternoon inside historic Allen Fieldhouse.
Ten teams from Special Olympics Kansas spent more than two hours with the nation’s sixth-ranked team as the goals were lowered in Allen Fieldhouse. Just a day before, the 2018 Big 12 regular-season champion Jayhawks lost at Oklahoma State, 82-64, but the Special Olympians made the loss seem insignificant.
Senior Devonte’ Graham cheered on the Olympians“Having this today is perfect timing,” KU head coach Bill Self said. “We’ve done it before when we lost on a Saturday and did this on a Sunday. We certainly feel much better after doing this. It’s always one of the day we look forward to the most.”
Following a high-five line with players and staff, the group participated in calisthenics and stretching led by the Jayhawks. The clinicians then broke up into their teams and rotated among stations such as ball handling, layups, free throws and dunks. The clinic concluded with the Jayhawks signing autographs for the Special Olympians.
“This is special,” KU senior Devonte’ Graham said. “This is my fourth year and every year it gets more fun to see these Special Olympians interact with us. It’s a good feeling.”
The annual Special Olympics clinic began in 1984 by former head coach Larry Brown. It was then renamed for KU legend Wilt Chamberlain, who left money from his estate to sustain the program.
Teams from all across the state of Kansas participated in the 2018 event. They included: Douglas County Jayhawks, Topeka Junior Blues, Leavenworth County Jayhawks, Olathe Trailblazers, JCPRD Rangers (Overland Park), Blue Valley Blue Streaks, Midwest Wildfires (Ottawa), Topeka/Shawnee, Haysville Hornets and the New Hope Bulldogs (Pittsburg).
“I believe our players get more out of it than the Special Olympians do,” Self said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Kansas (24-7, 13-5 Big 12) is the top seed for the 2018 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship, March 7-10, at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The Jayhawks will play in the quarterfinals of the event on Thursday, March 8, at 1:30 p.m. (Central). KU will face the winner of the No. 8 Oklahoma State vs. No. 9 Oklahoma game, which will be played Wednesday, March 7, at 6 p.m.
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