It's been lollipops and rainbows in Lawrence since coach Roy
Williams turned down an offer to coach at North Carolina. Never
mind that last year's Jayhawks lost 10 games, couldn't play
pressure defense and folded on the road more often than a towable
camper. This year's team should win the Big 12 and plow through
at least a few NCAA tournament rounds. Why? Because senior
swingman Luke Axtell spent the summer healing, and senior center
Eric Chenowith spent the summer toiling.
The 7'1", 270-pound Chenowith was a huge disappointment last
year, mostly because he rested on his laurels after making
second-team All-Big 12. "His body fat went up six percent,"
Williams says, "and his vertical jump went down three inches."
Two weeks into practice Williams showed Chenowith a "lowlights
tape"--scenes of the center fumbling passes, getting pushed out of
the lane and missing dunks. By early February, Chenowith had lost
his starting job and was hearing scattered boos when he entered
home games. He admits, "I was supposed to be dominating, and I
Enter the new, improved Chenowith. This summer he lifted weights,
trained at the Pete Newell Big Man Camp and scrimmaged in L.A.
with some of the Portland Trail Blazers. Now, teammates say,
Chenowith can once again finish plays with an explosive dunk.
"Eric's regained his confidence," says Williams. To say nothing
of his vertical leap.
As for Axtell, the 6'10" swingman missed 14 games last year with
an undisclosed medical condition, depriving the Jayhawks of his
mismatch-making outside shot. "Now he's playing with energy again
and shooting lights out," says guard Kirk Hinrich.
Add Axtell and Chenowith to four other returning key players, and
you have a team able to play tall or small. "We still lack that
stopper mentality," says Williams, "but I have high
POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT
SF [*]Kenny Gregory 6'5" Sr. 12.8 ppg
PF [*]Nick Collison 6'9" So. 6.9 rpg
C [*]Eric Chenowith 7'1" Sr. 8.6 ppg
SG [*]Jeff Boschee 6'1" Jr. 10.0 ppg
PG [*]Kirk Hinrich 6'3" So. 3.6 apg
1999-2000 record: 24-10 Final rank (coaches' poll): unranked