Seniors Travis Releford and Jeff Withey highlighted the annual Kansas men’s basketball banquet before a capacity crowd of more than 600 at the Holiday Inn in Lawrence Monday evening.
Kansas coach Bill Self started his speech congratulating the 2012-13 Jayhawks on their many accomplishments but clearly had the victims from the bombing incident which happened earlier Monday at the Boston Marathon on his mind.
“This team maximized their abilities and played to their ceiling about as well as any team that I have ever had in my 20 years of being a head coach,” Self said. “This is a somber day from what has taken place elsewhere, but it should be a very happy day to honor these young men who represented all of us the past four or five years.”
Kansas went 31-6 in 2012-13 and became the first team in NCAA Division I history to record four straight 30 win seasons (note: Memphis did it from 2006-09 yet later vacated the 2007-08 season). KU won its ninth-consecutive Big 12 regular-season title, tying Kansas State with a 14-4 record. The Jayhawks won their ninth Big 12 postseason championship and advanced to its 24th-straight NCAA Tournament. KU’s nine-straight league titles and 24 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances are the longest active streaks in NCAA Division I.
“We are not just a powerhouse,” Kansas Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger told the crowd. “We are the most consistent powerhouse in the nation.”
Following Zenger’s welcome, dinner and a highlight video, Self talked highlights of the season and all four KU seniors – Elijah Johnson, Releford, Withey and Kevin Young. He then recognized the players’ parents and men’s basketball staff before introducing the non-seniors on the team. Each senior then addressed the crowd.
Last year, Self told the crowd that there will only be one award given at the annual banquet, the Danny Manning “Mr. Jayhawk” Award recognizing the most influential players on and off the court for KU. On Monday, he named Withey and Releford as the 2012-13 recipients. Besides the traditional silver bowl given for the award, Withey also received his National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) co-Defensive Player of the Year trophy and a basketball which included his many blocked shots records and accomplishments while a Kansas.
The Most Outstanding Player of the 2013 Big 12 Championship, Withey led Kansas in rebounding at 8.5 boards per game to complement his 13.7 scoring average. The 7-foot San Diego native broke his own Kansas and Big 12 single-season record blocked shots record with 146 blocks in 2012-13. Last season Withey blocked 140 shots to set the school and league mark. The 2012 and 2013 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Withey is also the KU and Big 12 career blocked shots leader ending his career with 312 all-time blocks. A three-time Big 12 Player of the Week this season, Withey led the Big 12 with 3.95 blocked shots per game, which ranks second nationally, and set the KU and conference per game average season record. Last week Withey was named Consensus All-America Second Team along with KU redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore.
Releford was a 2013 All-Big 12 Second Team selection who was also a member of the Big 12 All-Defensive Team. The 6-foot-6 Kansas City, Mo., referred to as “the rock” by Self and many for his defensive prowess, averaged 11.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game his senior season. Named the most valuable player of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic and later the Big 12 Player of the Week early in the season, Releford led Kansas with 47 steals.
Following the event, players and coaches took photos and signed autographs for many of the patrons in attendance.