Ellis’ Announcement Caps KU 2015 Basketball Banquet

The end-of-season basketball awards banquet has always been a fun tradition at the University of Kansas. It’s a way for the players to gather as a complete team one final time and spend time with the fans who have watched them play all year. Limited ticket availability gives priority to season ticket holders and Williams Fund donors, and I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for the second year in a row.

Located at the Holiday Inn in Lawrence, the 2015 Kansas banquet was held on Monday, April 13, 2015. Players began arriving at 6:00 and immediately were approached by roughly 400 people in attendance. Some were after autographs, but most were season ticket holders looking to just chat with the athletes. My 71-year-old grandmother, a KU season ticket holder since 1989, had a good five-minute conversation with Landen Lucas about school and life at home. I overheard people asking Hunter Mickelson where his favorite hunting grounds are, and others complemented Wayne Selden Jr. on his eyes. Fans congratulated Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander for entering the NBA Draft early, while a young boy of about seven or so chased down head coach Bill Self in pursuit of an autograph. For roughly 30 minutes, the players posed for pictures, signed autographs, and talked with the fans about all sorts of subjects. It’s part of the reason why Kansas is such a special place for basketball – the players give so much back to the fans who support them each and every winter.

At 6:30, everyone was seated and dinner was served. A 25-minute highlight recap of Kansas’ 2014-15 season was shown, and immediately after, Jayhawks’ radio announcer Bob Davis introduced Bill Self. KU’s head coach spoke for about an hour, breezing through his favorite (or least favorite) moments from the Jayhawks’ 2014-15 campaign:

Self reiterated that at Kansas, a school with basketball expectations as high as any other, a very successful season had just taken place. One of his best quotes was how instead of looking at it as 11 straight Big 12 championships, this group of Jayhawks had just won its first. Self pridefully insisted that it was very impressive how Kansas was still able to win the league despite inconsistency from freshman and injuries to its best players, and he called the Big 12 “the best it had ever been” in 2015. Following the season recap, Self recognized each of his players, throwing in sarcastic comments to even out the hearty complements. He congratulated Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander for their decisions to enter the NBA Draft, but he also reminded the KU fans in attendance that the Jayhawks would be a very dangerous team next year because of their returning talent:

At the end of the banquet, Self awarded Perry Ellis the Danny Manning Award, given yearly to the most valuable Jayhawk. Ellis led the team in both scoring and rebounding this year, but an injury limited his performance down the stretch of the season. He was the only Jayhawk to not have announced his decision to either declare for the NBA Draft or return for a senior season, but when he took the stage to give a quick speech, he dropped the news:

What followed was the loudest round of applause that I’ve ever heard at a KU banquet. There were 75-year-old ladies who were fist-pumping into the air and screaming at the top of their lungs – all because a 21-year-old college basketball player opted to return to school. That’s what basketball is at Kansas. It’s what makes Allen Fieldhouse so great. It’s what makes KU tradition so great. These fans love their Jayhawks, and that will never change:

Upon exiting the banquet, I talked about a feeling of optimism that flowed through the building as people flooded out of the hotel. The realization that the Jayhawks could be a special team really started to set in. Perry Ellis’ decision to return not only solidifies Kansas as a likely top-five team in the preseason polls, but it’s the first moment in what could be a very dangerous season for the other teams in the Big 12.

At Kansas, basketball never stops. The mood at the KU banquet proved exactly that.

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Ryan Landreth

I’m a recent graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University. In addition to writing for Rock Chalk Blog, I host the Inside the Paint podcast that covers KU basketball, and I write for Royals Review in the summer. My grandma has had season tickets to Jayhawk basketball for 30 years, and I have the privilege of going to most games with her.