Recalling Frank and Respecting Devonte

  • Comedians know there are acts you do NOT want to follow.

    Sam Kinison was one.

    He burned down the club and then blew it up as he left. The next comic walked into a charred crater of laugh destruction in front of the standard brick wall. The next comic might as well have put on a blind fold and asked for a last cigarette. He was as unlikely to top Kinison, as a mountaineer was to climb higher than Sir Edmund Hillary. It doesn’t get any higher than Everest.

    So: Frank Mason was a rags to riches story perhaps unprecedented in college basketball history. He backs out of a commitment to Towson State, comes to KU, fights through the great players and tradition of the cradle of college basketball coaching AND IMHO college basketball, where the court is named after a coach and AD that invented the flipping game, and the former nowhere man of Towson State becomes legendary for mental toughness, clutch performance comparable to George Brett at the bat, and physical endurance approaching that of Merrill’s Marauders. Frank balled two teams to 30 win seasons and hyper-balled himself to NPOY and an early jersey hang. Then as if to say, while standing at a roulette wheel in sucker town, and already way ahead in chips, he said, let it all ride on crimson and watch me take it to Lebron in the L.

    You can’t make that sort of shizzle up!

    Excellence in any field is a tough act to follow.

    Just ask Bill Self.

    Roy, despite his masked recruiting “issues,” and failure to win the big one, and a deceitful exit, was nonetheless awarded the deity treatment by most in KU basketball, when the Edmonton Kid rode into town grinning and spinning about how the high-low game of Eddie and Hank and Bill were going to keep KU on the map despite the incredible 15 year run of 80% winning by Roy and his “Carolina System.” Self ignored his dad’s loving (and sage) advice to turn down the KU job, because those KU fans would never be satisfied with anything short of perfection. Self, to put it bluntly, walked into a great and storied basketball program at one of its peaks and said angels may fear to tread here, but I don’t.

    Self, you see, had looked out of the wrong end of a rebuilding telescope once at ORU, and knew first hand how: a.) lucky he had been to survive that career move; and b.) how much better it was later to start with something, rather than nothing, and when possible, with a lot rather than a little. The Edmonton Kid had been educated in side the protective walls of Gallagher-Iba Cathedral, where the Okie Baller faithful understood and cherished what few beyond the sacred spring of Stillwater had even heard of. They loved you in Stillwater, even when the team sucked. The Edmonton kid became Friar Bill and soaked up Oklahoma Hard Scrabble in the Basketball Gothic Monastery of Arch Bishop Iba, while assisting both Bishop Sutton and Father Leonard, and then as is the habit of the Okie Baller basketball order, was sent packing, ordained as Father Bill, into the basketball wilderness of Tulsa twice, for a little trial by rebuilding fire under the fundamentalist gaze of a man suitably named after the human oriffice from which the word of god emits–Oral Roberts. Bill learned from Henry Iba and Oral Roberts–two men who had followed the toughest acts in their respective fields–Iba against Allen, and Roberts against two thousand years of Catholic Popes and 400 years of Reformation Protestant ministers, especially Martin Luther–and held his own in an oil town in a state created with the snap of a finger by Thomas and Andrew Mellon. The Edmonton Kid hereafter known as Coach Bill learned that tough acts can be followed, if one is really good, and if one works really hard, and if one eats struggle for breakfast, lunch, dinner and communion.

    Thus, a stage was set by a most unforeseeable chain of events to give one, young, mop topped, baby faced, child-man his own epic sized cross to bear, and greatest opportunity to overcome adversity and so become a champion of the human spirit and a peer, maybe even a transcender of demigods, like Frank Mason.

    Without Roy Williams sterling precedent, Bill Self would not have even had a chance to show us all the difference between great and greater.

    Without Frank Mason’s incredible performance at the point, and the luxuries of a relatively speaking “full complement” of players Frank in retrospect enjoyed, Devonte Graham would have no chance to awaken us to the insight that another level of greatness beyond Frank could even exist.

    Its like the basketball gods looked down at Devonte Graham and said, “this young man has the greatness within him, but it is the kind of greatness that cannot reveal itself by giving him exactly what Frank Mason had and then showing the disbelievers that he is as good as Frank. We basketball gods understand mere humans and demigods. We understand that mere humans are spoiled by their demigods we grant them. We basketball gods understand that spoiled humans want to be taken ever higher, even when there is nowhere higher to go, until they leave their mortal coil. So: in our infinite wisdom, we created more and more impossible situations, greater and greater obstructions, more and more seemingly insurmoutable problems, for the demigods we grant to inform and inspire the mere humans with. This year we give them accrued costs of recruiting asymmetry AND injury AND more good conference teams AND the long shadow of Frank Mason, and we say; human beings, listen all ye who are spoiled and of little faith, see how Devonte Graham toils against all odds in a way even Frank Mason never had to do. Notice how Devonte throws down 28 points even on a bad shooting night when his only strategic advantage–Udoka Azubuike–is taken from him by the same dark devils from the nether regions that once took Joel Embiid. See how Devonte has had to lead a team that broke and ran on him in a way that never happened to Frank and has had to look down into depths of his own soul that he and most others have never even glimpsed! See how despite more plagues and problems than Jonah faced even after being swallowed by a stinking whale, Devonte Graham has lead the short handed band of irregulars we gods have bestowed upon him, to an .800 W&L Statement and a tie for second place, whilst being only one game out of first. And see how Devonte has done this against a highly ranked power conference and how he lead his team to some victories over elite programs during pre-conference. And give this young mop-topped demigod some cred for doing it all as we keep taking more and more away from him, and taunting him with not clearing big men he desperately needs even as we animate his coach to talk positively after each game about their imminent arrival. This, you mere humans, is the stuff of greatness happening before your eyes. Any demigod point guard can marshall a full complement of starters and rotation players to a 14th consecutive conference championship and a deep run in the asymmetrically seeded and whistled March Carney. Any demigod could do that. What we basketball gods have done is meticulously confronted young Graham with a challenge for the ages. Maybe it is the only challenge that could awaken the feeble eyed and demented one you humans call jaybate 1.0 (what kinda damned alias name is that any way?) to the extraordinariness of Devonte Graham. Behold the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune we cast down upon Graham and see how he surmounts most, and demonstrates his resilient character time after time. Truly, he has been given the opportunity of a life time and is making the best of it. You mere mortals should savor it, relish it, respect it!!!”

    There’s no easy way off The Canal.

    Rock Chalk, Devonte Graham!

  • @jaybate-1.0 My friend, I don’t know how many barbitchyouates you might have indulged in, but you have gone on a really productive posting tear these past 24 hours. You are bound to sleep for a week. Or at least until tip off at AFH tomorrow eve.

  • @REHawk

    Coach, just between us, as I age, it gets harder to connect to the deep spirit of the game that triggers posting onslaughts.

    Aging is something I have tried to do gracefully, and I am at peace with the almighty. So: I don’t really mind getting old on most levels, for it beats hell out of the alternative. And I dig the joy of learning as much as ever.

    But the part of aging I hate with a passion is the repetitive discovery and, so, reinforced knowing of the darkness, not after death, but in the human soul of some of those at the highest levels manipulating our leaders; that part of aging callouses the heart and makes is difficult to connect with the life force that makes life so worth living.

    Yet we cannot be the change we seek, if we let our hearts harden.

    And the bad guys strategy is always to harden us with such dark knowledge to cut us off from the life force, and then dissociate us with trauma and fill our brothers and sisters with fake explanations. It is a cruel strategy lady justice has not found a way to counter balance yet.

    Some days the only thing that knock the callouses off are the beautiful and undoubtful doings of some basketball players and basketball coaches going about their business on the sacred wood.

    Its strange that the game is as essential to me now, as it was, when I was 8…only in a different way.

    I pity those that let go of it just because it gets hard to access that deepest level of the game, or that never dare to.

    But I confess, what used to come easy, comes harder now.

    Still and all, I don’t resort to substances to stimulate the connection.

    That would be cheating.

    I get there the old fashioned way.

    I care.

    Rock Chalk!

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