The KU basketball team banquet was held Monday night in the Holiday Inn in Lawrence. The night gave the fans in attendance one last chance to celebrate the 2011-2012 team.
After showing a video highlighting the season, Bill Self got on the podium and went through and retold the story of the season. He remembered when the team started practicing and former coaches Jeff Van Gundy and Larry Brown were in Lawrence for a coaching clinic. Thomas Robinson wasn't practicing that day, and the coaches gave a harsh assessment.
"I didn't tell our players this but they thought we were very bad," Self remembered.
Self said he first got a glimpse of the team's potential in New York and Hawaii, when Kansas played competitively with Kentucky and Duke. He thought KU made their biggest stride when they lost to Missouri early in conference play.
"We took their best shot," Self said. "It's hard to say losses are good but that was a good loss. Missouri's good, well, for that part of the season."
Self would then go on to describe KU's run through conference play and the Big 12 and NCAA tournament. Self was proud of how his team fought Kentucky in the title game.
"I don't know how you guys feel but I don't feel like we lost but we ran out of time," Self said.
Self then let the seniors plus Thomas Robinson address the crowd. Robinson and Taylor would go on to win the Danny Manning award.
"I just want to thank everybody for supporting our team like you all have," Taylor said. "I have been apart of some good teams but this team is special. We all came in day one with the same goal but it didn't always go the way we wanted to but we kept fighting."
The most entertaining part of the banquet came when Self went through and said a few words about each player. It was part recognition and part comedy roast. From making fun of Kevin Young's hair to Justin Wesley's inability to play at Lamar, Self made sure to poke fun at everyone. Of course, between all the jokes Self made sure to point out what every player brought to the team. His biggest praise may have been to the stars of next year's team, Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey.
Self on Jeff Withey: "I want you to think about this, when Jeff came we had a guy named Aldrich. We had a guy named Morris, and another guy who looked like him, then we had a guy named Robinson. That's four guys that played in front of him and we had a guy named Little. Jeff was our sixth big man the first year he was eligible. The next year he improved tremendously … he became our fourth. All he did was set the record in our school for blocked shots and the NCAA tournament. If he can get a little better and stronger he could be one of the best big men we have had not in the last couple of years, but in the last half century."
Self on Elijah Johnson: "He is the most analytical deep thinker of anybody on our team. He's the best interviewer that we have. He thinks about what he is going to say and puts great thought into it. We are the comeback kids because in large part because he doesn't start playing until after halftime. I think Tyshawn has played better than any guard we have had since I've been here, but the two most talented guards I have had since I have been here, and you talk about everything: speed, strength, slide, stroke, vision, and handles. The two best guards that we have recruited have been Sherron Collins and Elijah Johnson."
Finally, Self concluded the event by talking about the unity of the team and how it led to their success.
"Every team says they like each other but if you really like each other you will do things to hold each other accountable," Self said. "I think these guys are absolutely brothers. I had never coached a team that would argue more, fight more, be more combative with me, and you still know you would get out there and you would get in a foxhole with any one of them. These guys are a special group. I think these guys would like nothing more than for the guys who are staying to surpass what they have already done."