Ricky Calloway Is Back on Top Again
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ When Ricky Calloway transferred from Indiana to Kansas, the difference was like Knight and day.
The 6-foot-6 forward, who found himself in Coach Bob Knight’s doghouse the year after Indiana’s 1987 NCAA title, has been a major contributor to Kansas’ surprising climb to No. 1 and now finds himself in position to become the first college player to play on national championship teams at two different Division I schools.
And he’s quick to say there’s no comparison between the volatile Knight and Jayhawks Coach Roy Williams.
″Coach Knight always said the door was open, but you really didn’t want to take the chance on what kind of mood he was in,″ Calloway said. ″But with Coach Williams, you can talk to him about things on and off the court. That’s very important, if you’re going to have a relationship with your players besides basketball.″
With Knight, that relationship hardly included basketball by the end of Calloway’s junior year, when the all-Big Ten second-team selection lost his starting job in the regular season, then sat on the bench in a first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Richmond.
Calloway said Knight rarely spoke to him that final month. Knight has said Calloway was struggling with his offense and his attitude.
Calloway has found playing time and happiness after transferring to Kansas following the Jay Hawks 1988 national championship. He decided to stay despite then-coach Larry Brown’s departure for the NBA and sat out a season as required by NCAA rules.
″That’s one of the big differences, being on the floor again and happy to play,″ he said. ″When 3 o’clock rolls around, I have a smile on my face when I go to the gym. There’s less pressure here. I get along with all the guys on the team, not just half of the.″
Calloway, who has started every game and is one of five Jayhawks scoring in double figures, saw his nearly 13-point career average slip to 10.5 the first 15 games, with a season-low two points Jan. 6 against Winthrop.
But in three games since, he has averaged 18 points and six rebounds as Kansas survived upset bids by Big Eight Conference opponents Nebraska and Oklahoma State. Against the Cornhuskers, Calloway scored a season-high 21 points and hit 10 of 10 free throws to help the Jayhawks rally from 13 points down.
″I think maybe people expected too much to begin with,″ Williams said. ″I was never discouraged by the play of Ricky. He’s been a very important contributor to many teams. But he hasn’t been ‘the star’ kind of player.″
Instead, his teammates say, Calloway has given Kansas the experience of another NCAA Championship veteran, for a total of five on the roster.
″Ricky’s really blended in very well,″ guard Kevin Pritchard said. ″For him, I think it’s more what he brings off the court. Obviously we needed his experience, but he’s just such a good person too.″
Mark Randall, who manned a thin front line without Calloway as Kansas slumped to 19-12 last season, said ″he’s helped a great deal. Ricky knows what it takes to be successful. He had success at Indiana and he brought it here.″
The 1987 Indiana team and the current Kansas squad, however, share few similarities except for their passing offenses, Calloway said.
″At Indiana we won a lot of games on talent, more so than this team,″ he said. ″There, everybody knew (Steve) Alford was going to get his 20. Here we’ve got five guys who can score.″
″At Indiana, we were picked to have a pretty good team. When the season started, we were ranked in the top 10. But here, nobody expected this,″ he said.
Calloway has brought the kind of senior leadership that two national magazines did not anticipate when they picked Kansas for its first-ever finish in the Big Eight cellar.
″Anytime you have guys on your team who are proven winners, I don’t see how you can overlook that and say we’re going to finish eighth in the Big Eight,″ he said. ″We have talent, but not like Georgetown, UNLV or LSU. I think with the chemistry on the team, the experience and unselfishness, it’s very hard to beat us.″
″It works because we’re patient. We’ll give up an 18-footer to get a 12- footer, and give up a 12-footer to get a layup. We don’t really get rattled. Any time you can do that, you can stay in the game regardless of athletic ability,″ Calloway said.
END ADV for Weekend Release Jan. 20-21