LAWRENCE, Kan. – It was a who’s who of former Kansas Jayhawk student-athletes who brought in yet another highly energized crowd to Free State High School gymnasium for the 13th annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic Thursday night. Former Jayhawk men’s and women’s basketball players, football players, and other well-known KU alumni and coaches, participated in a friendly game of basketball which helped raise money for local children fighting cancer and other life-altering diseases.
Led by the current “Voice of the Jayhawks,” Brian Hanni, each year, the Roundball Classic organization selects local families who need support on their journeys facing pediatric cancer. The organization, and its charity events held, help raise money to ease their financial burden, allowing them to focus on healing. The 2021 Rock Chalk Roundball Classic includes not only Thursday’s basketball game but also a Round-Bowl Classic bowling event held at Royal Crest Lanes in Lawrence Friday, August 6.
This year’s recipients were comprised of Briella Hase, a 16-month old from Topeka, Riley Howell, an eight-year-old from Williamsburg, Kansas, and Matthew Martin, an eight-year-old from Liberty, Missouri.
The actual game was secondary to the purpose of the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic. Five Jayhawks who are currently in the NBA were among the former KU players who returned, including Marcus and Markieff Morris, Ben McLemore, Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.
“That is Coach (Bill) Self’s motto, it’s always bigger than you and you’ve gotta give back,” Graham said. “This place means the world to all of us who come back and show the love and support. This event is a special one, it affects a lot of people and we have to come back and do what it right in supporting this cause.”
Each honoree was introduced to the crowd with a short video and then they, along with their families, high-fived their way down the tunnel formed by the smiling, excited players and coaches while the fans in attendance provided a standing ovation for each starter. It was an emotional moment for all participating and watching. Due to the ongoing pandemic, last year’s event was held virtually and the 2021 edition had limited fans.
During timeouts and intermission, Hanni took the mic and recognized the generous sponsors that assisted in making the event a success. He also honored the 10 former young recipients who have died in the 13-year history of the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic. Included was Nicholas Parscale, known as “Nick the Brave”, who died this past June after a nearly five-year battle with brain cancer. Parscale wrote a book titled “What I Wish I Knew Before Cancer: A Young Man’s Memoir” to assist other children and families deal with cancer diagnoses. KU head coach Bill Self befriended Parscale and Self donated 33 of Parscale’s books for the 33 Classic participants to autograph and hand out to the crowd.
The Red Team consisted of: Elijah Johnson, Natalie Knight-Johnson (women’s basketball), Brandon McAnderson (football), Danielle McCray (women’s basketball), Ben McLemore, Markieff Morris, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Travis Releford, Tyshawn Taylor, Billy Thomas, Stephen Vinson and Clay Young. Red Team coaches included former KU center Greg Dreiling, former football player and KU radio voice David Lawrence, KU women’s head coach Brandon Schneider and KU men’s assistant coach Norm Roberts.
The Blue Team consisted of: Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins, Carolyn Davis (women’s basketball), Derek Fine (football), Devonte’ Graham, Jeff Graves, Ron Kellogg, Mario Little, Brady Morningstar, Marcus Morris, Tyrel Reed, Todd Reesing (football) and Russell Robinson. Blue Team coaches were KU forward Calvin Thompson, KU football Ring of Honor honoree Darrell Stuckey, KU women’s assistant coach Terry Nooner and KU men’s assistant coach Kurtis Townsend.
For more information, and to contribute to the cause, go to: www.rockchalkroundballclassic.com.