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Sad ending to Haase’s career

Steve Yingling

The script never said anything about a sad ending – sitting on the bench and teary-eyed.

No one saw it coming, except for Arizona. The Wildcats shocked top-rated Kansas 85-82 in the NCAA Tournament Southeast Regional basketball semifinals Friday in Birmingham, Ala., ending the storied collegiate career of South Tahoe High product Jerod Haase.

“Obviously, it’s extremely disappointing. I think in my mind that without a doubt we’re the best in the nation, but we will never be called national champions,” said Haase by phone from his apartment Sunday afternoon in Lawrence, Kan.

The pain from the defeat wasn’t confined to Haase’s heart. His throbbing broken right wrist kept Haase on the bench for all but 14 minutes of his final game.

“I knew I couldn’t shoot the ball any farther than two feet,” said Haase, who scored the game’s first points on a steal and subsequent layup. “It does bother me that I wasn’t out there. My biggest fear more than losing the game was getting hurt and not being there for my team.

“Coach knew I was ineffective on offense – I wasn’t a threat – and couldn’t do the things out there the team needed.”

Only a few days earlier Haase opted for a cortisone shot to lessen the excruciating pain in his wrist.

“I was feeling by far the worst pain I had felt. I took the cortisone shot because there were a couple of practices that were getting pretty bad. But it didn’t end up the way I wanted and it probably made it worse in the short term,” Haase said.

Even so, Haase turned into the Jayhawks’ No. 1 rooter during the final two minutes as Kansas staged an improbable comeback from a 13-point deficit. With their season slipping away, Jayhawks seniors Haase, Scot Pollard and B.J. Williams found that sharing a laugh made the tension bearable.

“We were just enjoying it. It was a time that the guys on the floor were incredible. They were making one of the most incredible comebacks that I’d ever seen,” Haase said.

Several thousand fans greeted the Jayhawks upon their return to Lawrence on Saturday. The unplanned pep rally warmed Haase’s heart but revived the agony from the evening before.

“It probably made it harder because there are so many who enjoyed watching us and wanted us to do a little bit better,” Haase said.

But Haase found comfort in the arms of young Jayhawk fan Katie Martincich. Martincich showered Haase with a cluster of “You’re Special” balloons and a hug as the team was honored on the court. When Martincich returned to her seat, she held up a sign that read, “Jerod, will you marry me?”

“That was a good feeling. Things like that I’ll remember for a long, long time. That’s more important than winning ball games. I do take pleasure in being a role model and that I have an effect on a lot of people’s lives,” Haase said.

As the day wore on, Haase, Jacque Vaughn and C.B. McGrath found comfort in another sport.

“We all went out and played golf, and I played one-handed. I didn’t have my best score ever,” Haase said.

With the book closed on his college career, Haase now must make several important decisions concerning his future. As several pre-NBA draft camps near, Haase must decide when to have surgery on his wrist.

“The camps can be beneficial for a guy in my situation, but at the same time people have seen me play a lot over the last four or five years and have a good idea what I can do,” he said.

Haase feels that the NBA has a place for him, but the opportunity must come from a team that covets more than a scoring machine.

“If it’s a jumping contest or a shooting contest, I may not be there. I guess I hope that characteristics like hard work, teamwork and unselfishness are really important to some of these people,” Haase said. “I don’t know what others think of my ability, but I’m confident I can play at just about any level.”

For now, Haase is trying to forget basketball for a while. But his wrist won’t let him.

“It’s still pretty sore. It’s been a dream career and a dream season. We didn’t reach that final dream, but I absolutely don’t have any regrets,” he said.


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