One final homecoming
By RANDY GONZALES
Tyshawn Taylor was a no-show. The point guard for the University of Kansas basketball team had NBA workout commitments.
But former Hays High School standout Jordan Juenemann received a loud ovation after he was introduced Saturday night as the KU Barnstormers Tour made a stop in Hays for an exhibition game against area all-stars.
Juenemann scored 36 points to lead the KU players to a 115-69 win at the Hays High gym. But winning and losing wasn't what Saturday night was about.
"It feels good to be back in Hays," Juenemann said. "I really enjoyed it, playing on this floor."
Juenemann was an all-conference and all-state guard who graduated from HHS in 2008.
"Played so many hours on this floor; to come back here with all these people is great and fun," Juenemann said. "I tell people I wish I could go back to high school and play again here.
"The gym was my favorite, and the band and everything," he added. "It's very special to me, this gym is, and Coach (Rick) Keltner and all my teammates."
Without Taylor, the KU team had Juenemann and guard Conner Teahan and three former Fort Hays State University players. With no substitutes, the players improvised. They would put jerseys on young fans out of the stands and let them live their dream of playing with the Jayhawks.
One of the first fans pulled from the stands was Laquaris Harris, who promptly swished a 3-pointer, much to the crowd's delight.
But Harris wasn't your normal fan; she's a freshman basketball player for Dodge City Community College. Still, it was a thrill for her to be on the court with the Jayhawks.
"I was just so excited," said Harris, who received moral support from three friends who made the trek from Dodge City to go to the game.
"They were supporting me on the floor," Harris said, adding they encouraged her to shoot.
Brian Ochs, one of the area all-stars from Quinter, had a good time, too, despite air-balling a couple free throws wide left. Ochs admitted shooting free throws isn't his forte.
"No, probably not," he said. But it was all right."
No worries. For in a game like this, an air ball or a blocked shot or a bad pass is no big deal. One of 14 area all-stars, Ochs just enjoyed the whole night.
"It was a fun game," he said. "It was an honor to play in this."
Juenemann, who made the team at KU as a freshman walk-on, felt the same way about being part of the Jayhawk program.
"I'll remember all my teammates and how special it was, part of something that's so much bigger than yourself," he said. "I was just blessed to wear that jersey. I'm humbled by it."
Juenemann, who graduates from KU next month with a major in exercise science and a minor in business, hopes to continue playing ball.
"I'm going to go overseas, to Germany and Poland, and play a little bit there," Juenemann said. "Lord willing, maybe sign a contract.
"I have the desire; I think it would be cool," he added. "One of my dreams is to play professionally overseas."
All that's in the future. Saturday night was about fun, and reconnecting with his roots. Juenemann's family moved to Olathe after his high school days.
"Going to stay overnight, enjoy Hays, see my friends," Juenemann said. "I haven't been here in two years; I'm excited."