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Clash with Texas about more than Austin roots for KU's KJ Adams

KU forward is 2-3 all-time against his hometown school & he could be facing the Longhorns for the final time

3 min read
KU forward KJ Adams is excited about the arrival of another showdown with Texas on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. [Chance Parker photos]

When the 2023-24 Big 12 men’s basketball schedule came out in late September, Kansas forward KJ Adams checked one thing before anything else.

Now that Big 12 teams are playing unbalanced schedules instead of the double-round-robin days of the recent past, Adams had to know if his Jayhawks were headed to his hometown of Austin, Texas this season.

“Of course,” he said.

They weren’t. Instead, Adams’ last encounter with the Longhorns — barring a postseason meeting in the future — will come in Lawrence, this Saturday, when Texas comes to town for a 5 p.m. tipoff on ESPN.

“I am a little bummed,” Adams said Thursday. “I did want to go home and play them one last time, but, it’s all right. I still get to play them here at home, so I think it’ll all work out in the end.”

At this point, that’s the focus for all parties involved. Kansas, which enters the weekend at 20-6 overall and 8-5 in Big 12 play, likely needs to win out to have a shot to win the Big 12 title.

But the focus, according to Adams and Kansas coach Bill Self, is on taking things one game at a time. As cliché as that sounds, it’s also the only thing the Jayhawks can afford to do.

“The best way to win them all is to win the first one,” Self said. “So, yeah, we’re just worried about Texas. I’m not worried about anything beyond that.”

For Adams, the matchup with the Longhorns is personal. But it goes way beyond squaring off against his hometown team.

UT forward Brock Cunningham, who is in his sixth season with the Longhorns, went to the same high school as Adams in Austin. Even though Cunningham is a few years older, the two grew up together and have been lifelong friends. Adams, who was a freshman at Westlake when Cunningham was a senior, has even called Cunningham a mentor of his.

The two still go camping together every summer. And back when Adams was in middle school, with Cunningham already starring at Westlake High, Adams conducted a video interview with Cunningham for a class project.

That bond, and the similar styles both bring to the floor — in that they’ll both sacrifice whatever they have to in order to put their teams in position to win — has always made the KU-UT matchup mean a little more for Adams.

Cunningham has appeared in all 26 games for the Longhorns this season, with 13 starts. He is averaging 4.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in 22.4 minutes per night.

So, it seems like a safe bet that the two will meet up on the floor for at least a handful of possessions in this one. That, Adams said, will be the biggest reason this one will mean a little more to him than most games or even his past matchups with UT.

“We go way back,” Adams said. “He’s been my best friend for a while and taught me a lot of things. So, that’ll probably be one of the emotional parts of (this) game.”

As if he needed any additional incentive to come out on top on Saturday, Adams is currently 2-3 all-time against the Longhorns, including a 2-0 mark in Lawrence, 0-2 in Austin and 0-1 in Kansas City.

A win Saturday would square his record against his old friend while also keeping KU’s hopes of competing for the conference crown alive for another day.

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