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'I'm just thankful for it all'

KU guard Zakiyah Franklin blown away to see her name splashed all over the record books

4 min read
Kansas guard Zakiyah Franklin attacks the basket during a recent KU home game at Allen Fieldhouse. [Chance Parker photo]

Kansas guard Zakiyah Franklin started, played 34 minutes and scored 16 points in her first ever college game as a freshman back in 2019, and at no point then did she ever envision what she would be doing on Feb. 7, 2024.

She knew she had come to KU to make an impact. Starting as a freshman in and of itself does that. But she envisioned the impact being about the program and much bigger than herself.

Today, she’s KU’s all-time leader in minutes played and games played, and she still believes that this thing is much, much bigger than her.

“It means a lot, just coming here and doing everything I set out to do,” Franklin told R1S1 Sports of recently passing KU legend Lynette Woodard for most games played in the program’s history. “I didn’t come here to break records, but I came here to change the program around and I always figured that in itself would lead to records.”

It has. And there are more on the way, too.

Franklin entered the week having played 4,714 minutes in 143 games. Woodard played in 139 games from 1978-81, and Franklin teammate, Holly Kersgieter, is closing in on second place with 137 games to date and already is in second place with 4,032 career minutes.

But a quick glance at the rest of the “Records Watch” page in the KU game notes shows Franklin’s name popping up elsewhere, too.

She’s already in the Top 10 in scoring and has a shot at finishing in the Top 5. She’s also in the Top 10 on the all-time 3-point makes list — Kersgieter owns that record — and they’re both in the Top 10 in free throw makes.

It doesn’t end there. Franklin also is fourth on KU’s all-time assists list and one 20-point game away from cracking the Top 10 for most 20-point games in a career, too.

During the Jayhawks’ most recent home game — a convincing win over BYU — Franklin was honored for the most games played mark during a timeout in the action.

The moment was just like her — no frills, no flash, nothing fancy, just sweet and to the point.

“Yeah, I heard it a little bit,” she said of the recognition during that timeout. “Holly gave me a little pat and my teammates were calling me old. That’s the only bad thing.”

As she looks back on her career and thinks about how she managed to play in all of those games, a couple of things stand out.

First, she says the accomplishment honors her competitive nature. Beyond that, she’s not afraid to admit that she was a bit lucky, as well.

“It’s not easy,” she said of her ability to show up night in and night out. “It’s tough. We play in the Big 12 and it’s a physical league. I’ve taken a beating, but I just make sure to do recovery after games, make sure I’m eating right, hydrating and stuff like that so I’m ready for the next one.”

She added: “I try to take it one day at a time, but when I look back on all those games it’s kind of mind-blowing. And a little bittersweet right now, knowing this is it right here. I’m just thankful for it all and blessed to even be able to play in all those games.”

Franklin doesn’t remember much about her first game — an 84-72 home win over Indiana State to open the 2019-20 season. But she had no problem pinpointing her favorite game of those 143 and counting.

“I would say Baylor this year,” she said of the Jayhawks’ upset win over the 4th-ranked Bears at Allen Fieldhouse in early January. “That one meant a lot. Once we beat them we had beaten everybody in the conference, so definitely Baylor.”

Between that Indiana State game and the more recent games like the win over Baylor, Franklin’s career spanned a wide range of meaningful and memorable moments.

She played in 4 different countries, suited up for 7 games in locations like Arizona, California, Florida and Las Vegas, played in 12 postseason games, 2 NCAA Tournament games and even picked up an NCAA Tournament win.

Franklin’s goal, which she shares with her teammates and coaches, is to add more tally marks to at least two or three of those lists before her career reaches its end.

Regardless of how that works out, Franklin said what she has accomplished so far — especially the records — is something she’ll have to fully process at a later date.

“I probably wouldn’t have believed it,” she said when asked what she would’ve thought if you told her all of this was coming after that first win over Indiana State more than four years ago. “But I’ve just been staying true to everything I do and having trust in the process. When you do that, things like this happen.”

Franklin and Kansas (12-10 overall, 5-6 in Big 12 play) will return to action on Thursday, when they try to push their current winning streak to three in a row with a 6:30 p.m. clash with Houston at Allen Fieldhouse.

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