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'It's gonna be harder than you think'

Trio of KU seniors offer advice to past selves, future Jayhawks before bidding farewell to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday

4 min read
KU seniors, from left, Holly Kersgieter, Taiyanna Jackson and Zakiyah Franklin, will be playing their final home games with the Jayhawks on Saturday against Oklahoma at Allen Fieldhouse. [R1S1 Sports photo]

The Kansas women’s basketball team has reached the end of the regular season, with one final test on the docket before the postseason begins next week.

To most, that test comes in the form of 20th-ranked Oklahoma, which will take on the Jayhawks in the regular season finale at 4 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

To three members of the KU program, however, fighting off the emotions of their final home game as Jayhawks figures to be just as tough of a challenge as facing the Sooners.

Zakiyah Franklin, Taiyanna Jackson and Holly Kersgieter have been the face of this program for the past three years. In addition to leaving KU with all kinds of records to their names, the trio will leave a legacy of having turned around a program that, not long ago, was a perennial Big 12 doormat.

There’s still work to be done for the Jayhawks to finish things off the way they want to. That, of course, is with a trip to the NCAA Tournament, and they’ll learn their fate on Selection Sunday in a couple of weeks.

But regardless of what lies ahead, Saturday will mark a special day in the careers and lives of that KU trio.

Seniors Ryan Cobbins and Wyvette Mayberry also will be honored on Senior Day, with Cobbins playing the final game of her one-year run as a Jayhawk and Mayberry still having the option to return for her super-senior season.

Wave the Wheat recently caught up with Franklin, Jackson and Kersgieter to talk about what they learned during their time as Jayhawks and what they would tell the future Jayhawks who soon will follow in their footsteps.

🔴 Now that you’ve reached this point, if you could go back and give your younger self advice about how to navigate life as a Kansas basketball player, what would you say? 🔵

“Just trust yourself and trust the process. It sounds real cliché, but you have to do that and you have to believe in yourself. I’d just want to know that I belong at this level. Believe in that and know that I can compete with the best of them, night in and night out.” — Senior guard Zakiyah Franklin

“I would tell my younger self to just be patient and let everything come to you and just be willing to listen and grow and continue being you no matter what. The growing part wasn’t easy. But the help from my teammates and coaches and me being willing to change made it doable.” — Senior center Taiyanna Jackson

“It’s gonna be harder than you think, but you are your biggest strength and your biggest weakness. At the end of the day, it’s your choice if you’re going to let yourself get in the way or if you’re going to continue to be yourself and let that lead to your success. You’re the reason you’re here, so don’t be the reason that something gets in the way.” — Senior guard Holly Kersgieter

🔴 As you prepare to say goodbye to the program you have given your heart and soul to throughout the years, what advice would you give any future Jayhawks who will soon be walking the path that you walked? 🔵

“Come in and be yourself. It’s a great place already, as is, and it’s very historic. But you can come in and write your own story. When you do that and you just be yourself, people are going to love you regardless. Whatever you give to the program is just a bonus.” — Franklin

“Just be you. No matter what happens, no matter what’s being said, just keep going and listen and have fun while doing it. And also, enjoy your time. It’s going to go by fast. I’ve only been here for three years and it went by so fast. Sometimes things can change people or change the way you approach things, but make sure to always be you.” — Jackson

“We’re all here because we love playing basketball and we want to accomplish something for ourselves. But when you get here, you really need to understand that you’re playing for a team and you’re playing for a university and not just for yourself. There are other things to play for and work hard for and represent. Just know that everything you’re doing isn’t just for yourself, it’s for others and to build a team and build a community. You don’t enjoy the records or the wins by yourself. You enjoy that with all the people around you. Especially if you’re at a place that you love and a place you’ve embraced.” — Kersgieter

Saturday’s tipoff is slated for 4 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN+.

With their mid-week win over Texas, the Sooners wrapped up the Big 12 regular season title and enter the game at 21-7 overall and 15-2 in Big 12 play. Their two conference losses so far came at Kansas State and at West Virginia.

In mid-January, the Jayhawks lost to OU, 60-55, in a hard-fought battle in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas enters the game having won seven of its last eight games, with a 17-11 overall record and 10-7 mark in Big 12 play.

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