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Trio jumped at last chance to rep KU at Big 12 media day

Fifth-year seniors happy to celebrate, promote program they helped build

4 min read
KU seniors, from left, Zakiyah Franklin, Taiyanna Jackson and Holly Kersgieter field questions from reporters at Big 12 media day on Tuesday at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri. [Matt Tait photo]

Kansas City, Mo. — When it came time to pick a few players to join him at Big 12 media day in Kansas City, Kansas women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider started at the top.

With fifth-year seniors and returning starters Zakiyah Franklin, Taiyanna Jackson and Holly Kersgieter serving as the faces of the Jayhawks, Schneider started there and didn’t have to go any further down the list.

“I just wanted to confirm with them that it’s something that they wanted to do again,” Schneider said Tuesday at T-Mobile Center. “And they immediately all three said yes. I think they're proud of every opportunity to represent Kansas.”

For the past five years for Franklin and Kersgieter and the past three for Jackson, that’s always been the case. But it hasn’t always been easy.

On Tuesday, it was.

In fact, the three players who each earned preseason all-Big 12 accolades earlier this month were surrounded by a horde of cameras, reporters, recording devices and more. All of them were interested in talking to the Jayhawks about their team and their program.

“Just us building our ranking, making noise and actually coming here and getting attention and letting people hear about our team and ourselves and the people wanting to interview us is amazing,” Jackson said. “It feels different. There’s a lot of people here this year and it’s cool.”

With her senior teammates to her left, KU guard Zakiyah Franklin answers a question at Big 12 media day on Tuesday at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri. [Matt Tait photo]

Tuesday was Jackson’s second time representing the Jayhawks at Big 12 media day. Both Kersgieter and Franklin did it for a third time.

“Yeah, it was a no-brainer,” Kersgieter said. “It goes into our decision to be here (at KU for a fifth season) in the first place, and that was a process. But coming here today, that was easy. Look at where we are. Why would we want to pass up this opportunity, (to show off) the place our program is at and it’s obviously going to continue to build. There’s a lot of anticipation.”

Franklin said the three Jayhawks, who have handled the bulk of the Jayhawks’ media opportunities and requests during the past two seasons, were a little surprised when Schneider asked if they wanted to go on Tuesday.

“The look on our faces was, ‘Of course we can’t miss this; it’s our last one,’” she said. “We just wanted to come in with the mindset of just enjoying it and here for the ride.”

They did just that. From time on the stage, in front of the entire room, to breakouts, television and photo shoots and some fun with social media, the three KU starters soaked up everything the Big 12’s season tipoff had to offer.

“They appear to be much looser than in other years,” Schneider said. “And they’re having a lot of fun.”

Added Franklin: “Absolutely. To come over and represent our program the best way possible, it means a lot to us. We wanted to showcase that and it’s obviously our last one so we kind of just wanted to go out with a bang.”

"Coming here today, that was easy. Look at where we are. Why would we want to pass up this opportunity, (to show off) the place our program is at?" — Senior guard Holly Kersgieter

Tuesday was the final stage-setter for a Kansas women’s team and season full of expectations.

The Jayhawks were picked to finish third in the Big 12 by the league’s coaches in the preseason poll and the Jayhawks received 26 votes — which essentially put them at No. 28 — in the preseason AP Top 25, which was released on Tuesday.

According to Schneider, KU's season-ticket sales also are on pace or approaching being double what they sold last season.

KU’s goals are much bigger than a shiny ranking of putting more fans in the stands, though, and Schneider and his players have had no problem sharing that this offseason. Asked Tuesday what was motivating the program heading into the season, Schneider pointed to two things.

“The hunger to win a Big 12 championship and wanting our fifth-year seniors to have the absolute best experience possible, as they finish out what have been amazing careers at Kansas.”

“All three of those young women have unwavering confidence in each other and come in every day with a great desire to build our program and defend our culture,” Schneider added.

He also noted that their return to KU for a fifth season, instead of looking to go elsewhere in the transfer portal or for a bigger NIL payday, “says a lot about how much they love KU and how much they love the community of Lawrence. (They have) a great sense of loyalty to their teammates and they truly want to leave this program better than they found it — which they’ve already done — and now it’s just build on that legacy.”

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