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From the Top of the Hill on Nov. 20

5 min read

Hey KU fans, welcome to the newest weekly newsletter, “From the Top of the Hill,” which will be sent out each Monday with the goal being to give you a quick glimpse at what we’re covering and tracking in the week ahead.

We’ll still be sending out the “Top 5 Things You Missed This Week” newsletter on Friday mornings, just in case anything slips through the cracks.

But we thought that bringing you a look at what’s coming up each week would be another great way to share and preview some of the fun things we have going at Wave the Wheat.

The bonus this week is that we’ve got another HUGE sale going. This week only, in honor of Thanksgiving and “Black Friday,” you can get a full year of Wave the Wheat for just $12.

That’s access to all of our premium content — from home games, road games and behind-the-scenes opportunities — access to reader comments, weekly newsletters and more, all for just a dollar a month for the next year.

So hit that "subscribe" button and sign up today to take advantage of this special price! And share with a fellow Jayhawk fan while you're at it.

Now, let’s dive into what’s coming to the site this week.

🏈 Jayhawks staying motivated for regular season finale

Of all of the names and personalities on this Kansas football roster, it was reserve quarterback Ben Easters whose name was signaled out on Monday by KU coach Lance Leipold.

No, the redshirt sophomore from Brownsburg, Indiana, is not the newest Kansas quarterback to play his way into the QB equation.

That’s still a Jason Bean and Cole Ballard question. Bean practiced on Monday, by the way, and Leipold said he expected both Bean and Ballard to be available on Saturday night in Cincinnati, where the Jayhawks and Bearcats will square off in the regular season finale.

Instead, Easters, who is, probably at best, the fourth-string QB on this roster when everyone is healthy, has continued to operate as if Saturday’s game will come down to how prepared he is and how much work he puts in.

Leipold pointed to that approach and Easters specifically when asked if there was one or two guys on the roster who steps up to best motivate the rest of the team in moments like this. It’s not that Easters is the loudest or most demonstrative when it comes to leading. Rather, he’s one of the most consistent and he goes about his work — whatever it may be — in a way that is most consistent with the culture and tone these Jayhawks want to be known for.

“We don’t have a ton of overly vocal (guys),” Leipold said on Monday. “But we have a good group that leads by example very well. One (guy) we never talk about that is highly respected in our locker room is Ben Easters at quarterback. He’s on the leadership council because of who he is and how he goes about it no matter what the situation is.”

Fresh off of a tough loss to in-state rival Kansas State on Saturday night, in what had to be among the best environments on KU’s campus in the past several decades, KU will look to finish the regular season on a high note, with a win, before finding out its bowl fate on Dec. 3.

KU (7-4 overall, 4-4 Big 12) and Cincinnati (3-8 overall, 1-7 Big 12) will kick off at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN2, and Leipold is not in any way concerned about his team being motivated to play.

For one, guys like Easters will be hammering home and demonstrating the message of why that’s important this week. For two, Leipold needed just a single word to communicate that.

“Probably in the simplest terms pride,” he said. “Why would you put all this work in and not finish strong. Why cheat yourself?”

“Winning eight games would be a nice achievement,” he added. “Obviously, I think the more wins (you have) opportunities can change, opponents can change, experiences can change. So, give ourselves the best opportunity. A lot of things to play for yet.”

🏀 Basketball in Paradise

The Kansas men’s basketball team is in Hawaii this week, for three consecutive games on Monday, Tuesday and Wednes-day against a loaded field at the Maui Invitational.

We’ll track all of the action and have some other interesting content surrounding key players on this year’s roster, including KJ Adams and Dajuan Harris Jr.

Speaking of basketball, KU big man Hunter Dickinson became the first Big 12 player since 2021 to sweep the weekly awards — Player of the Week and Newcomer of the Week — after his monster showing last week in Chicago.

It’ll be fun to see how many of those the big fella can rack up throughout the 2023-24 season and if he can approach former Jayhawk Andrew Wiggins’ and the number of Freshman of the Week awards he won back in the 2013-14 season.

Later in the week, the KU women's basketball team will have their own battle in a tropical locale, with Brandon Schneider’s club taking on Top-10 foes and perennial powerhouses Virginia Tech and UConn in the Cayman Islands.

We’ll keep an eye on all of that and then some, as the Jayhawks do their thing in paradise before returning home for their next home games on Nov. 28 (men vs. Eastern Illinois) and Nov. 30 (women vs. Southeast Louisiana).

🏐 Charging Toward the Postseason

After picking up a pair of wins over ranked opponents last week — a sweep of No. 23 Baylor at home and a 3-1 win over No. 13 BYU in Provo, Utah — the KU women’s volleyball team jumped up two spots to No. 15 in the latest AVCA rankings.

Ray Bechard’s Jayhawks are now so close to clinching a chance to host first- and second-round NCAA Tournament matches they can taste it.

KU first has to close out the regular season at Cincinnati at noon on Wednesday and at home against UCF at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

That UCF match will mark Senior Day for a KU volleyball ros-ter that has five players listed either as seniors or graduate seniors — teammates and best friends, Mykayla Myers, Reagan Cooper, Ms. Positivity, Molly Schultz, Kim Whetstone and super-senior Kennedy Farris.

🏈 Construction Under Way

It’s worth noting — as Leipold did today — that the first signs of the start of the Gateway District stadium project were visible around David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Monday.

Crews began moving things out of the press box to prepare to tear down the west side of the stadium so new construction can begin.

Phase I of the project is slated to be completed in time for the 2025 season. And there’s plenty of time to talk about what that means for 2024 in the months to come.

For now, though, if you’re in town and want to take one last look at the old relic, better go quick. In a matter of weeks, that whole thing will be reduced to a shell of its former self.

It’s also worth noting that, because of where the stadium is situated, this will not be one of those cool implosion videos. Sorry to burst your bubble. Instead, they’ll take the thing down in a more surgical manner, but by the end of the year it should still be a sight to behold.

That’s a look at some of what’s coming up in the week ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours and enjoy the plethora of food and KU games that are coming your way.

Remember, this week only you can get a full year of Wave the Wheat content for just $12. So hit that "subscribe" button and sign up today to take advantage of this special price! And maybe tell your KU friends and family members as you break bread over your Thanksgiving feast.