KU’s Haase to youth: ‘Pursue your dreams’

Four years have passed since Jerod Haase walked away from his last game as a Kansas Jayhawk, but the former standout guard still plays with the hustle and determination that enabled him to succeed on the basketball court at a level beyond his natural ability.

These days, though, the venue has changed. With exception of a few pickup games for fun, Haase rarely chases after a basketball. But he’s still chasing after his dreams.

“Coaching is definitely where I’m headed,” said Haase, who has been an administrative assistant for his former coach, Roy Williams, for the past two years.

Haase will head back to the basketball court as a player April 29 when he joins several Jayhawk seniors for their KU Barnstorming Tour exhibition game in Hillsboro.

More important to him, following the game Haase plans talk to any and all who will listen to him about the value of chasing dreams.

He hopes to capture the attention-and imagination-of young people.

“I tell them a few things that they’ve probably heard a hundred times,” Haase said. “But maybe coming from somebody different, or said in a different way, it might soak in and maybe they can take it with them.”

Haase knows about dreams and dreaming. He’s fulfilled a lot of them, but he’s lost a few, too.

After his senior season ended in March 1997 with a disappointing loss to Arizona in the NCAA tournament, Haase tried out for several NBA teams, but wasn’t signed.

He then played for three months in Macedonia, then decided to shift his dreams from the basketball court to the world of business.

Haase conducted basketball camps around the state for about three summers, produced a video about developing basketball skills, and wrote and self-published a book called “Floor Burns,” which recounts the experiences of his senior season at KU.

Through it all, Haase has tried to connect with kids. It’s a hard habit to break.

“The longer I’m out from playing, my name kind of fades,” he said. “But when I was playing, it was really neat because I think I was a role model for a lot of kids. I know growing up how important role models were to me. I don’t know how many kids, but I think I had an impact on some. That meant a lot to me.”

Unlike some big-name athletes, Haase doesn’t shy away from the notion of being a role model-or from challenging young athletes to be the same.

“Athletes are role models,” he said. “They may deny it or say whatever they want about it, but they are role models. People watch them and follow them and do the things that they do.

“One thing I talk about with kids is leadership,” Haase said. “A lot of the athletes are leaders. If they want to be leaders, that’s fine. If they want to be a follower, that’s also fine in many cases. But the goal is to follow the right leaders and follow the right role models. Hopefully, they’ll be the kind of leader people will want to follow.”

So, what makes a person the “right” kind of role model?

It depends on the dream, Haase said.

“If you want to be a drug addict, hang out with drug addicts,” he said. “If you want to be a basketball player, hang out with basketball players. If you want to get good grades, hang out with people who get good grades. You need to set the goals that you want.

“One of my biggest recommendations is to pick good friends,” he added. “I’ve been really fortunate to have had great friends all the way through.

“The bottom line is, you’re going to turn out like your friends. If you hang out with the right people, great things are going to happen. If you hang out with the wrong crowd, it’s really hard to be successful.”

Growing up, Haase’s dream was to play basketball. He knows a lot of kids share the same dream. He hopes his achievements will encourage others to achieve, too.

“I hope they see that when I was their age, I was probably their height, about as intelligent as they were, about as strong as they were, about as fast as they were,” he said. “But I worked really hard and made some good decisions. A lot of my dreams have come true.”

Even when dreams don’t come true, it doesn’t mean failure.

“One of my dreams was to play in the NBA,” Haase said. “That did not come true. But, boy, a lot of good things did come true. The goal is not as important as the journey and the process of getting there.”

He knows firsthand that the odds are extremely long of playing professional sports. But he never discourages anyone from having that dream.

“I think it’s great to dream,” he said. “I think it’s dangerous when you start listening to people who tell you that you can’t do something.

“But I also think that when you dream as high as you possibly can, the goal is to pursue those dreams as much as you possibly can and then be satisfied with the outcome-whether the dream comes true or not.”

He knows his new dream of coaching at the Division I level will be as hard-or harder-to attain as was his dream to play at that level.

“A lot of times it’s not necessarily how hard you work, but that opportunities don’t present themselves like they do when you’re playing. You just have to wait your turn, do your job, and things will work out.”

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