ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
“Kirk Hinrich of Kansas pushes the ball up court, closely guarded by Dustin Jost. Hinrich punches the ball inside to Nick Collison, who shoots a jump hook over Steven Chisholm….”
Sound like the backyard fantasy of local athletes?
Don’t be so sure.
The Kansas University Barnstorming Tour is returning to Hillsboro for the fourth straight year Sunday, and Jost and Chisholm may get their chance at a couple of Jayhawk heroes.
Future NBA players Hinrich and Collison, fresh from an appearance in the national championship game in New Orleans’ Superdome, will head the cast of former Jayhawks who will play area high school seniors in a benefit game sponsored by the Hillsboro Trojan Booster Club in Brown Gymnasium.
“This is a chance to see the KU players you see on television up close and personal,” said Eddie Weber, event coordinator. “You’ll be able to get some autographs, and some local kids will have the opportunity to play
against some big-time college athletes.”
Weber, a long-time avid Jayhawk fan, saw his first Barnstorming game several years ago in Derby.
“My daughter, Courtney, was picked out of the crowd and got to put on Ryan Robertson’s jersey,” Weber said. “I thought it would be a lot of fun it they came to Hillsboro.
Weber called KU a couple of times, but was turned down because the schedule was already full.
“But they finally accepted our offer,” he said.
The price of admission is left to each school. Hillsboro has been charging $5 per person with kids under age 5 getting in free.
“We don’t have to guarantee a minimum number of ticket sales, but they’ve always said we have one of the largest crowds and are very happy with us,” Weber said.
Gate proceeds are divided between the players (70 percent) and the booster club (30 percent).
Prior to the game, the players are available to sign autographs on KU souvenir T-shirts, posters, and collectibles. The players keep the proceeds from those sales.
All profits generated from the sale of concessions are kept by the booster club.
The Trojan Booster Club uses the money from this and other money-making projects to support Trojan teams. The other key booster-club event is the Trojan Classic held each January.
Within the past year, the club has used the money for such things as buying a meal for teams going to state, a whirlpool, and a video camera and editing machine.
The previous three years, only a limited number of area high school seniors were chosen to participate against the Jayhawks.
“This year, we just went with all the area basketball seniors who want to play,” Weber said. “We’ve tried to keep it at 15 players in the past, but we decided it’s not really fair to everyone that way.”
This year, 22 players will represent Marion County.
Representing the Trojans will be Tyler Weinbrenner, Andy Brubacher, Dustin Jost and Steven Chisholm.
The Peabody-Burns Warriors will send Brennan Commerford, Nick Conquest, Mikey Cullinane, and Phil Unruh.
Curtis Gutsch and Derek Belton will represent the Centre Cougars.
Coming from Marion will be Mitch Enos, Matt Rhodes, Joel Versch, Eric Smith, Alan Vogel and Brian Bina. Jason Matz will play pending the status of his recovery from a broken foot.
The Goessel Bluebirds will send Ben Schmidt, Jeremy Voth, Clinton Plenert, Jesse Goertzen and Kent Peters.
“We don’t limit it to just Hillsboro seniors because we feel this is an area-wide event,” Weber said. “We want kids from other area schools to have the same opportunity the Hillsboro kids have to play in a fun game like this.”
Last year, the event drew a crowd of 1,250 people. If advance ticket sales are any indication, this year’s event will likely surpass that figure.
“We’ve had people from as far away as Anthony and Concordia purchase tickets already,” Weber said. “We’re expecting a full house. There are only a limited number of tickets, and once they’re gone, that’s it.”
Weber suggested that people interested in attending should buy their tickets in advance because there may not be many left to sell at the gate.
The seating capacity in Brown Gymnasium is 1,500.
While only a few lucky seniors get to play in the actual game, fans can participate in a number of other ways.
Plans call for a Kansas practice jersey to be given away, and organizers hope to auction off a genuine Kansas game jersey.
Last year a Jeff Boschee jersey netted nearly $800.
“A Nick Collison jersey was auctioned off in Hutchinson this year and brought $1,100,” Weber said.
While the Trojan Booster Club is the primary sponsor of the event, several local businesses have participated also.
Emprise Bank has donated the T-shirts the area athletes will wear in the game, while Hillsboro McDonald’s sponsors the production of tickets with a money-saving coupon on the back of each.
“Even though it’s on a Sunday, it still gives a good boost to the local economy, too,” Weber said. “Lots of people from out of town and eat in our local eating establishments.”
In addition to Collison and Hinrich, the KU contingent should include Jeff Boschee, Brett Ballard, Lewis Harrison and Todd Kappelman.
Weber isn’t compensated financially for his work as event coordinator, but he said he is rewarded in other ways.
“Just the thrill of meeting the Kansas players is pay enough for me,” Weber said.
“If anyone is a fan of Kansas basketball, or college basketball in general, it’s a fun game to watch,” Weber added. “It’s not a competitive game, but the Kansas players really get the crowd involved and it’s a lot of fun.
“This year, you’ll be able to watch a couple future NBA players in Collison and Hinrich, who will be multi-millionaires in just a month or two.”
Game tickets may be purchased at Emprise Bank, Hillsboro Ford-Mercury, Irv Schroeder County Motors, Hillsboro State Bank and Silver Shears in Hillsboro; Citizens State Bank in Goessel; Carlson’s IGA in Marion; Peabody State Bank in Peabody; Al’s Cafe in Lost Springs; and at the Cottonwood Valley Bank in Florence.
Doors open at 1 p.m., and the autograph session begins at 1:30. Game time is scheduled for 3 p.m.