Jayhawk finds home on downtown bench
An interesting guest was perched on the park bench in front of Evans Real Estate last week.
A Jayhawk, made of inch-thick wood, graced the green bench during Kansas University's NCAA Tournament run.
The bird's owner is John Evans II, who rescued the Jayhawk from an uncertain fate a few weeks ago.
Evans, a longtime KU fan, was selling a piece of property when the owners contemplated throwing out a wooden Jayhawk.
"I think they just had it for a while and outgrew it maybe," Evans said.
Whatever the reasoning, Evans gladly took the Jayhawk under his wing.
And, to coincide with KU's run through the NCAA Tournament, Evans decided to display the Jayhawk outside his family's business, near Fourth and Bury in downtown Tonganoxie.
Evans put the Jayhawk on a bench, where it was visible to just about anyone who passed by it. The outdoor addition sparked interest downtown.
"Had a few people stop in and say 'I like your Jayhawk,'" Evans recalled. "Or someone will stop in and say 'Go Jayhawks.'"
Evans even fielded calls from people interesting in purchasing the bird. But Evans declined any transaction.
"I said you can't; it's a one of a kind," Evans said.
The 44-year-old Evans said he's been a Jayhawk fan for several years. A 1981 Tonganoxie High School graduate, Evans said it was easy to root for KU because of Tonganoxie's proximity to Lawrence.
In fact, Evans recalled attending KU basketball camps when he was in elementary school, when the camps were run by then-KU coach Ted Owens. Evans said he remembers former Jayhawks JoJo White and Darnell Valentine assisting with the camp.
John's parents, John and Ferry Evans, are big KU fans as well. They attended the Big 12 Conference Tournament in Oklahoma City earlier this month. Like his parents, John also has attended occasional KU games, from those played at Allen Fieldhouse to conference tournament games when the event is in Kansas City, Mo.
After every Big 12 Tournament, there's always the NCAA Tournament, which the Jayhawks normally compete in as well. Evans said he's a big fan of what's become known as The Big Dance.
"I think what I like about it is the intensity of it because it's one day, one game and, like they say, you have to survive and advance," Evans said.
Unfortunately Saturday, his team didn't survive.
Kansas fell to UCLA, 68-55, one game short of the Final Four.
A few Tonganoxie High School students made the trip Saturday to Lawrence to watch the Elite Eight game against UCLA.
Courtenay DeHoff, Hannah Herrstrom, Lindsay Himpel and Christy Weller headed to Massachusetts Street in hopes of watching the game at an establishment there.
"We walked by Buffalo Wild Wings and there were like a million people outside so we didn't stop there," Himpel said.
So the foursome headed south and ate at Papa Kenos for pizza. Weller said she noticed the marquee at The Grenada across the street advertising that the dance hall would be showing the KU game.
The Tonganoxie group journeyed across the street and watched the game in jam-packed Grenada.
The game was projected on an enormous screen, Weller said.
"And it was dark," Weller said. "It was like the theater with the game on."
Weller said that she and her friends gathered as many times as possible throughout the season to watch the Jayhawks on television.
"We usually watch it somewhere," Weller said. "We usually watch it at my house. We decided it would be really fun to watch on Mass. Street. But then they lost, so it really wasn't that fun.
"The whole game, I thought, 'They're going to get it back, they're going to get it back.' But they never got it back."
Still, Himpel said it was a fun atmosphere, as fans started cheers and several people, including total strangers, exchanged high-fives.
"You definitely meet a lot of interesting people," Himpel said.
But Saturday, it wasn't to be for the Jayhawks.
"It was kind of sad because KU played really bad. They could have won they just played bad," she said.
Another No. 1 seed, North Carolina, lost Sunday, meaning KU wouldn't be the only No. 1 seed not advancing to the Final Four in Atlanta.
Himpel didn't mind seeing the Tar Heels, who are coached by former KU coach Roy Williams, fall as well.
"Just because it's North Carolina," Himpel said. "I don't really have anything against Roy. You just always want to do better than your ex-coach."
Jayhawk fans will have to wait until November to watch KU basketball again.
But Himpel likes KU's chances in 2008, especially if all of the players decide not to leave early for the NBA.
Himpel likened KU to Tonganoxie's softball team, for which Himpel is a team member.
Last spring, the Chieftains advanced to state but lost in the first round. THS last season, like KU this year, didn't graduate any seniors.
"You don't lose anybody, so you should be just as good and better because you don't lose anybody and no senior leadership," Himpel said.
Tonganoxie, by the way, opens its season Thursday at home.