Lawrence, KS (U-WIRE) -- Students will say goodbye to their college careers with a walk down the Campanilie on Sunday, but student-athletes at the University of Kansas live two lives, and some have already experience a graduation of their own.
Along with the trip down the hill, student-athletes have bid farewell to college athletics with one last substitution off the court, one final climb out of the pool or one last step off the playing field.
Very few athletes will graduate to professional careers in the sport they played at Kansas, more athletes will continue their sport recreationally as they pursue careers with their degree and yet others will walk away from their athletics lives at the same time they cross the bell tower atop the Campanilie, never to return.
One group of athletes who will likely trade the bright lights, fanfare, television cameras and free scholarships of college athletics for the brighter lights, rabid fanfare, glare of television cameras and big bucks of professional sports are three of the four graduating seniors from the men's basketball team.
Wayne Simien, Keith Langford and Aaron Miles are expected to all turn professional when the National Basketball Association holds its draft on June 28.
And while they will cross the greener pastures of professional sports, the dynamic trio will be remembered as one of the finer classes of graduating seniors in Kansas basketball history. Despite never winning the national title many thought they would be christened with, they will look at their careers at Kansas positively.
"I have no negative feelings about anything in my body," Langford said at the team's annual postseason banquet.
Time will tell if this year's graduating class will emerge unscathed from the final moments they spent on the court as Kansas basketball players. Kansas lost its to an unheralded Bucknell team in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a surprising upset that soured many hopeful fans in Lawrence who were expecting a third consecutive berth to the Final Four on the shoulders of the four experienced seniors.
But coach Bill Self said that he expected that in time, the seniors would be remembered as one of the better core of players to leave Kansas in the same year.
"Regardless of how it ended, that won't take away who you are," Self said. "These guys are first-class and they will be remembered as first class."
Simien also added that he would probably remember the brighter moments, like one of the first experiences he had on the team rather than his last.
"I remember freshman year, me and Keith were roommates," Simien said. "We were late to our first pre-game meal. We never thought we were going to play again.
"I guess we rebounded from that all right."
For Simien, he rebounded and morphed into a likely lottery pick in the NBA draft.
Langford and Miles also expect to follow suit, even though they aren't clear draft picks like Simien will be. Nevertheless, Simien said he had heard from a few NBA general managers that both should graduate to the NBA as well.
"The last GM I talked to said he thought both of them would get drafted," Simien said. "The word on Aaron is that he is a second-round pick. The word on Keith is that he is a high second-round pick, but he could p[lay his way to a low first-round pick."
Both Miles and Langford are excited at the prospect of following Simien into the NBA, but graduation is first thing for now.
"I promised my mom that I would graduate," Langford said. "But of course I have some basketball things scheduled. I am going to work out with the Rockets and then take them one thing at a time."
Other athletes will leave Kansas without a huge contract beckoning, but some will continue to pursue excellence in their sport anyway. Swimmer Amy Gruber finished an illustrious career in the pool that finished with several All-American and Big 12 honors, not to mention a qualifying time for the 2008 United States Olympic Trials.
But some of her teammates will call it a career, and their postseason banquet marked their finale as college athletes. Miranda Isaac was sent off with the Karen Dionne Award from her senior banquet to wrap up four years as an athlete representing Kansas.
"It was an appropriate goodbye," Isaac said. "It was a great time to reflect on what swimming has been to us for the last four years."
(C) 2004 University Daily Kansan via U-WIRE