Number 15 Will Go Down in History

Mario Chalmers’ jersey was retired halftime at the Texas-Kansas game Saturday

By Josh Kurelac

Mario Chalmers tied the game at 63 in the 2008 National Championship game against Memphis.The University of Kansas retired Mario Chalmers’ jersey on Saturday, Feb. 16, at halftime of the Texas versus Kansas men’s basketball game.  The ceremony commemorated Chalmers for his accomplishments during his three-year career at KU.

Chalmers, a Mcdonald’s All-American and Parade All-American in 2005, was a top recruit coming out of Bartlett High School in Anchorage, Alaska.  He didn’t waste any time introducing himself to the Jayhawk faithful, scoring 15 points against Idaho State in his first game as a Jayhawk.  Chalmers made an immediate impact as a freshman for Head Coach Bill Self.  He averaged 11.5 points per game, 3.8 assists per game and 2.7 steals per game on a team that won the regular and postseason Big 12 Championship.  The Jayhawks failed to advance past the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, when they suffered a loss to the Bradley Braves 73-77.  Despite a disappointing end to the 2005-06 season, Chalmers demonstrated why he was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school.  Not many freshman guards can come to a program like Kansas, and perform the way Chalmers did during his freshman season.  In his sophomore season, he began to mature and improved in every aspect of his game.  Chalmers led the Jayhawks to another regular and postseason Big 12 Championship and a number-one seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Unfortunately, the Jayhawks fell short of the Final Four when they lost to the UCLA Bruins 55-68 in an Elite Eight matchup.  In the 2007-08 season, Chalmers emerged as one of the best guards in the country.  He led the Jayhawks to a 20-0 start, which is the longest winning-streak in the Bill Self era.  The Jayhawks won the regular and postseason Big 12 Championship.  Again.

The Jayhawks entered the 2007-08 NCAA Tournament as a number-one seed in the Midwest Region.  This postseason had a special feel to it.  Bill Self had put together a team with a good mixture of young talent and senior leadership.  In the First Round, the Jayhawks faced the Portland State Pilots.  Kansas won easily 85-61.  Chalmers led the Jayhawks with 16 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 1 block.  In the Second Round, Chalmers helped the Jayhawks to another easy victory, defeating the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels 75-56.  Chalmers continued his great play in the tournament with 17 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.  Next, Chalmers and the Jayhawks traveled to Detroit, Mich. to play the upset-minded and 12th-seeded Villanova Wildcats in the Sweet Sixteen.  Kansas built a 19-point halftime lead, and never let Villanova back in the game.  Chalmers played well again.  He scored 14 points with 3 rebounds and 4 assists.  Two days later, Seth Curry and the Davidson Wildcats played Kansas tough throughout the entirety of the game.  The Jayhawks prevailed 60-58, after Davidson guard, Jason Richards, missed a game-winning three-point attempt that banged off of the backboard as time expired.  Chalmers was a big reason the Jayhawks qualified for their first Final Four since 2003.  He scored 13 points, with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block.  In San Antonio, Texas, Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tarheels tried to stop Kansas’ quest for a National Championship.  Chalmers and the Jayhawks put on one of the most impressive performances in the first half of a Final Four game in the history of NCAA basketball.  The score was 40-12 with just under seven minutes to play in the first half.  The Tarheels made a run in the second half, but they ran out of time.  Kansas defeated North Carolina 84-66.  Chalmers finished the game with 11 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.  On Monday night, April 7, 2008,  Kansas played Memphis in the National Championship game.  The game changed Chalmers’ life and legacy at the University of Kansas.  With Kansas trailing Memphis 63-60 with 10.8 seconds left in the game, Kansas guard, Sherron Collins, raced the ball up the court.  He was able to shovel the ball to Chalmers as he fell to the floor.  Chalmers took one dribble to his left and hoisted a three-point shot.  The ball went in with just 2.1 seconds to play in the game.  Memphis forward, Robert Dozier, chucked a desperation shot as the buzzer sounded, but he was not successful.  Chalmers’ shot forced overtime.  The Jayhawks took control of the game in overtime, defeating Memphis 75-68.  Chalmers scored 18 points, with 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals.  He was named the tournament’s Most Oustanding Player, and helped Kansas win its third National Championship in school history.

Chalmers made one of the biggest shots in Kansas and college basketball history.  The retirement of his jersey at the University of Kansas is well deserved.  He is and will always be a basketball legend at Kansas.