March 4, 2008

Beasley may be playing final home game

The eyes drooped incessantly following Monday's evening practice at Bramlage Coliseum. The TV camera lights and arena lights were off. But they'd assuredly switch on again. Meanwhile, the questions only persisted. Was it media burnout? Or did bigger issues weigh on the mind of Michael Beasley, the greatest college player in America, who is in the midst of one of the greatest individual seasons in Big 12 history, and who can't sleep after a loss?

No, Beasley can't sleep after a loss. That's what he says. Which is why after the team bus pulled into the Bramlage parking lot after Kansas State suffered an 88-74 loss at No. 6 Kansas on Saturday night, Beasley headed straight to the arena basketball court. While his coaches and teammates thought about the many ways the Wildcats dropped their fourth straight game and their sixth in nine contests, the 6-foot-10, 235-pound freshman power forward, his ears still ringing from 16,300 strong at Allen Fieldhouse, shot basket after basket on the empty home floor.

Beasley, who had 39 points and 11 rebounds for his nation-leading 25th double-double against the Jayhawks, didn't shut off the lights until around 2 a.m.

"I shot 11 for 23 (against Kansas)," Beasley said. "I don't know, if I would've hit five or six of those other shots, we probably would've won. I was just working on my game.

"I don't get much sleep after any loss. I come back in this gym and I'm here practically all night."

So much has changed since Beasley held court publicly for the first time in the third-level meeting room at the Downtown Marriott in Kansas City that cold night on Dec. 16. He howled -- a mixture of playfulness and disbelief -- as five fellow first-year teammates shared tables while he was solo, front and center and in front of a horde of reporters, each eager to scratch his every word into a notebook.

Want to enter Beasley's world? Here's an introduction:

Moments before he entered the hotel meeting room, Beasley spotted a gentleman strolling down the hallway.

"Hey, are you a reporter?" Beasley asked. He pointed at teammate Andre Gilbert, who he had in a headlock. "I want you to kick this guy."

Beasley was 18-years-old then. He's 19 now. Back then, we didn't know his bed sheets featured prints of a yellow cartoon sea sponge from the city of Bikini Bottom. We didn't know all it took was a bowl of macaroni & cheese to make him happy. We didn't know about his infatuation with Ipods, nightlights, Skittles, Lauren Hill and Alicia Keyes. And we absolutely, positively didn't know he shot baskets 365 days out of the year, including Christmas Day.

We know now.

And on Monday, we learned Beasley absolutely, positively remains a child at heart.

"You can be sleeping and he'll spray you with a water gun and then he'll try to act like he's asleep, act like it's not him," roommate Bill Walker said. "We go back and forth. We had a truce that we weren't going to get each other, but he threw that one out the window, so we're back at it again."

Asked why he broke the truce, Beasley said, "He was getting on my nerves."

We know this much, too: Beasley averages 26.7 points and a nation-leading 12.6 rebounds in 28 games. He has 25 double-doubles, which is the most ever by a freshman, ties a Big 12 record and currently leads the nation. We know he has reached 40 points (three times), 30 points and 10 rebounds (12 times), and 20 points and 10 rebounds (20 times) more than any player in the nation. And, of course, we know Beasley continues his nightly onslaughts on Kevin Durant's Big 12 records (see chart) and is in the thick of a two-man race with Tyler Hansbrough for National Player of the Year, which figures to be a hotly contested duel the rest of the way.

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