Rush shows his soul
With his team clinging to a four-point lead in overtime against Arizona, Kansas University junior Brandon Rush stepped into a passing lane, stole the ball and marched to the other end for a two-handed dunk.He raced back to the defensive end clapping his hands, and seconds later Arizona called timeout. Rush pumped his right fist in the air and then greeted his teammates in the huddle with high-fives.Moments later, Rush was on the receiving end of an alley-oop that gave No. 4 Kansas an eight-point lead, and then sank a free throw for career point No. 1,000 as the Jayhawks went on to win, 76-72, Sunday night at Allen Fieldhouse.Rush finished the game with 17 points and eight rebounds, a performance even more impressive considering his minutes were supposed to be limited as he returns from an anterior cruciate ligament. He was supposed to play 15-20 minutes, not 36, and he did it while guarding Arizona's top scoring threat, Chase Budinger.The stats would've been stellar for a healthy Rush, but what stood out the most was the enthusiasm and passion he displayed. Those brief flashes - the clapping, the fist pump, the high fives : a passing grin - that revealed a side of Rush that we've rarely seen during his days at Kansas.Rush has had an ice-in-the-veins demeanor for most of his career at Kansas. He has a monster game and seems shy about it. He never has been a glory hound. If there has been any knock on Rush's career in the Crimson and Blue, it's that he isn't selfish enough. His steady, sometimes emotionless on-the-court personality is what has made Rush so reliable and so great during his first two years at KU, but it also might be what has kept him from leaping into college basketball superstardom.This season might be different, though. That glimpse of fire in the belly that Rush displayed might be a sneak peek at things to come, and that could be oh so very good for Kansas and Rush alike.Last spring Rush was a knee injury away from making NBA millions, and he was a few points away from playing in the NCAA Final Four. Now in his third season in Lawrence, we're likely to see a sense of urgency from Rush that we never have before.Thanks to another NCAA Tournament loss and a devastating knee injury, Rush has turned into the underdog in some ways. He flirted with the NBA out of high school before ultimately coming to Kansas. Upon arrival, he expected to be a one- or two-year guy. After year two at KU, he declared for the NBA Draft. Then his knee failed him and sent him spiraling back to college.As far as professional dreams are concerned, Rush's has constantly eluded him when it was seemingly within grasp. Each time he has bounced back with more desire and determination.At 22, he's an old man by college basketball standards, and he needs to have the best season of his career in order to make his NBA dream a reality. His team needs that from him if it's going to contend for a national championship.This is his Rocky Balboa moment, and for the first time he's wearing his emotion on his sleeve.Realistically, this probably will be Rush's last go-round at Kansas. He has been good for two years, but this year he must be great if his personal and team goals are to be met. Sunday night gave us a rare glimpse into Rush's heart and soul, and that brief look provided every indication that he plans to make those goals happen.