Checking In With Super Mario

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Long before he let fly with arguably the most famous shot in college basketball history, Mario Chalmers was a fan favorite at the University of Kansas.

They loved him for his defensive flair, the quick hands and long arms that led to so many steals – and subsequent fast-break dunks. They loved him for his shooting and penchant for hitting the big shot. And they loved that he never backed down from anyone.

Now a valuable member of the NBA's Miami Heat, Mario Chalmers returned to Lawrence this week, along with a group of celebrated Jayhawk alumni, to participate in the annual summer scrimmage, a highlight of Bill Self's basketball camp.

Looking back on his college days, he said it was the fans at Kansas he missed the most. Well, that and maybe an inch or two on his vertical leap.

"I forgot how easy it was in college to dunk," Chalmers said, laughing. "You saw, I can't jump like that anymore. But (the scrimmage is) fun, it's good for them, good for the campers, good for everybody."

Many Jayhawk fans will remember a freshman Chalmers participating in the scrimmage back in 2005, engaging in a one-on-one battle with alumni team member – and current Chicago Bull – Kirk Hinrich.

The shoe was on the other foot Wednesday afternoon, after junior point guard Tyshawn Taylor picked Chalmers clean at half court early in the contest, leading to an easy breakaway dunk.

The intensity ramped up noticeably between the two from that point on, with Chalmers harassing Taylor relentlessly on defense and burying a handful of deep three-point shots. The current Jayhawk star gave as good as he got, however, leading fast breaks, getting teammates involved with flashy assists and canning a trey of his own.

In Taylor, Chalmers sees a little bit of himself.

"Tyshawn is my protege," he explained. "When I came in here, I had somebody for me to look up to. So when Tyshawn came I was kind of the person he looked up to. So between me and him it's kind of personal. I try to make him better, because that's my protege."

With his sophomore professional season in the books, Chalmers is taking the time to focus on his own game – getting stronger in the weight room and improving his shooting to become an even more valuable option for the Heat.

Like most basketball fans, he's keeping a close eye on the championship series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.

Who does he have in Game Seven?

"I'm gonna go with L.A.," Chalmers said, after deliberating. "I want Boston to win, but I'm gonna go with L.A."

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