Fans Give Jayhawks Sweet 16 Sendoff

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Back in 1986, Herschel Stroud and friends formed the Topeka Jayhawk Club Pep Band. Every year since, they've been there to see off their favorite team to big events.

That includes 1988, when the University of Kansas won the national title.

As the Hawks embark on another title run, Stroud and his friends were back at Topeka's Forbes Field Wednesday afternoon, proudly playing the KU Fight Song as the team and coaches high-fived fans on the way to their charter flight to Arlington, TX and a Sweet 16 tipoff against Michigan.

Why does Stroud do it?

"This is Kansas! This is KU! These are the Jayhawks!" Stroud exclaimed. "Why not?"

The pep band members were among about 200 fans who gathered for Wednesday's send off. They included three-year-old Braxton, who reeled off a "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" cheer as well as any adult, while clutching his mini KU basketball. His mom, Crystal Reich, says Braxton loves basketball so they thought it would be fun to see the team in person.

Young sisters Kelsey and Bailey were there, too. Kelsey quicked tabbed Jeff Withey as her favorite player. Bailey couldn't choose, but didn't hesitate to join her sister in their own rousing "Rock Chalk" cheer.

Team members arrived just before 3 pm Wednesday. They exited their bus to a loud cheer and the strains of the band.

Withey said he imagines the sendoff was a lot of fun for the younger players on the team, who he says might have been a bit surprised to see the crowd that gathered in Topeka.

Freshman Perry Ellis, who hails from Wichita, said it was a great experience, part of his first NCAA tournament.

Elijah Johnson called it a good feeling to go on the road with. Kevin Young agreed, saying to be embraced by the fans as they got on the plane was "amazing."

Young added that he and his teammates are "focused and prepared" as they head toward Friday's tipoff against the Michigan Wolverines.

Tip-off is expected around 6:37 p.m. on TBS.