Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Iowa Prep Star Took Jaywalk to Jayhawks

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Iowa Prep Star Took Jaywalk to Jayhawks

Article excerpt

For Raef LaFrentz, what should have been a day of celebration was reduced to a public apology.

Last Nov. 15, the good citizens of Monona, Iowa, packed the MFL-Mar-Mac High School library. A local radio station broadcast the proceedings live. His honor himself, the mayor of Monona, was on hand.

They heard LaFrentz, a mobile 7-footer, announce that he was signing with - gasp - Kansas.

"There was a lot of pressure," said LaFrentz, in St. Louis for the Olympic Festival men's basketball competition. "A lot of people got upset, but I just had to make that decision for myself."

In a state where there are no major-league teams, where the Iowa Hawkeyes rule the landscape, it was a gutsy decision.

Which explains why LaFrentz, regarded by some as the best prospect the state has ever produced, read from a prepared statement and declined to answer questions that day.

"I was kind of scared what the media would do to me," LaFrentz said. "They would have probably shellacked me right there."

He got some nasty letters and phone calls - mostly anonymous.

"But nothing that I really let get to me," LaFrentz said.

The prospect of playing for Roy Williams and the Kansas Jayhawks was simply too tempting to pass up.

Even if it meant saying no to the homestate Hawkeyes and about 90 other schools including the Missouri Tigers.

Missouri actually stayed in the running for LaFrentz until the late stages, with head coach Norm Stewart himself handling the recruiting.

"I had a visit scheduled there, but I cancelled it," LaFrentz said.

Mizzou had an "in" of sorts because Raef's father Ron and Stewart had become acquaintances over the years. Ron, an assistant at MFL-Mar-Mac, played at Northern Iowa in the late 1950s and early '60s. He completed his eligibility just one year before Stewart began his head coaching career there in 1961.

"I know Norm very well," Ron LaFrentz said by phone from Monona. "I know him from mutual friends, visiting with him through the recruiting and because of my association with Northern Iowa."

He'll get to know Stewart even better over the next few years since Raef will do battle with archrival MU at least twice a season. Just a year away from retirement as a teacher, Ron might even move to Missouri at that time. …

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