Mario Chalmers remembers the first time he gazed up to the rafters in Allen Fieldhouse and read the names on the back of the jerseys hanging over one end.
Wilt Chamberlain. Paul Pierce. Clyde Lovellette.
It was during Late Night at the Phog, the annual celebration to kick off fall practice, during his freshman year in 2004. Chalmers read the names and imagined himself having the kind of career that might one day land his own name among the pantheon of Jayhawk stars.
That day will come Feb. 16, during halftime of Kansas' game against Texas.
Chalmers, whose buzzer-beating shot helped deliver the Jayhawks the 2008 national title, will have his No. 15 raised to the rafters.
It will join 27 other men and three women who have had their names enshrined in one of college basketball's historic venues.
"It means a lot to me," Chalmers said, "being up there in the rafters with guys like Paul Pierce, Drew Gooden, Wilt Chamberlain. It's a big accomplishment."
Few players are as beloved by Jayhawk fans as Chalmers, who coach Bill Self described Thursday as the most "clutch" player that he's had in 10 seasons with Kansas.
Now a member of the Miami Heat, Chalmers only averaged a shade over 12 points during his career.
But he dished out more than 400 assists, had nearly 100 steals each of his three years and became the guy at the end of games who craved the ball for the final shot.
That was the case in the national title game against Memphis.
Chalmers came around a screen at the top of the key, pulled up for a 3-pointer and let it loose just as the game clock expired.
It was on line the whole way, going through the net and sending the game to overtime, where the Jayhawks ultimately won 75-68.
Ask anybody in Lawrence about "the shot," and they can describe it in detail. It's shown during the video montage before every home game, and it's always the moment that the feverish crowd erupts with the biggest roar of the night.
"I've seen that shot more than you have," Self said. "It still gives me goose bumps."
It wasn't just his on-court play that endeared him to a generation, though.
It was the way he went about it. Chalmers had an infectious enthusiasm that transcended the team.
"Mario was a unique guy because he was as ornery as we've had," Self said, "but he smiled and had this boyish grin and all that stuff. He was the perfect guy to coach because he loved the moment, and he loved the competition, and he smile the whole time while he loved it."
Chalmers was picked in the second round of the 2008 draft by Minnesota, and later traded to the Heat, where he helped LeBron James and Co. win last year's NBA title.
Page 2 of 2 - While he admitted that winning an NBA championship trumped his national title from college because "it's the game's highest level," Chalmers said he still has fond memories of Kansas and pointed out that "you never forget your college experience."
"One of my goals when I first went to KU was to make a name, and you know, make sure my name lasts forever in Kansas history," Chalmers said, when asked about the reception he'll get when his jersey is retired next month.
"I'm not surprised having been able to bring a championship to the program. I'm sure people are going to appreciate that for a long time."