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Jamari Traylor: From homeless to playing for Kansas

Dec 24, 2012, 3:46 PM EDT

Jamari Traylor, Derrick Nix, Denzel Valentine AP

Jamari Traylor has had a tough time breaking into the Kansas rotation this season.

That’s what happens when you’re a freshman on a team that includes the likes of Jeff Withey and Ben McLemore. At Kansas, you wait your turn, and success will eventually find you.

And while he may only be averaging 2.7 points and 2.9 boards for the Jayhawks, Traylor has, without a doubt, the most heart-warming story of anyone on the Kansas roster.

When he was a freshman in high school, Traylor’s father disappeared. It wasn’t until months later than he found out his dad was in prison with a life sentence for trafficking cocaine. Traylor was devastated by the news and eventually spent a year on the streets, living in boarded up cars and burnt out buildings.

Basketball pulled him out of it. And Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal has the story.

Here’s an excerpt from the story (I’m not going to pull too much, because it really deserves a read):

With nowhere else to go, Traylor started walking. He’d been living like this for a while, ever since he found out his dad was in prison. At first, no one knew what had happened to Jessie Traylor. Jamari remembers calling his phone every day for months, thinking this would be the time he heard his father’s voice on the other end. He started to fear the worst.

I know where he is, Traylor’s mother said one day. Jessie Traylor was in prison, arrested in connection with a drug trafficking ring. So began the spiral — the arguments, the bad grades, skipping school — that led Jamari to move out of his house and start living on the street. This is how a rusted-out Buick sitting outside a car wash became Traylor’s only refuge.

Traylor wedged his hand inside and forced the window down. He crawled inside, wondering what would happen if the Buick became his coffin.

“I just remember thinking, ‘If I die right now, if someone came and just killed me, would anybody even care? Would anybody know?’” Traylor said. “It felt like nobody cared about me at all and nobody would even know.

“That’s like the worst feeling, knowing you’re irrelevant to anybody.”

When you combine this story with the fact that Traylor is the guy that did this, I think I can go ahead and slide this kid into my top five favorite players list.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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