LAWRENCE — Three days later, Ben McLemore can smile a little about his sprained right ankle — or at least his reaction to it. It was just Monday night when McLemore slapped the floor in obvious pain and lay flat on his back, leaving the Allen Fieldhouse crowd in eerie silence. No, the injury wasn’t as serious as it first appeared, but McLemore, a freshman guard, was still hurting.
“I was in pain,” McLemore said, smiling. “And I also heard it pop. I just felt my ankle get real loose. Knowing that, I thought something bad happened.”
In the end, it wasn’t too bad.
Three days later, McLemore returned to practice on Thursday afternoon, going through a full 90-minute workout with the rest of the Jayhawks. He’s expected to play on Saturday against Texas. And with no practice on Tuesday and a light shooting workout on Wednesday, McLemore didn’t miss much time.
“He’s gonna be close to 100 percent come Saturday,” Self said.
McLemore said he’d undergone pool workouts and laser treatments on the ankle since suffering the injury.
“It was about like 85 percent,” McLemore said Thursday, “just going through the motions … I think I should be good.”
The quick recovery highlighted another solid week for McLemore, who is averaging 16.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and was selected a midseason All-American by the The Sporting News earlier this week. He’s also the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week.
“I’d be nervous for anybody to get hurt,” KU coach Bill Self said, “but because it was Ben, it seemed like to me there was a little bit of air in the building that left.
“But I don’t think I was scared; concern would probably be a better word.”
Texas questions — For years, Kansas and Texas have played some epic Big 12 battles. Saturday’s Kansas-Texas game will appear in a major afternoon timeslot on CBS. But the matchup might not be as marquee as in year’s past.
The Longhorns are off to an 0-3 start in the Big 12 and are just 8-8 overall. They also suffered a shocking nonconference loss to Division II Chaminade at the Maui Invitational before losing a home league game to West Virginia. For Self it certainly feels different, but he’s not writing Texas off just yet.
“It’s early, too,” Self said. “(North) Carolina started out 0-2 in the league in ’09 and won the national championship. So it’s not uncommon to see good teams or good programs get off to rough starts in the league, depending on who they’re playing. But this is different than most KU-Texas games.”
Kansas has won six of seven against Texas, but the Longhorns’ last victory came at Allen Fieldhouse in January 2011, snapping KU’s 69-game homecourt winning streak.
“It’s never been easy going to Texas,” senior guard Elijah Johnson said. “They’re gonna fight. Oh-and-four is not gonna sound good to them, so (I’m) pretty sure they’re not gonna just sit back and let it happen.
“But 4-0 sounds good to us. So we’ll just go out, handle business, do what we’re supposed to do.”
Johnson’s development — Johnson has certainly had a mix of success and struggle while taking over the Jayhawks’ primary ballhandling duties this season. He’s averaging 9.9 points and 5.2 assists per game, but also leads KU with 48 turnovers in 16 games. For Self, though, Johnson’s play can only be judged by one number: KU’s 15-1 record.
“To me,” Self said, “there’s only one stat that matters with a point guard, and I think he’s done a really good job there.”
Self also believes that Johnson can make some progress on the offensive end.
“He hasn’t made shots yet,” Johnson said. “But you take away the fact that he hasn’t made shots, he’s pretty sound.”
V Foundation honors Self — Self will be honored on May 17 in Sarasota, Fla., at The V Foundation’s annual Dick Vitale Gala. Proceeds from the event will go to cancer research and related programs through The V Foundation, named after the late North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano.