Kansas coach Bill Self is taking a long-term approach when it comes to the health of freshman center Joel Embiid. But that doesn’t mean Embiid, who is battling knee and back ailments, will definitely be out for KU’s game against TCU on Saturday.
Self made that clear on Thursday afternoon: If Embiid is healthy, he’ll play.
“Of course you think long-term,” Self said on Thursday afternoon. “But you also know that he’ll have a better chance to perform in games in the future the less time he’s off now, too.
“We’re not going to do anything to jeopardize him at all, but based on the doctors and the trainers, they’ll make the call, along with Jo being honest with us and how he’s feeling. A lot of times there’s no reason to hold guys out if they’re healthy, too. We’ll make that determination in the next few days.”
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More specifically, Self said he wants to see if Embiid is able to practice on Friday. For now, Embiid is still recovering from a knee sprain suffered in late January and a back injury suffered in the second half against West Virginia on Feb. 8. The injuries have added up, and Self said earlier this week that he planned on giving Embiid some “time off.” After the entire team took Tuesday off, Embiid dressed for practice on Wednesday but didn’t participate.
“He feels better,” Self said. “And like I said before, you know, the MRIs and things like that have been done tell us that there’s a good chance he’s going to get better quickly.”
After Kansas’ home game against TCU on Saturday, the Jayhawks will play this Tuesday at Texas Tech in Lubbock. If Embiid is not able to play on Saturday, the Jayhawks’ should be able to manage against last-place TCU, which enters 0-11 in the Big 12. But on the whole, the Jayhawks will likely need a healthy Embiid to play to their ceiling down the stretch.
“We lose a rim protector, an inside presence,” freshman Brannen Greene said. “If we throw it down in the post, he’s obviously a great finisher. So we lose a lot, he’s one of the top two picks in the draft, so obviously we lose a lot.”
Naismith watch — Kansas freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Embiid were both selected to the midseason watch list for the Naismith Award, one of college basketball’s national player of the year awards.
Wiggins, the Jayhawks’ leading scorer, and Embiid, a 7-foot center, were two of 30 players on the list released on Thursday.
Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet and forward Cleanthony Early were also included. Creighton senior Doug McDermott appears to be the favorite for most of the national player of the year honors.
Traylor returns — Self confirmed on Thursday evening that sophomore Jamari Traylor will play Saturday against TCU. Traylor was suspended for Monday's loss against K-State for an undisclosed disciplinary matter that Self termed as "irresponsible behavior." Self said earlier on Thursday that he planned to speak with Traylor on Thursday afternoon and discuss his status.