University of Kansas

Jayhawks' Travis Releford regroups

LAWRENCE — Once again, Kansas guard Travis Releford is hitting the restart button.

Just when it seems the moment has arrived for Releford to become a regular contributor, he gets shuffled and finds himself battling back.

The latest obstacle has been a left ankle injury that caused him to miss more time than anyone expected.

It happened in the first half of the Jayhawks' last nonconference game, at Michigan. The initial news — that it wasn't a high ankle sprain — was viewed as positive. Releford might miss some time, but three weeks?

That's what happens when an ankle pops loud enough for the folks around to hear it, which was the case here.

"By the time the trainers got to me, I had popped it back in," Releford said.

Helped off the floor, Releford watched Kansas' next five games from the bench. He returned to log one minute in the blowout victory over Kansas State and played nine minutes with no points and two assists at Texas Tech on Wednesday.

Releford would love more playing time today when Kansas visits Nebraska. But there is no guarantee.

"He's still not 100 percent," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I don't know. He's probably going to get back into that mode of either beating Mario Little out or beating one of our perimeter players out.

"It's been unfortunate for him, the timing was bad."

Releford, a third-year sophomore, pointed to this as his breakthrough season.

Fresh out of Bishop Miege High, he averaged seven minutes and 2.7 points in 2009, mostly providing quick breathers for the regulars.

All set to build on that season, Releford instead took a redshirt year when the Jayhawks landed Xavier Henry to play the big guard/small forward.

This season, Releford was determined to take the next step. He started a handful of games early, turned in three straight double-digit scoring games, and was doing the things he does well, knocking down threes and getting to the basket.

His playing time remained steady after Little was suspended, although that also was the time Josh Selby became eligible and Self started going smaller on the perimeter.

Still, Releford was getting 16 to 18 minutes per game.

Then the ankle pop, and the battle for winning over coaches for more playing time continues.

"I thought I was doing all right," said Releford, who is averaging 5.1 points in 13.4 minutes. "I felt like good things were happening, and then I went down. I have to play through it."

But it's not easy. Part of Releford's game is a quick first step that's he's trying to rebuild.

"I'm working to gain my explosiveness back," Releford said. "There are just certain things I can't do 100 percent at the moment."

He's not about to give up on recapturing the playing time he had earned before the injury, or dismiss the idea of making this a memorable year.

"I came into the year with sky-high confidence," Releford said. "I still have it. I just have to get through this and be in great shape going down the stretch and into the tournament."

The NCAA Tournament is what Releford means, and wouldn't it be fun to be matched up against Alabama? Younger brother Trevor Releford, in his first year out of Miege, starts at point guard for the team that owns the best Southeastern Conference record and is coming off a 16-point, eight-assist effort in a victory over Mississippi State.

"He's doing great, isn't he?" Travis Releford said. "We talk all the time. I tell him to keep it going." Trevor's message to his older brother would be the same.