Joel Embiid

Kansas’ Joel Embiid dealt with lower back issues in high school as well

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One of the biggest storylines of the week is the health of Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid, who isn’t expected to play in the Big 12 tournament this week due to his having a stress fracture in his lower back. What remains to be decided is just how long will Embiid have to sit, with the answer likely impacting the Jayhawks’ draw in the NCAA tournament.

“How quickly and if Jo comes back will be determined by his symptoms and how well he does in rehab,” Self said according to the Lawrence Journal-World. “I am not optimistic that there is a definite time frame, but I’m very optimistic that it’s possible that if our team is successful enough, he could play again this year.”

In the linked story, written by Tom Keegan of the Journal-World, Embiid’s back injury is compared to that of Emeka Okafor during UConn’s 2004 season. Okafor missed the entire Big East tournament with a stress fracture in his lower back, and the Huskies received a two-seed in the NCAA tournament with that health status likely having an impact.

With improved health thanks to the rest Okafor played at least 32 minutes in four of UConn’s six NCAA tournament games, with the exceptions being their Elite 8 win over Alabama (the Huskies rolled to an 87-71 victory) and the Final Four win over Duke (picked up two quick fouls in the first half). That scenario seems to be the hope for Kansas in regards to Embiid, with Self stating that the center won’t return until he’s ready to physically.

It should also be noted that Embiid dealt with lower back issues as a senior in high school, with his high school coach Justin Harden telling the Journal-World that it was a concern last spring.

“When you are 7-feet tall, there’s a lot more to take care of. You are 7-feet tall. There’s more stuff to be concerned with because your body is bigger,” Harden said, referring to tweaking different areas of the body.

“With some rest, he seemed to have it corrected (entering freshman season at KU). I’m sure with the rest he gets now … they have better doctors and trainers and staff over there (at KU) to rehab him and get him back to normal. I’m sure he’ll be all right soon enough,” Harden added.

Lower back problems can be (at the very least) a nuisance for regular people, much less an elite athlete. So with there being no concrete timeline provided by the school, who knows when we’ll see Embiid back on the floor for the Jayhawks. But it’s clearly a situation in which Kansas doesn’t want to rush him back out of fear of Embiid aggravating the injury.

Former Wichita State assistant returns as a consultant

Chris Jans, Gregg Marshall
Associated Press
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Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.

Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.

“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”

While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.


AUDIO: Rick Pitino discusses allegations, future at Louisville

Rick Pitino
Associated Press
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Thursday afternoon marked the first time since Friday that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino commented on the controversy that has taken his program by storm. Speaking with Terry Meiners of 840 WHAS in Louisville, Pitino discussed the escort scandal, what could have possibly led former staffer Andre McGee down the path he’s alleged to have taken in Katina Powell’s book and his future at Louisville.

The interview began with Meiners asking Pitino if it changed his thinking as to whether or not he needed to resign, which (as one would expect) Pitino shot down. Also discussed was the statement released by school president Dr. James Ramsey, which expressed support for athletic director Tom Jurich but did not mention Pitino at all.

“Well I can’t answer that, Terry,” Pitino said when asked why he wasn’t mentioned in the statement. “Twenty-six years ago Kentucky brought me in to make the program compliant to NCAA rules. (Then-Kentucky president) Dr. (David) Roselle and (then Kentucky athletic director) C.M. Newton thought I was the guy to come in and change around the images, change around the culture and add a lot of discipline to the program. And I did that.

“And then I came here to the University of Louisville, and if someone was five seconds late or not early consequences would be paid from a disciplinary standpoint,” Pitino continued. “This is obviously not a person being late, this is not about a person (not) working hard. This is about things that are very disgusting, things that turn my stomach, things that keep me up without sleeping.

“But unfortunately, I had no knowledge of any of this and don’t believe in it. It’s sickening to me, the whole thing. But I’m thinking of my 13 players, I’m thinking of our program, and I’m sorry that Dr. Ramsey did not think enough to mention me but that’s something I cannot control.”

Below is audio of the full interview, which ran just over 17 minutes in length.