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.

WATCH LIVE: James Madison battles UNC-Wilmington on NBCSN

James Madison guard Shakir Brown, left, drives past Hofstra forward Denton Koon (12) during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Harrisonburg, Va., Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
(Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)
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Two of the top teams in the CAA battle on Saturday afternoon as James Madison travels to UNC-Wilmington. You can catch this matchup live on NBCSN at 3 p.m. EST.

UNC-Wilmington (19-5, 11-2) is currently the class of the conference as they hold a two-game lead over James Madison, William & Mary and Hofstra. The Seahawks have won 10 consecutive games and they’re led by guard Chris Flemmings, who is averaging 16.6 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game.

James Madison (19-7, 9-4) has won three consecutive games as they try to make up ground on UNC-Wilmington. Guard Ron Curry leads the Dukes in points (16.8 ppg) and assists (3.9 apg) as he’s having a very solid season.

These two teams played on Jan. 28 with UNC-Wilmington winning 78-73 on the road.

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Saturday afternoon.

VIDEO: Winthrop’s Keon Johnson goes coast-to-coast for buzzer-beater

Winthrop's Keon Johnson (5) shoots a layup while defended by Coastal Carolina's Warren Gillis during the first half of the Big South Conference Championship college basketball game Sunday, March 8, 2015, in Conway, S.C. Coastal Carolina won 81-70. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
(AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
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Winthop earned a Big South road win at Radford on Saturday afternoon as junior guard Keon Johnson raced coast-to-coast and buried the game-winner at the buzzer.

The 5-foot-7 Johnson erupted for 32 points in the win and he’s been one of the most potent mid-major scorers in the country this season. The win moves Winthrop to 18-7 on the season and their 10-4 mark in the Big South ties them with UNC Asheville atop the conference standings.

(H/T: LiveonASN)