Mario Chalmers has learned first-hand it's difficult to play basketball with a sore big toe.
"Right now, just trying to elevate off it is the toughest thing," said Chalmers, Kansas University's sharpshooting sophomore guard from Anchorage, Alaska.
He has seen his long-range shooting accuracy suffer a bit since having his left digit stepped on in KU's exhibition opener against Washburn eight days ago.
"The sprained ligaments are sore," added the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder, who also has had problems shuffling his feet on defense because of his toe woe.
"It's not going to linger a while," insisted Chalmers, who said he'd be able to play in Saturday's regular season opener against Northern Arizona (7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse) after missing Tuesday's exhibition versus Emporia State. "Right now, it's at a really bad stage. It's why I had to miss a game. It's getting better and better. I'm working hard every day to get it back to 100 percent."
Chalmers, who didn't miss a game last season, said it was difficult to wear street clothes Tuesday.
"I wanted to be out there to help my teammates and play basketball. It's what I love to do," said Chalmers, who has a blister on the same foot. "It's been very frustrating. Sitting on the sidelines, you want to be out there, not waste days.
"I was happy my teammates came out with a win. They played an excellent game. They played really well the second half."
The Jayhawks, who also were missing Jeremy Case (groin) and Sasha Kaun (knee), led ESU 41-37 at halftime en route to a 90-55 victory.
Freshman Sherron Collins (20 points) and junior Rodrick Stewart (six points, two rebounds while playing lockdown defense) stepped up in the backcourt in Chalmers' absence.
"Coach (Bill) Self said with some guys being hurt, for guys like me it's a chance to prove we can be out there. I'm trying to do the best I can," Stewart said. "Coach told me to go in and be solid (while defending guard DeAndre Townsend, who had 18 points, just five the final half). In the first half he pretty much got wherever he wanted to go. I made sure to do my defensive principles, stay as solid as I could the second half."
While Self was impressed with Stewart's hustle, he's also anxious for Chalmers' return.
"His situation is frustrating, but it's not like a turf toe deal," Self said. "He has some blisters. The injury is at a tough spot and is very irritable. Rubbing against the shoe, anything like that creates discomfort. Getting him where he can push off (is vital). The big toe is a pretty important part of your foot. It's a tough area to protect."
Junior guard Case is not expected to play Saturday because of his pulled groin.
"I'll probably be back in the next few days," said Case, who said he was 70 percent healed and hoped to be ready for next Wednesday's game against Oral Roberts. "I'm doing a lot better."
Case suffered his injury at practice before the Washburn game and was unable to suit up for either exhibition.
"I was playing defense and made a hard cut. It felt like somebody punched me in my leg," Case said. "Right now straight ahead I can almost go full speed. Defensive shuffles and stuff like that are hard. It's getting better and better every day."
¢ Red-shirt talk: Self was asked at his weekly news conference if freshman guard Brady Morningstar would red-shirt. It's a question he's fielded several times this preseason.
"I should have said no (the first time)," Self cracked. "I guess there's always the possibility if guys were to get hurt, if we don't play them the first three games ... We're not going into the season thinking we are going to red-shirt anybody."
Morningstar, who has hit two threes in two preseason games, said he hasn't talked to Self about the matter.
"I'll be ready to play. If coach puts me in I'll be ready to go," Morningstar said.
Of the guard rotation, Morningstar noted: "Mario has been out for a little bit; Jeremy out for a little bit. I think they are getting healthy as we speak. Hopefully they'll be back for the season opener."
¢ Rhodes on list: KU has started recruiting Bennie Rhodes, a 6-6, 210-pound wing from Mt. Zion Academy in Durham, N.C. Rhodes, who is not ranked nationally, originally hails from Oakland, Calif.
Mt. Zion coach Antonio Fozard said KU coach Self will be in Durham today to watch a workout of Rhodes, who also is hearing from UCLA and Oklahoma State.
"He is athletic like Brandon (Rush). He can jump and consistently hit the mid-range jumper. He also runs well and defends," Fozard told rivals.com. "I don't think he is as good as Brandon, but he is a lot like him."
Fozard coached Rush a year at Mt. Zion.
¢ Giles' future: Those who have spoken to former KU player C.J. Giles do not expect him to transfer to an NCAA Div. I or II school or NAIA school. He reportedly is considering sitting out a year and working on his game while preparing for the 2007 NBA Draft or possibly playing in the Continental Basketball Assn.