Oklahoma City C.J. Giles hasn't been spotted around Allen Fieldhouse or the dorm since his indefinite suspension from Kansas University's men's basketball team Tuesday.
At least some of his teammates have made contact with the troubled junior center, however.
"I've sent him text messages. I said, 'We are still here to support you. Keep your head up.' I'll support him any way I can," junior Russell Robinson told reporters at Big 12 Media Day on Thursday in Cox Convention Center.
While not wanting to discuss fellow junior Giles' skipping practice Monday morning, academic issues and/or a pending child-support case, team leader Robinson was more than willing to talk about the impact Giles' loss would have on the team if he's given the permanent boot by coach Bill Self.
"There's a lot of pressure on us. It's such a big defensive role to fill," Robinson said. "Careless fouls (by remaining big men Sasha Kaun, Darnell Jackson, Darrell Arthur and Julian Wright) must be cut to a minimum.
"Losing anybody on our team is a big loss. C.J. brings so much to the locker room - excitement, jokes. He's a great teammate. It's a tough situation. I wish I could do more."
Junior center Kaun, whose minutes figure to increase if Giles is out of the lineup, said he was hoping his buddy returns.
"If he is out, I will not be happy about that," said Kaun, who also hasn't seen Giles since the suspension. "It will hurt us. He is a good player. Hopefully it'll turn out. If the worst is to happen, it's something we'll have to deal with, play through it."
Kaun, who is one of KU's five returning starters, hopes to pick up his play, especially on the offensive end. He averaged 8.2 points a game a year ago with 5.3 rebounds.
"It's not a secret. We need more consistent low scoring. A consistent low-post presence offensively may be the biggest weakness we had last year," Self said. "A consistent low-post presence defensively may have been the biggest strength we had. Sasha needs to be the guy who can draw double teams, demand attention and be a double-figure scorer."
Self said he'd like to see the Kaun who scored 25 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in last year's opener against Idaho State.
"I'll try to score, bring a little more impact on the game," Kaun said. "I need to get more aggressive, get more rebounds, block shots. Offensively, I maybe need to get a little more patient, play with poise, make fewer mistakes."
Self said Kaun's extended trip home to Russia over the summer - he was gone two months instead of four to six weeks to renew his passport - "hasn't set him back."
Yet Kaun admits when he returned to Lawrence on Aug. 7, "I was not in as good shape. I was out of rhythm. I ran some back home on the treadmill, lifted weights, but not much playing. I did some things with the basketball, but not much. It's hard to find people to play basketball there."
Self, meanwhile, indicated there remained no timetable if and when Giles might rejoin the big-man rotation.
"I'm not going to put a definite deadline on it," Self said. "This isn't something that's hanging over our players' heads at all. It hasn't been a distraction yet. I'm hopeful it can be resolved.
"I don't think I will need to sit down and talk with him that much. I'll wait to see what the proof is, how he handles things, see if he does them. If he does them, then we'll talk. If he doesn't, there's no reason to talk."
As he told the Journal-World on Wednesday night, Self said recent revelations that Giles is headed to court to make sure he pays child support, "adds to the list of things we expect him to take care of. It will not affect the final decision. Now is it embarrassing? Is it wrong? No one is shying away from that."
At any rate, it does not sound as if Giles will be back anytime soon, which means Jackson and newcomer Arthur - who earlier this week was slowed by tonsillitis, but practiced well on Wednesday - will have to step up as well as Wright, who will play inside and out.
"Darnell is a banger, athletic guy. He's a phenomenal player, hard and tough," Kaun said. "Darrell had one of his best practices yesterday. He's coming along well."
¢Here's Self's official assessment of KU's inside game. "Darrell will be one of the better new guys in the league, no question, and he is a talent. He doesn't understand what we are trying to get accomplished consistently but certainly he picks up things fast and hopefully will be a guy by the time league rolls around will be comfortable.
"We have good depth inside. We can throw size at you. We can throw some length at you. Barring injuries or whatever, I do think we have at least four guys that can certainly be an impact player and give us pivotal minutes. A lot of teams don't have four guys they can rely on, I think, like we can."
¢On a lighter note, Giles' roommate is Rodrick Stewart, not Robinson, who in his first two years lost Alex Galindo and Micah Downs to transfer.
"I live with Brandon (Rush). I might lose him at the end of the year (to the NBA)," Robinson quipped.
¢Self on the play of his guards: "To be honest, I'd say Sherron (Collins) is keeping heat on Russell and Mario (Chalmers) from a performance standpoint, not that he will unseat them. They know he's there. He's had a good first week of practice.
"Sherron is a very talented guy and has picked things up remarkably quick, but we return three pretty good perimeter players and I think all four of those guys, if you add Sherron to that mix, will certainly get ample minutes. It will take him time like it takes most freshmen to get acclimated and comfortable."
¢Self on KU being picked to win the league: "I didn't pick us so it is not unanimous. I picked Gillispie (Texas A&M, coached by his buddy Billy Gillispie). I love Billy's team. I think they are tough and have some young players that can shoot and stretch the defense around Joseph (Jones)."
He went on to mention several other teams in the league, including Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas Tech.