Kansas University's men's basketball team may have wrapped up a preseason No. 1 ranking on Friday.
"I wouldn't think so, but we'll be up there," KU coach Bill Self said Friday night, three hours after reporting Brandon Rush's decision to withdraw from the NBA Draft, in part because of a right knee injury incurred two days ago playing pick-up basketball in Kansas City. Self said the severity of the injury would not be known until medical tests early next week.
"I think we got better today, there's no doubt about that. On the flip side, it wasn't the way I wanted to get better."
The 6-foot-6 Rush, who declared for the NBA Draft on April 26 but elected to not sign with an agent, had hoped to compete at the NBA Draft camp next week in Orlando, Fla.
The 58 college early entrees have until June 18 to withdraw and retain their collegiate eligibility provided they are agent-free.
"People will think the reason I am returning is because I injured my knee playing in a pickup game," Rush said. "That is not true, but it did reinforce to me that the time was not right to go to the NBA. I thought all along that I would more than likely return to school, but it was something I needed to find out about.
"We have a great team returning and I love my teammates. The people at Kansas and the fans have treated me so well. It is hard to pass up the opportunity to experience another year of that."
As far as the injury ... Self said there was no reason to believe Rush's status for next season was in question.
"I do not want to comment or speculate on anything (regarding the injury)," Self said. "In the short term it was going to be tough for him to get ready to do what he wanted to do in pre-draft workouts."
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Rush - who walked with a slight limp without the use of crutches with an elastic sleeve on his knee Friday outside Allen Fieldhouse - was asked specifically if he had a torn ACL.
"I don't think so," Rush said, holding a bag of ice. "I think it's more like a sprain. They (doctors) still have to look."
Self said he learned of Rush's knee injury Thursday. Rush informed his coach of his decision to return to KU in a Friday afternoon meeting.
"He has some swelling in there. He will be evaluated seriously early next week," Self said. "He came down on the knee wrong. It swelled up on him. It was very very stiff. With him leaving on Tuesday going to the draft deal, he knew he would not be in shape to do that.
"His returning is not a shock," Self insisted. "I thought there was a chance he'd come back the whole time. When we visited today, he said, 'Coach I was probably going to do this anyway. Injuring my knee certainly made me rethink the deal.' He did not want to go to Orlando not healthy.
Self said he "felt bad" for Rush because the coach believes the workouts would have solidified Rush's status as a first-round selection.
"I think Brandon has done enough over two years to impress people on his improvement and athletic ability," Self said. "I think he would have been a first-rounder. I think it would have played out to be true.
"Even with that said, he told me all along if he couldn't go high he'd come back. Our (pre-draft camp) reports still had him on the bubble, on the borderline. I'm sure he's disappointed, but this will not be a killer to him."
Rush, in fact, appeared to be in good spirits Friday.
"This (injury) had nothing to do with it," he reiterated of withdrawing from the draft. "I would have (attended Orlando camp) just to see where I stood."
Self said returning might benefit Rush in the long run.
"I don't think the draft will be as deep next year. If he performs like he can, certainly that (lottery) is a possibility," Self said of Rush being a top-14 pick after his junior campaign.
"I certainly wanted Brandon to make the best decision for Brandon and his future. The best decision was for him to come back. On the flip side, I didn't want it to happen this way. He didn't want it to happen this way."
KU senior-to-be Jeremy Case said he found out about Rush's injury Friday.
"It's disappointing for anyone to get hurt," Case said. "He'll work through it. He's a tough guy. It's strange because he had not gotten hurt in two years here. He's a thoroughbred, has had no problems. This is bad timing for him."
Case said he had expected a healthy Rush to enter the draft.
"I think he can be a really good player in the league," Case said. "I definitely thought he'd be in the NBA next year. I wouldn't say I'm happy because I don't know if this is exactly what he wanted. He loves it here, but who doesn't have the mindset of playing in the NBA?"