Brandon Rush made sure to have a boring summer full of tedious exercises. As a result of that, thousands of basketball fans had a blast Sunday night in Allen Fieldhouse.
Even the NBA scouts, notorious for beating the rush to the parking lot, stayed until the end of Kansas University's 76-72 overtime victory against Arizona. That's how entertaining a basketball game, warts and all, was played the night after the overachieving football team's national title hopes vanished in Kansas City, Mo.
Rush, restricted to "15 to 20 minutes," according to coach Bill Self, in the early portion of the season as he works his way back from June 1 ACL surgery, played a whopping 36 minutes, the best of those coming at the end.
If Rush hadn't poured his heart into rehabilitating his knee, he wouldn't be playing yet, much less carrying his team to victory.
"I was in the weight room non-stop," Rush said, "or I was running. It started getting boring after a while."
But he stuck to it, and it has paid off.
In Sunday's overtime period, Rush darted into the passing lane to tip the ball ahead of him, ran it down and dribbled it in for a dunk that put Kansas up six points with 2:22 left. And 45 seconds later, he caused the night's biggest eruption by getting way up there to throw down a Russell Robinson alley-oop pass.
If Rush's 55-footer at the regulation buzzer had gone in, instead of softly falling off the front of the rim, he still would have been applauded for giving his team more than it had any reason to expect of him this early.
By the end of his long night, he had contributed 17 points and a team-high eight rebounds. He's not all the way back to his old ultra-quick self and probably won't be for another six months or so. In some ways, though, he has made himself a more skilled basketball player. He wasn't sitting around feeling sorry for himself after undergoing major knee surgery. Even when he was sitting around, he made it useful.
"I did a lot of shooting, a lot of shooting in chairs when I first did it," Rush said. "I was just shooting in chairs non-stop. Then I started working on ball-handling drills when I could start running and stuff. It helped me out a lot."
It shows. Rush has gone to his left more smoothly, and in 64 minutes he has made five of eight 3-pointers and has just three turnovers.
"I think my shot is better, and my left hand is a lot better than it was," Rush said. "I don't even turn the ball over that much now like I used to."
When assigned to guard Arizona's talented Chase Budinger (27 points, six of 12 3-pointers), Rush couldn't slow him.
"I still need to work on my defense," said Rush, who had developed into KU's best defender last season. "I let Budinger get too many open looks."
Self said Rush "just isn't ready" to resume his duties as the team's lock-down defender, but Rush will keep chasing that goal.
"I've got to get it in my mind I can do it, I can do it," he said, sounding like he was trying to talk his knee back to full speed. "I'm just a step slow right now because of the whole injury thing, but I'm going to get back in that lock-down defensive mode."
He said he is about "85 percent" of the way back, which makes him better than at least 85 percent of college basketball players.