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Thursday, December 18, 2008

KU’s Little optimistic despite hand injury

Kansas forward Mario Little, left, and guard Chase Buford applaud a bucket by center Matt Kleinmann during the second half Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Mario Little, left, and guard Chase Buford applaud a bucket by center Matt Kleinmann during the second half Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Little dilemma: Redshirt or not?

It's too early to make a decision involving Mario Little and a medical redshirt...but the option remains.

Little frustrated with latest setback

KU's Mario Little breaks a bone in his hand, and is out another two to four weeks. Also, can you believe KU could have been 9-0?

Kansas University junior guard Mario Little cell-phoned his uncle, O’Keefe, with some bad news Monday morning.

He’d broken the fourth metacarpal on his left hand at basketball practice, further delaying his major college debut.

“He’d just gotten results of the X-ray. He was devastated,” O’Keefe Little said of his nephew, who will be unable to practice the next two to four weeks.

“He didn’t cry or complain. He was more concerned about letting people down,” O’Keefe added from his home from the South Side of Chicago.

“I told him, ‘This is another test of your strength and character. It’s not what happens to you in life, but how you deal with what happens to you in life.’

“The game is not over. He’ll be back,” O’Keefe added.

Mario, who missed KU’s first nine games because of a stress fracture in his lower left leg, believes he may have played Saturday against Temple had he not had his hand tangled in teammate Tyshawn Taylor’s jersey Monday morning.

“It kind of hurts ... these setbacks. I keep getting close to playing,” Little said Wednesday before hopping on the stationary bike at basketball practice.

“I want to get on the floor real bad. I want to help my team. A lot of people want to see me play, people from my (Chipola, Fla.) junior college, people I grew up with, my family.

“I don’t know, man,” Little added, his voice trailing off.

Last year’s juco player of the year has masked his frustration in front of his teammates.

On Monday, he returned from the doctor’s office — with a huge splint on his left hand — in time for the end of practice.

“He was back in the locker room joking and playing. It’s the type of person he is,” junior guard and fellow Chicagoan Sherron Collins said.

“It’s going to be a big loss. We need him out there. We were really getting better with him out there,” Collins added of Little, who returned to practice Dec. 5 after being rested since late October.

Little — who joked that “I was just starting to get my groove a little bit” — said it’s easy to keep a happy face in spite of his inner pain.

“That’s me. I think I get that from my grandmother,” he said of Hazel Lucille Little, the backbone of the family back in Chicago.

“I look at the positive things, not negative. She told me there’s always a better side, everything happens for a reason. I don’t know if there’s a reason for this, but ...”

He’ll continue to search for answers the next couple weeks.

Shortly after he’s deemed fit to practice, Little and coach Bill Self will decide whether he’ll enter the playing rotation during games ... or take a red-shirt.

“I want to play. It’s something coach and I will talk about,” Little indicated.

Self said it could be a tough call.

“I think it needs to be a joint decision between player and coach,” Self said. “This team needs him, there’s no doubt about that. I don’t think you bring him back just to bring him back to participate if his health is not at least good by doctors standards to let him participate.

“My thinking is get him healed as quickly as possible, get him on the court and see how he reacts. If he reacts favorably, great, if not we can make a decision then.”

A player cannot compete in a game in the second half of the season and still red-shirt.

“The way we interpret the rule is it’d take you right up to when the conference season starts,” Self said, noting a decision must be made by the Jan. 13 Big 12 opener against Kansas State, start of the second half. If Little was hurt in the KSU game or any game after that, he would not be able to red-shirt.

“The concern is not his hand. We know his hand will be OK. The concern is whether or not he can be pain-free playing on his leg. This has delayed testing his leg a little bit,” Self said.

Little says his leg has not been pain free since his return to practice.

“Every now and then,” he said of feeling discomfort. “There’s just a little, not a lot, though. I’ll know in two weeks if it’ll be 100 percent.”

If his left leg is not 100 percent ... there’s a chance he’ll sit out this season and have two years of eligibility left.

“I mentioned to Mario he should call his high school coach and junior college coach and talk to the staff at KU and get an overall view of the situation,” O’Keefe said

Little and his relatives will be able to talk about the situation more next week. He’ll return to Chicago on Dec. 24 for the Christmas holiday.

“We’ll do what we always do, crack jokes, give him presents and hang out with his grandmother and his cousins,” O’Keefe said. “We’re looking forward to getting to see him.”

Comments

Tony Bandle 11 years, 2 months ago

Possible blow to this season, possible boost to next season, although if he is healthy, even playing the second half of this season would be valuable.Think of the class next year if not. You would have Little, Robinson, Johnson, very likely Withey, maybe even Wall or Stephenson. What kind of battles there would be in practice if they went up against Taylor, the Twins, Thomas and Aldrich!!! Add Reed and Morningstar as a sixth man to each side and I think I would pay to watch them practice!!By the way, KU is a free throw and layup away from being 9-0 and in the top 15 and currently has a better record than Memphis. Maybe we should all calm down a little[that includes myself]

KUPROUD 11 years, 2 months ago

Mario seems like a high qualilty person, as well as player. Just the "little" I've seen of him on the floor has convinced me that he can be a difference maker for this team, and I hope he is able to play this season. But his future depends on getting that leg healed, so if the leg pain persists, the red-shirt is the way to go.

John Brown 11 years, 2 months ago

I hope he decides to redshirt. These kids like Aldrich and Morningstar gain a ton of experience in KU practices. If he joins the team late it will take him about two weeks to get his groove and thus more than 3/4 of season gone versus playing two full seasons. This is not going to be a big season for KU with a team loaded with freshmen. However the premium years will be next year and the following year. What's the hurry?

jchief40 11 years, 2 months ago

jbrownjib - it's good that you see our potential for next year but you apparently don't realize how good our team can be THIS year.. THIS YEAR!!

JayhawkPhil64 11 years, 2 months ago

There are two sides to this arguement.One is that we don't really have a small forward this year that Self feels confident with so we could really use him now. The other is that we aren't going anywhere anyway this year with the lack of leadership from veteran players and the slow maturity of our freshmen so it would be better to get an extra year of elgibility for him. I wouldn't disagree with either position but would lean toward having him redshirt. That would leave more minutes for our freshmen to get much needed experience and speed up their maturation process. They all show tremendous potential if they can just get the chance to reach that potential. Also, we don't have any big guard/small forward types coming in next year. If we had signed either Cheeks or Henry then a stronger case might be made for letting him play however much he can this year. Still, as jbrownjib says, next year could be a big one.

Jack Wilson 11 years, 2 months ago

Redshirt Little? Come on. We can reload with talent. We should play for this year. And with our ability to get talent, we are sacrificing nothing in the future. There will be more Mario Littles. And more Dominic Cheeks. Some of you act as if the 2009 class is the only recruiting class. If Little does redshirt, in may influence some better prospects to steer away from KU because Little would be the incumbent 3. Who says this isn't going to be a big year for KU? Don't sell this group short. We are two possessions away from being undefeated. We have the stud guard, and a stud post-player. Seriously, if we play our top game and North Carolina plays a below average game, we can't beat them? Of course we can. And with that, anything is possible.

JayhawkPhil64 11 years, 2 months ago

HighEliteMajor, you do have a point, particularly since Little is a JUCO. You are more optimistic than me about this years team but I hope you are right. I would like to see Releford get more of a chance this year but it could be that he is not showing enough in practice to deserve more minutes.

JayhawkCasey 11 years, 2 months ago

Easy HighEliteMajor with the North Carolina comments. I believe we have great potential also, but North Carolina is a stretch. They can have a bad game and their best player injuried and beat almost anyone. BUT I would love to kick their ass again with a new team.

GridironHawk 11 years, 2 months ago

I think everyone is forgetting that some of the decision will be based on what is best for Little too... Sure he could help the team this year but is it best for him. Would it be better that he get three full years in the KU program especially if he would need that extra year to graduate (depending on what credits transferred in). Self won't sacrifice the team for one individual but he also isn't going to throw Little into a situation where he can't succeed.

blowhard 11 years, 2 months ago

If Mario and Coach agree to play...LET'S ROLL!!! Many moons ago, 1965-66 season, the decision to play Jo Jo White (a 12/64 HS grad from St. Louis) for the second half of the season proved positively pivotal as we came oh so close to beating eventual Champ Texas Western in the Midwest Regional Final...Mario, get well soon and make your best decision...we need you!!!

cklarock 11 years, 2 months ago

Man, just horrible injury luck for Mario -- I'm glad to see that his attitude is staying positive. Keep your head up!

jaybate 11 years, 2 months ago

This is one of those situations where a player's agenda and the a coach's agenda may diverge.If I'm Little, I red shirt. Here's why.Let the leg bone heal and then come back when its 100% right and he's got a full season to be at his best. If it were healed, it would not hurt. He may even need a pin and more time.If he redshirts, he's got a legitimate chance to graduate. He's not a sure NBA draft prospect. The most important thing is for him to take a path to get his degree, then play in Europe, then the NBA if it calls.If I'm Self, I play him, if he'll play. Self's major obligation is to get the best team out on the floor possible for his own sake and for the sake of the players who are out their busting their bunns.What I hope is his leg heals and he plays and the decision does not have to be made. Why? Self has already shown with Sasha Kaun that he believes in playing through injuries, even severe ones, when a player can contribute anything at all to the team. Kaun played a half a season without being able to do almost anything but limp around and defend the post. I always felt that cost Kaun an enormous amount of athleticism and confidence. I couldn't believe Kaun was allowed to keep playing back then, but that's the boot camp mentality. I suppose if we knew the details it would have been the logical decision, but...it didn't look like it from the cheap seats.Whatever, Mario will help this team either way.

Ed Fox 11 years, 2 months ago

I'll let you all argue about whether or not Little should redshirt. I see benefits on both sides of the argument. The most important thing I take from this article is what a good kid Little seems like. I haven't heard much from him this year, not getting PT will kinda relegate you to not getting much ink time, so I enjoyed hearing some of his comments here. Seeing how he's reacting to adversity tells me what he might be able to add to this team once he gets on the floor. I love that Coach Self seems to bring in quality basketball players who also seem to be quality people.

Mitch_4_KU 11 years, 2 months ago

Let him play! He worked extremely hard for 2 years in Juco to get an offer from a quality team. He did it, he got it, and he deserves it. He can play as a backup, contribute, maybe help us finish with a bye in the Big 12 tourney. We are a year away from being really good, he needs the game exposure if he is going to be a major part of next years run at the Big 12 title and NCAA tourney. If he only plays 8-10 minutes a game till next year, it would be huge for him compared to only practicing and wearing a suit to the games. Remember Jeff Hawkins? He was a contributer ONLY after he played for a year in games. Rock Chalk...........Beat MU ( That's all that really matters anyway )

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