Sunday, January 4, 2009

Little falls short

Junior makes debut — with drawers

Kansas forward Mario Little goes for a rebound with Tennessee guard Josh Tabb during the first half Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Mario Little goes for a rebound with Tennessee guard Josh Tabb during the first half Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Postgame: KU vs. Tennessee

Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self, center Cole Aldrich and guard Sherron Collins reflect on Saturday's win against Tennessee.

Highlights from Saturday's matchup against Tennessee

Various high points from Saturday's Kansas vs. Tennessee game. The Jayhawks defeated the Volunteers 92-85.

Audio clips

2009 KU-Tennessee

Markieff Morris noticed something funny about Mario Little as Little, Kansas University’s junior-college transfer, was about to leave the locker room for pregame warm-ups.

“He put his compression shorts on. He put his sneaks on and was on his way walking out. I was like, ‘’Rio, where you going without your shorts?’” Markieff said with a laugh. “He was like, ‘Oh.’”

In his first game as a Jayhawk, Little had forgotten one of the essentials.

He said his teammates wouldn’t let him live it down.

“I forgot to put my shorts on, so they were saying I was nervous and all that, but I really wasn’t,” Little said with a smile after KU’s 92-85 victory over Tennessee on Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse. “I just forgot to put my shorts on.”

Little, who hadn’t played yet this season because of a stress fracture in his left leg and also a broken left hand, logged 10 minutes. Though he didn’t score — missing all three of his field-goal attempts — he did contribute five rebounds and two assists.

“When he gets more confidence, he’s going to get better,” said KU coach Bill Self, who said he made the decision to play Little on Saturday morning.

“The big key on him is going to be how he feels (today). This is the first time he’s tested it (left leg) at a level that he’s probably not thinking about it. We need him.”

Little appeared to still be hobbled a bit while in the game. At times he was limping and also favoring his left leg.

There was a reason for that, he said. On one play, when he was trying to save a ball from going out of bounds, he tweaked his leg injury.

“I must have came down wrong. That’s what it really was,” Little said. “It’s cool once I settle down, sit down for maybe two, three minutes. It gets better.”

Tweaking the injury hasn’t been uncommon. Little said that the same thing had happened a few times in practice, and after resting his leg had improved.

Little also was playing with a padded glove to protect his left hand. Though he wasn’t sure how long he’d have to wear the glove, he appreciated the extra support it gave him.

“It’s not really affecting my shooting, because I’ve been working on shooting with one hand anyway — my guide hand,” said Little, who is right-handed. “It wasn’t really messing my shot up. It was just me missing.”

At times, Little — he said he had an inkling he’d make his debut Saturday since he’d practiced full-speed all week — looked a bit confused on the court. Self took part of the blame. Because of his team’s foul trouble, the coach said during one stretch he put Little in a position on the floor that he hadn’t practiced yet.

On another possession, Little misunderstood a defensive call and tried to play zone when his other four teammates were playing man-to-man. Self just chuckled about it on the sideline.

Little, though, was most disappointed that he didn’t score.

“I was just itching — I was really, really wanting to score at least one basket,” Little said. “But I’m good. We won.”

Morris, who said that he and Little talk frequently, tried to give his friend some advice before his first game. He told Little not to rush shots and just to let the game come to him.

Perhaps his best advice, though, came right before the game — when he suggested that Little put his shorts on.

“I almost let him go out without them on,” Markieff said. “Me and ’Rio are real cool, so it was just a nice little joke.”


yates33333 11 years, 10 months ago

As much as I hate believing this, maybe Little ought to be a redshirt. If his leg is a little sore that can't be a good sign. Except for his shooting he seemed to play a pretty good game, but I hate to think he might play past the deadline for redshirting and then have his stress fracture return. Despite the great victory over Tennessee and evidence that KU will get progressively better, there is this downer. Also disquieting, the realization that if Collins and Aldrich are held in check by a future opponent KU will be in big trouble.

jhawk23 11 years, 10 months ago

Too late for a redshirt--he stepped on the court.

Jerry Rockhold 11 years, 10 months ago

If I remember correctly, KU Coach Self must decide soon on Mario Little regarding the redshirt, but it is not too late to redshirt him.

Bucketmonkey88 11 years, 10 months ago

Interestingly I found this on Tennessee's website (if it is correct, Little can still get a Medical Redshirt):Red shirting is not an official NCAA term, but the term is used when a student-athlete does not participate in any competition during a particular academic year (i.e., neither in the championship nor the nonchampionship segment of the playing season). A student-athlete may be red-shirted at any point in his/her athletic career.A “medical red shirt” is not an official NCAA term either, but the term is used when a student-athlete is injured after participating in a limited amount of competition during a particular academic year and then qualifies for a Medical Hardship Waiver. More detailed information regarding Medical Hardship Waivers is included below.Medical Hardship WaiverIf a student-athlete suffers a season-ending injury or illness after competing in a limited amount ofcompetition during a particular academic year, he/she may qualify for a medical hardship waiver which would allow him/her an additional season of competition during the five-year period of eligibility. To qualify for a medical hardship:• The student-athlete’s injury or illness must occur in one of the four seasons of intercollegiatecompetition at any two-year or four-year collegiate institution or occur subsequent to the first day ofclasses in the student-athlete's senior year in high school;• The injury or illness must occur prior to the completion of the first half of the playing season that concludes with the NCAA championship in that sport (measured by the number of scheduled contests or dates of competition) and result in incapacity to compete for the remainder of that playing season; and• The injury or illness must occur when the student-athlete has not participated in more than two contests or dates of competition (whichever is applicable to that sport) or 20 percent (whichevernumber is greater) of the institution's scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition in his orher sport.Student-athletes should note that medical hardship waivers are not automatic and, therefore, the student athlete should consult with his/her head coach along with the Head Athletic Trainer and Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance Services.

AsadZ 11 years, 10 months ago

I understand he can still red-shirt prior to K-State game.

Toto_the_great 11 years, 10 months ago

Little can still redshirt even though he played yesterday. Remember that Walker was granted a redshirt at KSU after he blew out his knee during a game.

jaybate 11 years, 10 months ago

yates33333,I agree on both counts. Little's stress fracture cannot be healed, or he would have no pain. He's likely to need surgery to insert a pin and the coaches are hoping against hope that he won't. But hopin' don't make it so. I think they try to get some more minutes and 5 more reebs out of him against MSU and then redshirt him, if what the folks above say about medical redshirting still being an option. If KU could squeeze out a win at MSU, then the team is sure to make the NCAA tourney.Regarding Sherron and Cole being the big guns, its unfortunate, but it is also how most teams are. Last year's champion having so many options was a freak. Most teams have to live and die with two scorers and three role players. We should be happy we have two such excellent players, and hope that one more credible threat emerges. Teams that go far have 3 guys who can get double figures against most any team. Right now, the KU team is one player away from that, which is not bad considering how many freshman and sophmores are playing. I have to think Marcus Morris is going to be that third option sometime in February. He keeps getting tiny bits better each game. No, he has not stepped in and been a star, but most bigs can't do that. But what he has done is survived and contributed while he's been learning the D1 game. Remember, Marcus could probably score a lot more right now, but he is being asked to play a role just as Brady Morningstar is. There are two horizontal axes of play on the court: 1) down the middle and 2) wing to wing. Down the middle is the PG to the 5. Wing to wing is the 2, 4 and 3. KU is strongest and most experienced down the middle this year. Compare the axes. Down the middle, KU is close to as good as any team in the country. Wing to wing they just do not have the same kind of strength...yet. Their 2, 3, and 4 are not strong enough to get their points against many they come up against...yet. The good news is: Taylor and Marcus Morris have the raw talent to go get their points against anyone, once they get some experience. And the surprises are that Brady turns out to be quite an accomplished floor player and glue guy and that Reed has steadily improved into a legitimate D1 2 guard already.

jaybate 11 years, 10 months ago

So Self has rightly strung the bow down the middle and he is relying on down the middle strength heavily to buy the wing to wing players the time they need to develop, which they are doing.The wild card of course is Mario Little. What "Rio" showed in ten minutes in the UTenn game is that, even on 1.5 legs and with 1.5 hands, he takes this team to a very high level. I actually don't think KU could have beaten UTenn without Little. It is not that Little is necessarily going to come in and play 30 minutes. Though he will eventually develop into such a player; that is not what this year's team needs most. The importance of Little is that he adds the missing piece to the way Self has chosen to string the bow on this team. Little gives Self hugely increased tactical flexibility to complement the down the middle strength. Little lets Self respond situationaly, when the 4 and 5 can't quite get the rebounding job done on their own. He can plug Little into the 3, thereby adding a rebounder, in cases when the 4 and 5 are just mismatched unfavorably. Or he can plug Little into the 4, if we are just getting outrebounded a little. This sort of dexterity of tactical response means everything to Self in getting the most out of his strength down the middle and is why they are risking Little, rather than redshirting him immediately. Little also allows Self to respond situationally to a defensive mismatch on the wing to wing axis. This means when teams try to go big on the wings, KU has an answer. It was stunningly apparent to me, even more so than I expected it to be, that Little just turns this team into a fiddle with enough strings that Bill Self can play it at symphonic levels. As Bruce Pearl said, the KU team is an NCAA tourney team, but he said it seeing it with Little as an option.I want them to redshirt Little, because he's injured and should not be playing because of the risks of playing with such injuries.But I can sure see why coaches is so hopeful that Little might be able to play. With Little, this becomes a supremely dangerous team.

nameer 11 years, 10 months ago

You guys are ridiculous.Just because brandon rush was able to come back from a leg injury and compete immediately means nothing. Little has no experience playing at this level or playing for KU. He's going to be slow to start with, especially until he is fully healed. But, that doesn't take away from the fact that we need his toughness on the wing, as well as his ability to score once he gets to game speed. All this stuff about making instant judgments on whether he will be useful to us is ridiculous. Let self make the decision, and try to sit back and enjoy a young team that will only get better.

Tony Bandle 11 years, 10 months ago

I glad he is having the opportunity to play Tennessee, Siena and Michigan State. Not so much for his contribution on the court [ although yesterday proved it could potentially be considerable], but rather the games and two weeks of hard practices will give Mario and the staff a better body of evidence to make the best decision for Mario.Notice, I said Mario. Many years ago by good friend, poster Wilbur Nether, and myself sat behind the KU bench. Hinrich, Collison and Gooden all attended the game as recruits with their parents. It was against Mizzou and in typical Norm Stewart fashion, he forced a kid to play although injured. Wilbur and I extolled the virtues of KU and the staff, Roy Williams at the time, that KU always puts the student-athlete first. I am not sure the guys heard us but I know for sure the mothers did!!Two weeks later all three committed to KU. I think Bill Self will continue that culture and you better believe mom's never miss anything. HCBS.....based on the evidence, do the right thing!! I know you will!!

Lance Hobson 11 years, 10 months ago

This leg injury is very discouraging. I thought Little gave us a huge lift but it's clear this injury is very serious and isn't going to heal this year.

PLKaws23 11 years, 10 months ago

Speaking from experience, this stress fracture injury of his will cause pain in his leg all year. I still occasionally get these pains during and after I play ball, 3 years after the injury. People heal differently, and I know that Mario is surrounded by a great medical staff, but I think he will have to make the choice to play through the pain or red shirt.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.