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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jayhawks: No change in goals with Embiid out for Big 12 tourney

Kansas center Joel Embiid ties a shoe during practice for the Jayhawks' opening NCAA basketball game in the Big 12 men's tournament in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, March 12, 2014.

Kansas center Joel Embiid ties a shoe during practice for the Jayhawks' opening NCAA basketball game in the Big 12 men's tournament in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, March 12, 2014.

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— Injured Kansas University freshman center Joel Embiid stood behind the three-point line and lofted a series of three-point shots during a low-key 45-minute shootaround on Wednesday afternoon in Sprint Center.

The 7-footer from Cameroon, who has been ruled out of the 2014 Big 12 Tournament and is considered a longshot to play in next week’s opening games of the NCAAs because of a stress fracture in his back, also rebounded for teammates and even bent to pick up basketballs on the court at various junctures.

“He wasn’t out there warming up. He was just out there jacking around,” KU coach Bill Self said with a smile, asked about Embiid’s work at practice. “Nothing has changed,” Self added. “That doesn’t mean he couldn’t play (first weekend of NCAAs). I think the percentages are he probably won’t. We’ll play him when the doctors say, and when his body is ready to play. I’m still confident as others are that’s going to happen. To be real candid, we may have to advance for it to happen. Nothing has changed on that front.”

So the Jayhawks return to where they started the season — with senior Tarik Black starting at center — during today’s 2 p.m. Big 12 quarterfinal against Oklahoma State.

“He needs to be good,” Self said of the 6-9, 260-pound Black, who averages 4.8 points and 3.3 boards while logging 12.2 minutes a game. The Memphis transfer has started 11 games and come off the bench in 18.

“We brought him here to be in this moment. I’m excited that he’s with us. I’m really pleased at how he’s played,” Self said.

Black said, “I believe him,” when told of Self’s comment of bringing him in for his senior season for this type of postseason scenario. “I’ve been contributing to this team since I got here. I’m going to continue to do the same thing, be effective for the team.”

Black said the players’ expectations haven’t changed with Embiid out of action.

“We’re definitely still, in my mind, one of the top teams in the country. We’re still a contender for it all,” Black said. “We haven’t thrown anything out the window at all.

“There’s a lot of excitement in our locker room. We’re here to play basketball. The young fellas are ready to get out here and go.”

That includes frosh Embiid, who will sit on the bench and cheer his teammates, who enter today’s game with a 23-8 record compared to OSU’s 21-11 mark.

“We all talk to Jo Jo to try to keep his head up. He’s been keeping ours up. Jo Jo has a great feel about him, running around laughing,” Black said. “Keep our heads up and keep playing. That’s what we know we have to go out and do.”

KU junior point guard Naadir Tharpe said that without Embiid, “we have to make sure everybody is much more locked in defensively. He protects the rim so well.”

Tharpe said the Jayhawks could make a statement of sorts with three victories in Sprint Center in as many days.

“It would show we can still be a highly ranked team without Joel,” Tharpe said, “but we have to show it first. We can’t just talk about it. We have to make sure through this tournament everybody plays the way they can.”

Tharpe said he’s had conversations with Self about his own play since the West Virginia game.

“Coach and I have talked about it ... guys look up to me more. I have to make sure I’m much more vocal throughout the Big 12 tournament and NCAA,” Tharpe said.

“If we don’t come to play each and every game, we’ve shown we can be beat. We’re going to need everybody, need myself to gather the troops. Coach always talks about, ‘Gather the troops.’ As long as I do that and everybody comes with focus we can be the team we were during the regular season (14-4 runaway Big 12 champs).”

Embiid didn’t speak with the media on Wednesday, but Self did face more questions about the big man’s stress fracture.

Of an ESPN report prior to Monday’s release of a second opinion that Self was “100 percent sure” Embiid would play this season, Self said: “I never said he 100 percent would play next weekend. I told him (ESPN reporter) and he would confirm, ‘I’m 100 percent in my heart he’d play in the postseason.’ That was the quote given to him.”

As far as not revealing Embiid had a stress fracture until Monday night, Self said: “Why would I tell anybody what the specific injury is? That would not be very smart. The thing about it ... there was a media member that somehow knew of the injury and what it was. Why hide it if you think it could possibly (be revealed by media)? I would never offer information up about anything like that. I don’t think anybody would do that. It’s not to manipulate any situation. It’s to look out for the student-athlete.”

Asked about a report that the NCAA Tournament committee would ask KU for an update on Embiid’s condition in advance of seeding teams, Self said: “I am not on the committee. I don’t know what their criteria is. The whole thing is, you (meida) are assuming things won’t go well this weekend. We can play well this weekend without question, then it wouldn’t matter one way or another. You’d think it (seeding) would include your body of work because that’s what you do, you play your season. I also was a 7-seed (at Tulsa) playing Cincinnati as a 2-seed when Kenyon (Martin, Cincy) broke his leg. They were the best team in the country and dropped a seed line. I’m not sure this year it matters a ton, because there are a lot of good teams and potential matchups.”

Comments

Gerry Butler 7 months, 3 weeks ago

guys, you know when I 1st heard of jo jo's situation my initial reaction was were screwed, but now since some time has passed I do not feel QUITE as bad. I mean if we look at this ya its a HUGE blow but it doesn't mean its the end. it just means we are just going to have to try and fill the void by committee tarik, jamari, landon and it CAN be done its we are still a Very good team. jo jo will definitely be missed but where our REAL issue lies is we have got to pull it together defensively our guard have just GOT TO cut off penetration that's where our interior gets a lot of their fouls trying to cover after the guards get beat off the dribble drive. offensive in jo jo's spot I think tarik and jamari together can fill in and if we can ge lucas to just play a little give tarik and jamari just a little help spell them you know score a bucket here a bucket there get a few rebounds we have the talent to pick up the slack we have plenty of scorers its not on the offensive end where I think he will be missed the most and like was stated in the article I think they guys can take the approach and prove something this weekend. prove they are STILL a very good team every one is writing them off and like bill says the media is tryin to spin this in such and tryin to make this such a negative thing we can do this just pull together its not all doom and gloom GO HAWKS

Bryce Landon 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Our other goal should be to shut Marcus Smart up once and for all!

Greg Lux 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Bryce .. Good Luck .. but, Never Happen .. The best we can do is woop is Assets and move on.

Tony Bandle 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Regarding Tarik Black.." He needs to be good." Nope, it's simpler than that........ he needs to be out there. Just his presence will be a plus. If ever he picks a game not to commit stupid fouls, this would be the one!!!

" We haven't thrown anything out the window at all." Guys, feel free to pitch Marcus Smart if you wish.

Adam James 7 months, 3 weeks ago

We won't lose today's game vs. OSU, but if we do the entire media and even our good friends here will count this team out when NCAA's start. My prediction is that regardless of what we do in the Big 12 tournament we will make it out of the 1st weekend in NCAA's. With or without Jo Jo this team is good enough to make a run.

Asad Zoberi 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Does anyone know which TC channel is carrying today's game?

Aaron Paisley 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Goal 1 today has to be stopping Markel Brown. That guy has absolutely torched KU the past two years way more than Smart has.

Goal 2 has to be sticking to Phil Forte the way Missouri fans stick to farm animals.

Goal 3 needs to be getting in Smarts head and making in ineffective. Considering his track record, that shouldn't be all that difficult.

Goal 4 needs to be Naadir Tharpe pushing the tempo. KU's offense is at its absolute best when they are going up tempo. KU also tends to play better defensively when they push the tempo on offense for whatever reason.

Goal 5 is go out and win the game and make a statement to the rest of the country that it doesn't matter if Embiid is playing or not, KU is on a mission to hang a 6th banner from the north rafters of Allen Fieldhouse.

Steve Brown 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Seeding not so important to me just make sure we are in the Shocker bracket, want a shot at them before others knock them out. Don't miss read this sentiment it isn't that I think they are over hyped, on contrary I love their style of hustle play and think they are terrific. Yes they are terrific, deserve top seed, and very good for our state Kansas. They may need a dose of reality to big boy ball, rather we deliver the blow than others.

John Myers 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I feel like I SHOULD cheer for WSU since they're from KS. But honestly, with regard to your "dose of reality", I would LOVE for them to be the first #1 to ever lose to a #16.

Steve Brown 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Hint: Put JoJo in street clothes so we aren't tempted to insert him.

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