Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self is hoping the sprained ankle point guard Frank Mason III sustained against Florida on Dec. 5 is the sophomore’s last injury of the 2014-15 season.
“Frank has become our most valuable guy, without question. We go from that being the deepest position on our team to thinnest position basically in a span of a couple weeks,” Self said on Monday’s “Hawk Talk” radio show.
The point-guard slot took a hit Wednesday when freshman Devonté Graham suffered a severely sprained right big toe against Georgetown. He’s out anywhere from a month to the rest of the season. KU’s other scholarship lead guard, sophomore Conner Frankamp, left the team in the preseason and has since committed to Wichita State. Naadir Tharpe, who had a year of eligibility remaining, left the program last spring and now is in the NBA Developmental League, leaving Mason as the lone scholarship point guard left standing.
“The little kid is as tough as can be,” Self said of Mason. “He’s probably our best defensive rebounder as far as going after the ball. He is our best ball-handler. He is not really a true point, but is certainly trying to become that.”
Yet it’s pretty risky playing him 40 minutes a game, so what’s Self to do about giving him a breather or two?
“We’ve got to get Wayne (Selden Jr., combo guard) ready, and we’ve got to get (walk-on) Evan Manning ready to come in and play some spot minutes, too,” Self said. “Of course, play in a way in which a big guy could initiate offense in some form or fashion. I actually think Jamari (Traylor, 6-8) could do that eventually.
“We need to cut Frank’s minutes back in practice. That will be important. We could ride him so hard and totally wear him out. I think we’ll try to get Wayne and Evan and whoever else as many reps in practice as we can and try to rest him a little because in games — let’s call it like it is — he’s going to play 32, 34, 35 minutes a game if he stays out of foul trouble. We need to do a good job of subbing and spell him a little bit, where he has fresh legs.”
Ouch: Graham’s right foot will be in a boot for the next three or four weeks before re-evaluation. At that time, the Raleigh, North Carolina, native could return or remain sidelined as a medical red-shirt. If Graham is done for the season, he’ll have four years of eligibility starting in the 2015-16 season.
“I think there’s no question at some point in time he could come back. Kyrie Irving (Duke one-and-done now in NBA) had a similar injury (returning for the postseason after December surgery), but he wasn’t going to be in school four years. It’s OK to waste that year in case he wanted to come back, because he wasn’t going to stay four,” Self said.
“With Devonté ... you don’t want to cost a kid a year because he falls under our red-shirt (in terms of number of games played). We’ll make sure he’s as close to 100 percent as possible, then if he does play the second half of the season, the red-shirt opportunity is gone. There’s no reason to put him out there unless doctors are confident he can help us. We still think there’s a chance he can impact this year’s team.”
His sprained toe is also referred to as “turf toe.” The definition of turf toe according to WebMD is “a sprain to the ligaments around the big toe joint, which works primarily as a hinge to permit up and down motion.” (For a detailed report on turf toe, visit http://ljw.bz/1wbOOl4).
How’d the injury happen?
“Devonté was up on his toes when Josh (Georgetown’s Smith, 350 pounds) stepped on his heel. It pushed his big toe into the floor, which created the sprain, which created turf toe. You hear football players getting turf toe all the time. I don’t think you hear of many basketball players getting it ... I guess we call it ‘court toe,’” Self said. “It’s a significant deal to where for three weeks he’ll not put any pressure on it at all. We’ll re-evaluate to see if he can even start rehab.”
At the movies: Self said he presented freshman forward Cliff Alexander tape of former Jayhawk bigs on Monday.
“We showed Cliff a lot of film of Cole (Aldrich) and Kieff (Morris) today ... them not fighting it, not wasting energy,” Self said. “Let the defensive man get where he wants, then after he gets there hold him there, take advantage of where he is.”
Self said he also “went through each guy” talking to them about how they can get “a little bit better.”
“I told them, ‘We are not playing great. We are not doing this, we are not doing that, you know we are 8-1, ranked in the top 10 and really high (2) in the RPI. Life is not bad; how can we get it a little better?’”