Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Column: Joel Embiid thrives in return to Kansas lineup

Kansas center Joel Embiid delivers a dunk against Texas Tech to give the Jayhawks the lead with less than 30 seconds on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas center Joel Embiid delivers a dunk against Texas Tech to give the Jayhawks the lead with less than 30 seconds on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self praises Embiid, Wiggins after 64-63 victory at Texas Tech

Bill Self praises Embiid, Wiggins after 64-63 victory at Texas Tech

Download podcast


Box score

— After the bumps and bruises that tend to gain steam through the night settle in, more will be known about just how close freshman Joel Embiid’s long, graceful, athletic body is to a full recovery from knee and back injuries.

This much already is known: He was far enough recovered to play a huge role in Kansas University getting out of a United Spirit Arena with a victory.

In his first game back from a one-game rest forced by back and knee woes, Embiid matched a career high with 18 points and added eight rebounds and a blocked shot in helping KU defeat Texas Tech, 64-63.

Embiid moved noticeably better than in his last game, an overtime loss to Kansas State in which he played just 18 minutes.

The Jayhawks needed every one of his 32 minutes to edge a Texas Tech squad in the early stages of basketball revival being masterfully steered by classy coach Tubby Smith.

“I think I was about 90, 90 percent,” Embiid said. And that was after nearly a full week of rest before rejoining practice.

KU coach Bill Self, closing in on his 10th consecutive Big 12 title, has seen too many amazing things from his center from Cameroon in his third year of organized basketball to express surprise at anything he does on the court. But he didn’t see one thing coming.

“I’m shocked he played that many minutes because he hadn’t practiced all week,” Self said.

How much he’ll practice in advance of Saturday’s game against Texas and how far along his recovery is, Self couldn’t say after the thrilling victory witnessed by 12,667 spectators.

“We’ll probably know more how he feels tomorrow,” Self said. “Even in practice, even though he’s done everything, we haven’t gone up and down, he hasn’t got laid on in practice.”

Embiid handled the physical play well against the driven Red Raiders and made six of seven field goals and six of eight free throws.

Embiid’s biggest bucket came with 31 seconds remaining when he snared Andrew Wiggins’ missed dunk attempt and slammed it home emphatically to put KU up by a point. His foul of point guard Robert Turner — a junior-college transfer who has made a big difference for Tech ­— enabled the home team to go back up by one.

Tech had done a pretty good job of doubling Embiid and forcing him to go to the middle, but on the game’s final possession, he executed his move to the baseline, then had the ball knocked from him by Dejan Kravic. Wiggins threw it up and in, returning the favor Embiid had done him on the previous possession.

Embiid and Wiggins had to come up with huge nights because the rest of the starters combined to shoot 3-of-18 from the field.

“He was great, he was great this game,” Wiggins said of Embiid. “His mobility and everything was back. If he doesn’t get double-teamed, he scores or he gets fouled, so it was good to have him back.”

Even if Embiid doesn’t have a setback and Wiggins plays well again, KU will need more help than they received Tuesday night to even the score against Texas, a game that will be played in a wild Allen Fieldhouse.


Steve Zimmerman 8 years, 5 months ago

Jojo looks 100%. Hopefully nothing bothers him anymore. He's got sandwiched numerous times but still managed with great stats.

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 5 months ago

I didn't think that he looked to be 100%, he wasn't moving with the usual quickness that he has. His movements were not as fluid as they usually are, and he looked off balance at times which is usually a sure sign that something is hurting or not feeling right. TTU really tried to rough him up from the outset. I hope that Self continues to hold him out of contact in practice. He needs to be at his best on Saturday.

Robert Brock 8 years, 5 months ago

A healthy Joel Embiid wouldn't have hit the deck as often as he did last night.

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 5 months ago

Embiid's back was bothering him late in the game. He was doing a number of stretches and grimaces. It was clear the back remains an issue and his 90% statement may be a bunch of bravado.

We need to wrap up the Big 12 title with these next two games and focus on getting him healthy…and finding someone to take over the PG slot.

Robert Brock 8 years, 5 months ago

Coach Self has stated that Naadir Tharpe is the point guard. Are you calling out Bill Self?

Ryan Michael 8 years, 5 months ago

Hey look, it's another "Self is a god who could never be wrong about anything to include the weather" fan.

To answer your question though, yes i'll call out Coach Self for something I'll call him out for having a completely different set of standards for different players. I still think he's the best in the game, but I don't think he's perfect. Tharpe has played like garbage the last few games. His defense is single handedly costing us dozens of points and additional fouls on our bigs. I'm hoping he comes around (I really do, I think he's a great kid and can be a great PG), but there is really no excuse for him playing 38 minutes last night. He sucked the entire game... Sometimes that happens, i get it. That said, we have Mason and Frankamp ready to go and could have easily played as well as Tharpe was playing... Especially Frankamp, he's played really solid D the in his limited minutes. He also does a great job of protecting the ball on offense and getting the rest of the team into their set moving the ball. Why not give him a chance or a few minutes while Tharpe is in la-la land? If Frankamp/Mason miss an open shot, they get yanked. If Tharpe drops his defensive man a dozen times straight, kicks the ball down the court on offense creating 2 or 3 turnovers, and literally gets caught standing around watching plays on defense without even moving... He plays 38 minutes. Tell me Self isn't playing favorites.

John Randall 8 years, 5 months ago

Frankamp is looking semi-effective on defense because he is always assigned to the weakest offensive player. No way is he ready yet to match up with a real point guard. He is only used in spot minutes to foster his development – which is a long process given his size and limited athleticism. No aspersion on Connor, just stating it as I see it.

Mike Riches 8 years, 5 months ago

Man I love watching Embiid play! So much has been said about whether he stays or goes, and what we accomplish in March/April may end up being a major determining factor in his decision, but I would LOVE to see him playing in a Jayhawk uniform this time next year!

There are still question marks with this team, I don't know if any of us feel super confident going into March, but as I think back to past seasons, especially in the Bill Self era, the teams that I felt really confident about ended up losing in the tourney to teams like VCU and Northern Iowa (not mention Bucknell, ughh). So maybe feeling really confident right now isn't that important anyway.

Maybe the rest of you knew 100% that the '08 team was destined to cut down the nets in SA, but I remember about this point in the season, worrying that we didn't have a #1 guy, a real closer. It seemed that there was a new leading scorer almost every game (actually 6 different guys in conference play if I remember correctly) which feels a lot like this year.

There's plenty to worry about with this team, but there's also plenty to get excited about! It will be exciting to see how the next 6 weeks unfold!

Tony Bandle 8 years, 5 months ago

AAAHHHH...reverse psychology.

Well, the 2008 nine man rotation had 3 seniors, 2 juniors, 2 sophomores and 2 freshman.

The 2014 nine man rotation has 1 senior, 1 junior, 2 sophmores and 5 freshman.

No offense intended but I was a little more confident in 2008 than I am now in 2014. Still..anything can happen!!!

Mike Riches 8 years, 5 months ago

Good point Oaks. I was more confident in 08 than I am this year as well. (That team actually played defense as well.) But that was my earlier point, maybe confidence is overrated, from a fan standpoint any way. I was way more confident in 2011 than I was in 2008 or this year, but that made the let down even worse. This team is super young, but so was Syracuse in 2003 (they started 2 freshmen, 2 sophomores and 1 senior). Sometimes the upside of a young team can be higher than a more experienced one. And sometimes it's easier to win when you're not expected to. Anyway, it's like you said, anything can happen!

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 5 months ago

I see it that way also. We have a pretty good handle on Tharpe and Mason. Frankamp is a long shot hope. I'd love to see Self give the ball to Selden and open up the 2 spot for a shooter.

Going forward, all our potential PGs, ex my Selden suggestion, are really little guys. I'd love to get a big PG and hoping this Lyle kid at 6'5" could be our long sought after PG.

Matt Brown 8 years, 5 months ago

Hey TK, Are you going to write about CBS's Gary Parrish calling you out yesterday in his Poll Attacks for ranking ISU so low? Guy had you on the ropes. Would like to read your reasoning. Thanks.

Craig Carr 8 years, 5 months ago

A #1 seed is still a possibility, long odds but if KU gets the #2 seed with Wichita State all the better. Worst schedule played in memory, not their fault but facts are facts. Give the Shockers what they want and beat their ass!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.