Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Prep coach: Embiid had back pain last year, too

Kansas center Joel Embiid walks off the court holding his lower back after injuring it during the second half of the Jayhawks' Feb. 8, 2014 game against West Virginia at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid walks off the court holding his lower back after injuring it during the second half of the Jayhawks' Feb. 8, 2014 game against West Virginia at Allen Fieldhouse.


Kansas University freshman center Joel Embiid has experienced back discomfort off and on during the early stages of his still-young basketball career.

“He had that a little bit last year. He tried to fight through it, mostly after the season,” Embiid’s high school coach, Justin Harden of The Rock School in Gainesville, Fla., said in a phone conversation Tuesday.

“It started hurting him about this time last year. He played through it,” Harden added of back stiffness.

Embiid, who started playing organized basketball after he turned 15 — he played his junior and senior years of high school in Florida — also suffered from back spasms at last spring’s Nike Hoops Summit.

“When you are 7-feet tall, there’s a lot more to take care of. You are 7-feet tall. There’s more stuff to be concerned with because your body is bigger,” Harden said, referring to tweaking different areas of the body.

“With some rest, he seemed to have it corrected (entering freshman season at KU). I’m sure with the rest he gets now ... they have better doctors and trainers and staff over there (at KU) to rehab him and get him back to normal. I’m sure he’ll be all right soon enough,” Harden added.

KU coach Bill Self said Monday that Embiid, who has a stress fracture in his lower back, will miss this week’s Big 12 Tournament and likely at least the first weekend of the NCAAs.

“What I’m happy about is he was named (Big 12) defensive player of the year. That’s phenomenal, and second-team all-Big 12, so I’m excited about that,” Harden said. “Some of Joel’s teammates from last year are back for spring break. They are all excited for him (for his accomplishments at KU).”

Committee curious about Joel: The NCAA Tournament selection committee will be in contact with KU officials throughout the week regarding the injury status of Embiid for the upcoming NCAA Tournament, committee chair Ron Wellman told ESPN’s Andy Katz on Tuesday.

“I can assure you it will be a detailed discussion as to when he is going to be available, and we will be monitoring and communicating with Kansas throughout the week as to what his availability will be going forward,” Wellman told Katz.

“Do you reward teams for what they have done in the season, or do you project what they are going to do?” Wellman added, referring to where the committee will seed KU for the upcoming NCAAs. “If you are projecting what they are going to do, then that injury, of course, takes on more importance. If you are rewarding them for what they have done in the season, then you just base your decisions, whether it be selection or seeding, upon what they have shown thus far in the season and their accomplishments this season. I think that is a discussion that we will have in the committee room.”

The NCAA Tournament bracket will be revealed on Sunday.

Big 12 Tournament: As top seed in the Big 12 tournament, KU will play the winner of today’s 6 p.m. matchup between No. 8 Oklahoma State and No. 9 Texas Tech at 2 p.m. on Thursday. Today’s other first-round matchup is an 8:30 p.m. meeting between Baylor and TCU.

On Thursday, Iowa State meets Kansas State at 11:30 a.m. followed by KU against either OSU or Texas Tech at 2 p.m., Oklahoma vs. either Baylor or TCU at 6 p.m. and Texas vs. West Virginia at 8:30 p.m.

If KU wins Thursday, it would play the ISU-KSU winner at 6 p.m. Friday. Finals are 8 p.m. Saturday.

“It should be great. The Big 12 tournament is always good,” Self said. “This year going into it, it’s probably more wide open. You have more teams with the potential of winning it. I think it’ll be a fabulous tournament. It’ll be highly competitive. I’m sure it will be well attended. It always is. It should be a lot of fun.”

Self has said KU needs to win the tourney and Villanova needs to not win the Big East tourney for the Jayhawks to have a shot at a No. 1 seed.

On back injuries, in general: A doctor at KU Hospital was featured in a YouTube video on Tuesday, discussing lower back stress fractures in general. The video was no longer on the hospital's public YouTube feed as of early Wednesday morning.

Barbara Semakula, the sports rehabilitation director at the hospital, explained that basketball players make up about 4 percent of patients who get stress fractures, noting that lower back stress fractures occur even less often. “It’s really uncommon for it to occur in basketball players, but it can still occur. It’s one of the things you want to catch early and treat adequately,” Semakula said, adding that, if untreated, stress fractures can become fractures.

Honorees: Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid were named to the All-District VI team, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association announced Tuesday.


Tony Bandle 8 years, 9 months ago

"How long have you had a weak back? About a week back." - Curly, The Three Stooges.

We need to just assume Jo Jo isn't going to play but let Bill lead the NCAA Committee into thinking that he might play, thus keeping us at a #2 seed.

Everyone talks about the Sprint Center as a toxic venue for Kansas yet, I think we are something like 9 - 2 in games there!!

It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to win the first game, lose the second game in a close one and gain an extra day of rest plus subtracting another game of exertion.

Jack Wilson 8 years, 9 months ago

Oak .. I actually disagree with you. I think the best medicine for this group is to play all three days without Embiid. We're going to have to put the ball in the hoop and not rely on defense. Score, score, and score some more. Three games, added to the last two, is time enough to find some footing without Embiid. But the more, the better.

Erich Hartmann 8 years, 9 months ago

HEM, I'd respectfully disagree with your plan about throwing defense out the window, and just score a lot of points-->

Lesson 1: WVU game. We score 86pts and still lose because the "other guy" scores 91. No defense caused the loss. Event analysis?

Lesson 2: Entire Roy Williams era at KU. KU was among nation's leaders in scoring avg 80-90ppg, But on that occasional night when our shot was off, we were capable of getting beat by anybody, or by a muscle team (Roy teams soft, remember?). 20pt blowouts of KU did happen a couple of times/season, while that is ultra rare for a Self team. You get beat in a trackmeet game if your offense is off.

Frankly, HEM, having read your analytics for years here and now on the other site, I am puzzled you would want us to throw in the towel on our chief issue this season? We have the depth to stomach some fouls on anybody but the ultra-rare/special Embiid, but now he is out of the equation. What caused the beatdown of Texas in the rematch in AFH? Defense, including by Tharpe.

Lesson 3: UNI and VCU: what can happen when KU offense is off, and we dont play defense.

I just dont think we should get away from who we are striving to be. This team's stats are unlike any other Self team since 2006, and frankly that is a major problem. Bill Self will absolutely never espouse a no-defense philosophy, no way ever. If you cant "make the other guy ugly", you dont have much of a chance. Its exactly how a bottom feeder like TexasTech almost beat us in Lubbock, if it werent for Wiggins being right there in the paint when Embiid got stripped with 3 sec left. Not Bill Self basketball. Man, come on, I dont want the Roy type teams anymore! We are a superior basketball product, but this team has not met that bar yet...

Jack Wilson 8 years, 9 months ago

I would be puzzled, too, if I wanted to throw in the towel on our defense. But I don't. If you look at our numbers, our defensive stats are generally behind our normal performance. My comment was that we shouldn't rely on our defense.

I would not speak too poorly of the coach Roy era. He came very close to titles here, and won two at UNC (which is one more than coach Self, of course).

Focusing on offense, structuring our lineup for scoring, pressing some, are what I mean. Also, a staple of Roy ball, not worrying about the shot clock or turnovers as much. Get your shot, increase possessions. Sure, we need to play good defense. But I'm pretty confident that we won't win if we do that.

If we have Tharpe and Ellis in our lineup, how good can our defense really be?

I do not disagree that I like Self's normal formula. But this is not a normal defensive team for coach Self.

This team is 161st in the nation in giving up points -- 69.7 per game. That is with Embiid playing all but three games. And you want to hang you hat on defense?

You have to change the approach a bit.

Erich Hartmann 8 years, 9 months ago

Again, we scored 86. But KU loses since other team scored 91. HEM, they dropped 50!!! on us in the first half. As Self says, you get transition runouts IF you get rebounds and steals. And Tharpe isnt one to push the pace after we inbound after a made-bucket. It aint happening, unless it happens with defense and rebounds. Texas game in AFH is a beautiful example of true Bill Self bkball. Or how about the end of the Duke game: Wiggins shuts down Jabari Parker, and we just dominated them in the final 2-3 minutes on a big stage.

Jack Wilson 8 years, 8 months ago

What is odd to me is how you think this team is going to suddenly play good defense. We played our last regular season game vs. WVU and play horrible defense. That switch just doesn't click.

My point is that if you approach the NCAA tournament hoping an praying your defense is going to improve, while approaching things offensively the same way -- with this team -- we're not a threat to get to Dallas.

Jack Wilson 8 years, 8 months ago

Erich .. I went and looked at some numbers. On another website, we are ranked for 2013-14 at 152nd in points allowed with 69.7 per game. Remember, that's with Embiid for all but 3 games.

Compare to the following:

  • 2012/13: 61.9 ppg, ranked 51st.

  • 2011/12: 61.6 ppg, ranked 35th.

  • 2010/11: 64.7 ppg, ranked 69th.

  • 2009/10: 64.2 ppg, ranked 62nd.

  • 2008/09: 65.4 ppg, ranked 106th (another team with 5 new starters).

  • 2007/08: 61.5 ppg, ranked 21st.

There are more points scored this season, but relatively speaking, we are way, way off our normal defensive ranking on ppg.

We cannot hang our hat on defense.We haven't been able to the entire season.

Jack Wilson 8 years, 8 months ago

Sorry for more posts, but this has got me interested. Erich dismisses coach Roy's formula. Try this:

In Roy's 2005 title season, UNC ranked 203rd at 70.3 ppg. In his 2009 title season, UNC ranked 272nd in ppg, 72. 0.

UNC won two national titles playing exactly the way I'm suggesting that this team must play to succeed with its subpar defense.

That is the formula for this team to win a title.

Play fast, shoot early in the shot clock, don't worry as much about turnovers, increase possessions, take some risks on defense, and structure your personnel to score, with defense a secondary concern.

Ethan Berger 8 years, 9 months ago

His high school coach possibly killed his draft stock, but also served us well. Back issues are not good. Is he going to be viewed as a risk because this is a repetive issue? I don't know, but the more people talk, the better chance he stays. Or NBA teams don't care say they will pick him top 5, he leaves and gets paid before getting hurt more. Please be option 1

Adam James 8 years, 8 months ago

Bottom line to win games in the tournament our team has to make shots. We lost at WVU because they made shots and we didn't. Defense is no doubt a big part of the final result, but in order to win games you have to make shots. Think about all the tournament losses we have had over the years. Northern Iowa made shots and we shot poorly (even with a good defensive team that year), VCU made shots over and over and we shot poorly (we had good defensive team). This is a common thread when a team gets eliminated from the tournament or any game for that matter. In 2008 we made shots in every game except Davidson. The only saving grace in that game was that they didn't make shots either. If we can make shots at a high percentage we have a chance to win every game no matter how bad our defense might play. Making shots also helps you play better defensively because you want the ball back and play with incredible energy. I'm not a Shaka Smart fan, but I heard him on the radio this morning and they asked him about his run to the Final Four and the secret to success that year. His response...... We made shots and our guys got confident that the ball was always going to go in. This made our defense that much better because of the energy that making shots gives you.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.