The plan is for D.J. Johnson to play on Friday when Kansas State plays at Georgia in its first true road game of the season, but nothing is certain when it comes to the health status of the team’s forwards this season.
K-State basketball coach Bruce Weber continues to take a cautious approach with his injured big men, particularly Johnson, a junior who missed all of last season with a broken foot, and Dante Williams, a freshman who might redshirt while he recovers from a stress fracture in his foot.
Weber held Johnson out of K-State’s last game against South Carolina State for precautionary reasons after Johnson had played three games in five days during the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.
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“We probably overdid it, and it’s something we knew all year would be hit-and-miss,” Weber said of Johnson on Wednesday. “From now on our spacing is pretty good, and he’ll always have a day or two between to make a comeback. I know he’s anxious. He jumped in a couple of drills (Tuesday) and we had to tell him to get out. ... Hopefully have him energized and fresh on Friday.”
K-State could certainly use Johnson against the Bulldogs. He is the team’s top reserve forward, and the Wildcats have struggled on the road under Weber. They went 1-10 in road games last season.
As for Williams, Weber says he is taking a wait-and-see approach.
The hope was that every scholarship player on the roster would be active this season. Then K-State encountered difficulty trying to get Isaiah Maurice academically cleared by the NCAA, and Williams, a 7-footer from Arlington, Texas, missed important practice time due to injury. With walk-on Austin Budke emerging as a reliable reserve inside, Weber may have the luxury of redshirting Maurice and Williams.
But playing Williams now is a tempting thought. Weber says Williams is improving in practice and is the team’s top shot-blocker.
“He can definitely block shots,” freshman forward Dean Wade said. “He has gotten me a couple times.”
Williams’ playing status could be linked to Johnson. If Johnson remains healthy and continues to be effective off the bench, Williams may sit. If not, the need for Williams increases.
Weber will likely decide his status in the next two weeks.
“I don’t want to play him if he’s not ready physically and basketball-wise,” Weber said of Williams. “If he gets to a point where he’s productive every day and competing in practice and can give us something. ...
“I know he wants to play. But if you’re not playing 8-10 minutes, to me it’s more beneficial to redshirt.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett