By the time Kansas returned to Allen Fieldhouse for practice on Thursday, the day after Christmas, the young Jayhawks had enjoyed a full four days off for the holiday.
For a group of freshmen going through the grind of a college basketball season for the first time, it was a much welcomed break. But while the opportunity to mentally recharge was nice, the Jayhawks really needed the extra time to get fully healthy.
Consider: KU coach Bill Self said sophomore forward Perry Ellis was “fine” and able to practice after suffering a bruised nerve in his neck against Georgetown last Saturday. In the moment, it was rather scary. Ellis, KU’s second-leading scorer, suffered a blow to the head area, badly missed a free throw and walked off the court looking a little wobbly. But according to Self, it was the nerve issue that affected Ellis’ equilibrium, and he should be good to go when No. 16 Kansas faces unbeaten Toledo at 7 p.m. Monday at Allen Fieldhouse.
“He’s fine from a health standpoint,” Self said. “He may be a little stiff, like he’s got a little crick in his neck, but he’s fine.”
Sophomore wing Andrew White III also returned to practice after missing two games because of a hip-pointer injury. And freshman guard Wayne Selden, who has been plagued by an assortment of minor ailments, used the time get his body feeling better.
“As a team, we love being around each other,” Selden said. “But our bodies probably needed a little break.”
For Kansas, 8-3, the break came at the right time. With games against Toledo, 12-0, and No. 20 San Diego State looming before Big 12 play, Self is hoping the Jayhawks can finish off the nonconference slate with a couple of victories after a tough early schedule served up three losses.
“If we’re able to play well the next two games, and of course they’re both going to be tough, I would think that’s about the record we should have going into conference play,” Self said. “Have we played great? No. Have we gotten better? Yes. But we still got a ways to go.”