Kansas basketball fans everywhere gasped when Perry Ellis limped off the floor Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena.
It was the opening moments of a 73-61 victory against Connecticut, and the Jayhawks’ most consistent and experienced player could hardly put weight on his left foot after locking knees with a Connecticut defender. Ellis winced with pain as he took his seat on the far edge of the bench and met with trainers.
How serious was the injury? Could he return to the game? Might his season be over?
Some feared the worst.
But the panic didn’t last long. It was only a scare.
“I bumped knees with somebody and it was pretty tender in that moment, but it faded away,” Ellis said. “When it happened, I knew right away it probably wasn’t too bad, because I just banged my knee. I feel fine now.”
Ellis was back on his feet within minutes, jogging up and down the tunnel leading to the Jayhawks’ locker room until KU coach Bill Self inserted him back into the game before the first media timeout. Ellis missed 1 minute, 38 seconds of action and quickly scored his first points on a three-pointer from the wing that gave Kansas an 18-5 lead.
He finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, helping the Jayhawks end a string of early exits in the NCAA Tournament and advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013.
“That was something we were all thinking about last year,” Ellis said. “It is just a great feeling knowing that we are moving on.”
That he spent unexpected time on the bench and briefly struggled to walk ended up being a minor part of the day, practically an afterthought.
No one was more relieved about that than Ellis.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett