Kansas freshman wing Jalen Wilson, who had just entered Friday’s KU-UNC Greensboro game, ran from the top of the key to the southwest corner of James Naismith court, making himself available for a possible pass.
Not involved in the play — one developing with KU leading 17-16 with 8:41 left in the initial half — he stood in front of the the Spartans’ bench, then raised his right hand and started hopping in the direction of KU coach Bill Self.
In just 27 seconds of game action, Wilson, KU’s 6-8 newcomer from Denton, Texas, had broken his left ankle, a most depressing development in the Jayhawks’ 74-62 victory at Allen Fieldhouse.
After surgery next week, he’ll face a three month recovery time and will likely miss the rest of the season, Self said after the game.
“I actually didn’t see it,” said KU freshman wing Tristan Enaruna, who was on the court at the time, standing about 15 feet in front of Wilson when the player suffered his serious injury.
“He said he was shuffling, made a wrong step, heard a pop in his ankle and that was it,” added Enaruna, who scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds in 20 minutes.
KU coach Self — he said the “likelihood is strong” Wilson will now redshirt — “didn’t know what was going on,” when Wilson started limping toward the KU bench.
“Jalen said, ‘Call time out.’ Coaches can’t call time out in the first 38 minutes,” Self related. “I didn’t know he was hurt as bad as he was. He didn’t either. He said, ‘I felt it pop.’ It’s a bad one. He broke it. It requires surgery next week. The timetable on his return is close to three months. I won’t tell you for sure he’ll sit the rest of the year. The likelihood is strong.”
Wilson headed to the locker room and returned to the bench area on crutches with his left foot in a brace with 15:13 to play.
“You could see he was kind of sad to go out like that,” Enaruna said. “He’s really pumped at the same time for his recovery. He’s a mentally strong dude. He’ll get there.”
Noted senior guard Isaiah Moss, who started the second half and scored eight points as KU went to a four-guard lineup, said Wilson’s injury is “super unfortunate. I don’t even … it was the first minute he got in. I feel really bad for him but we’re all going to come put our hands together and help him through the process.”
KU center Udoka Azubuike, who had 10 points and 10 boards in 28 minutes, felt awful for Wilson.
“We did talk to him. It’s a bad situation from him,” said Azubuike, who played in just nine games last season because of a hand injury that required surgery. “I know the feeling. I told him to keep his head up. I’ll encourage him and help him get better.
“He was good. He was positive about it. He wasn’t down. I wished him a speedy recovery,” added Azubuike, who hit 5 of 8 shots Friday but was 0 of 4 from the line. KU hit 10 of 19 free throws to UNC Greensboro’s 6 of 13.
Indeed, after the game, Wilson wrote a positive message on Twitter.
“Never will I question God and the journey he has set for me. I love my life and this is only the beginning,” Wilson wrote.
The Jayhawks, who busted open a four-point game the second half — leading by 20 early in the second half after a 20-6 half-opening run — hit 10 of 26 threes to Greensboro’s 8 of 31.
Self, by the way, is not thinking of pulling Mitch Lightfoot’s redshirt with the team down to nine scholarship players.
“Mitch doesn’t help our situation now. We’d have four 5-men as opposed to three,” he said of bigs Azubuike, David McCormack (two points, four boards, 11 minutes; Silvio De Sousa, no points, two boards, six minutes). That’s not going to help us on the perimeter. If one of them (bigs) were to go down maybe … I don’t think that’s going to play a factor right now,” Self added.
KU’s star of the game on Friday had to be sophomore point guard Devon Dotson, who hit 6 of 14 shots (2 of 5 threes, 8 of 8 from line) for 22 points, three off his career high. He had six assists, one turnover in 36 minutes after committing six turnovers to one assist with 15 points Tuesday against Duke.
“I thought Devon was great, just great,” Self said after KU wrapped up its 47th straight home opening victory.
Ochai Agbaji scored 13 points and Marcus Garrett 10 for the Jayhawks.
KU hit 45.8 percent of its shots and was 10 of 26 from three-point range and 10 of 19 from the line. KU had 10 turnovers after committing 28 in the loss to Duke.
Dotson scored 14 points in the first half. He was 6 of 6 in the half from the free-throw line but his teammates were just 1 of 10 at intermission. Garrett added eight as the cold-shooting Jayhawks led by just four points at the break, 36-32.
Southern Conference preseason player of the year Isaiah Miller had 17 points in 14 minutes at halftime and finished with 19 points.
KU, which opened with two bigs and three guards, went to a four-guard lineup to start the final half and it paid off right away. Moss, who did not score in the first half, had eight points in a 20-6 run that stretched the lead to 56-38.
Dotson had four points, Enaruna and Agbaji three and Azubuike two during the Jayhawks’ run.
KU will meet Monmouth at 7 p.m. Friday at Allen.
Recruit visits for game
Bryce Thompson, a 6-foot-4 senior combo guard out of Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School, attended the game as part of an unofficial recruiting visit. He sat behind the KU bench.
Thompson, ranked the No. 19 player in the recruiting class of 2020 by Rivals.com, will announce his college choice at 10 a.m. Tuesday for either Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or North Carolina.
He is the son of former Tulsa standout Rod Thompson, who played one season for Self and two for current North Carolina assistant Steve Robinson at Tulsa.
Thompson made an official visit to KU Oct. 5-7. Rivals.com reports that Self will travel to Tulsa on Sunday for a final visit with Thompson. The early signing period runs from Nov. 13-20.
Game notes ...
KU is 2-0 all-time versus UNCG. The Jayhawks also won, 105-66, on Nov. 22, 2002 at Allen Fieldhouse. … KU avoided its first 0-2 start since the 1972-73 season. … KU has won 47-consecutive regular-season home openers in Allen Fieldhouse, a streak that started in the 1973-74 season. Last home opening loss was to Vanderbilt 72-6 on Dec. 2, 1972. … KU is 17-0 in home openers under Self. … KU is 94-13 following a loss in the Bill Self era, including 8-1 last season. Since the 2013-14 season, KU is 44-5 following a loss. … KU is 14-0 against current members of the Southern Conference. … KU has won 21 straight games in Allen Fieldhouse. … UNCG is one of two teams from the Southern Conference KU will meet this season. KU will host East Tennessee State on Nov. 19 in a home contest for the Maui Invitational.