LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas head coach Bill Self says Joel Embiid will not play in this week’s Big 12 Championship in Kansas City, and is unlikely to play in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Embiid saw a back specialist in California on Monday, which prompted Self to make the following statement:
“Based on that, this weekend (in the Big 12 Championship) is out,” Self said. “Next weekend, we feel like is a long shot, but the doctors are hopeful that if Joel works hard in rehab and progresses that it is possible that he could play in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament, if our team is fortunate enough to advance.”
The injury will not require surgery. Doctors that Embiid met with in California explained that they feel their rehabilitation program has proven success. They assured Self and his staff that Embiid will fully recover and return to basketball within a few weeks.
After missing the last two games of the regular season for the Kansas Jayhawks’ basketball team, the status of freshman center Joel Embiid remains up in the air. Embiid suffered a back injury earlier in the season, but re-injured the ailment during the Kansas loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday, March 1st.
Embiid missed the last two regular season games, one in the win against Texas Tech, and another in a road loss to finish the regular season at West Virginia. Embiid was flown to California on Sunday to get a second opinion on the injury, in large part due to a request from his family.
Kansas head coach Bill Self said the move to have Embiid reexamined was simply a precautionary measure. He also feels strongly that Embiid will be available for the NCAA Tournament, one week after the Big 12 Championship tips off at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
“No, I don’t see a scenario where he wouldn’t play in the (NCAA) postseason,” said Self. “I see a scenario where he possibly couldn’t play this weekend, but we’ll know more today. We’ve done exactly what we said all along we were going to do except the reevaluation took place on Monday as opposed to Sunday.”
Self also said that Embiid’s pain symptoms have diminished and doesn’t expect the second opinion to waver much from the first.
“He’ll see the doctor today, and we anticipate getting the exact same report that we got before, maybe a little bit different as far as therapy or something like that, but it’s basically one of those things that he can go as his symptoms allow him to go,” Self said. “He’s a lot better symptomatically than what he was last week, obviously.”
Ultimately Self said the doctor’s recommendation will prevail and while it would be nice to have the freshman center available for the Big 12 Championship, Embiid’s health for the NCAA Tournament is the primary concern.
“He’s run in the pool and he’s done those types of things. But we said before that we were going to hold him out this week, that’s what we’ve done, and certainly we want him healthy when we get to the NCAA Tournament,” Self said. “As bad as we’d like to play him this weekend, I’m not going to risk that by playing him this weekend if the doctor says don’t risk it. If they say, ‘Hey, let him go, he’s fine, he’s going to get hit no matter what and he’ll tweak it and he’ll be uncomfortable, but it’s not going to hurt it worse,’ (then we’ll) let him go. But if they don’t tell us that, we’ll probably hold him another week.”
Kansas will play in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Championship on Thursday, March 13, at 2 p.m. CST, against the winner of the Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech game, which will be played on Wednesday.