Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid’s injury evaluation revealed that his return to the court will be prolonged, Jayhawks head coach Bill Self said Monday.
The 7-0 Yaoundé, Cameroon, native met with a spinal specialist in Los Angeles on Monday morning. Based on the attending physician’s examination of Embiid, combined with his extensive experience with the common basketball injury, the specialist confirmed the original stress fracture prognosis he received in Lawrence. His current treatments have Embiid in the middle of the healing process, which renders him unavailable for the Big 12 Championship and unlikely to play in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
“Based on that, this weekend (in the Big 12 Championship) is out,” Self said. “Next weekend, we feel like is a longshot, 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 and assured Self and his staff that Embiid will fully recover and return to basketball within a few weeks.
“From this point forward, it is not our policy to comment any further on our players’ day-to-day treatment unless there is significant change in playing status,” Self said. “Our team feels bad for Joel, but this in no way changes our original postseason goals and our team will rally around this.”
Self noted that Embiid, who missed three regular-season games this season (vs. TCU, vs. TTU and at WVU) due to back pain, has already shown his dedication to the rehab process throughout the latter part of the season.
“We’re all very disappointed for Joel,” Self said. “He’s worked so hard and improved so much. He’s been one of the most improved players in the country in such a short amount of time. The most important thing is for Joel to get healthy. We were hopeful, Joel was hopeful, the doctors were hopeful that his body would respond more rapidly to rehab and that has not been the case.”
The 2014 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Embiid broke the KU freshman record for blocked shots with 72 and his 2.6 blocked shots per game are second in the league. Named to the 2014 All-Big 12 Second Team, Embiid leads KU with 8.1 rebounds per game, good for sixth in the Big 12. Embiid shot 62.6 percent from the field and averaged 11.2 points per game. Additionally, Embiid was a Wayman Tisdale Award finalist for the most outstanding freshman by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) and one of 30 listed as a Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year Award candidate.
Embiid was a two-time Big 12 Newcomer of the Week – Dec. 2, 2013 and Jan. 20, 2014 – and was named Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Week and CBSSports.com National Player of the Week on Jan. 21, 2014 after averaging a double-double with 14.5 points and 10.0 rebounds to go along with 13 blocked shots in KU victories against then-top-10 opponents Iowa State (1/13) and Oklahoma State (1/18). Included was a KU freshman-record eight blocked shots against OSU.
“Everyone is 100 percent confident that Joel will heal and be back to normal soon, but the most important thing is that he gets well,” Self said. “We’re certainly not going to put him out there unless the doctors, his family and Joel are ready for him to go. I know how bad he wants it, and that he will work his butt off to put him in a position where if our team is successful and fortunate enough to advance, he could return in later rounds.”