LAWRENCE — Enduring agonizing pain midway through last Saturday’s game at Villanova, Marcus Garrett was at least able to take comfort in one aspect of the unpleasant situation.
“When I went down and (the trainer) asked me if it was as bad as last year, I told him, ‘Nah,’ ” Garrett recalled Friday. “I felt a difference down there.”
The days since the injury have only confirmed that hunch.
The Kansas basketball junior guard sprained his right ankle on a layup attempt late in the first half of the Jayhawks’ 56-55 defeat to the Wildcats at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and missed the contest’s final 25 minutes. The ailment isn’t, however, a high ankle sprain, the injury that shelved the defensive standout for nearly a month as a sophomore and hampered him significantly upon his return.
Garrett said he’s “feeling better” and expects to play in the No. 5-ranked Jayhawks’ next contest, a 2 p.m. Sunday tilt with Stanford at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif.
"I'm feeling good,” Garrett added. “I can move and do all the things out there. ... If I can play on Sunday (the injury) shouldn’t affect me at all because that means I can play and I can go.”
The 6-foot-5, 195-pounder out of Dallas participated in KU (9-2) practices both Thursday and Friday, with head coach Bill Self observing Garrett was “good” on Day 1 and “sore” on Day 2.
“You could tell. He didn’t move. But we practiced at 9 a.m. (Friday), too,” Self said. “I think he’s going to be fine. I don’t know if he’ll be 100%, but he’ll play against Stanford.”
Averaging 8.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals with a much-improved 3-point clip of 36.8%, Garrett will start against the Cardinal (11-1) assuming there are no setbacks, Self said.
"I think he looks better than I thought he was going to,” KU freshman guard Christian Braun said of Garrett’s participation in the Thursday and Friday practices. “He's been getting a lot of treatment and doing what he's supposed to do to get back for the game. Marcus, when he's on the court, he always plays well, so I haven't really noticed a difference because he's a tough guy. But looks good to me."
Asked to put a number to how close he is to being full strength, Garrett agreed that the 75-85% range sounds about right at the moment, though he reiterated he’s feeling “great," all things considered.
“When I got up this morning, it was just a little sore,” Garrett said, “but it’s something I can work through for sure.”
As painful as the injury itself was, watching his teammates blow a four-point lead in the game’s final 67 seconds from the helpless position of the Jayhawk bench stung as well, Garrett acknowledged.
“Oh, that was difficult,” Garrett said. “Just thinking the whole time that I was going to play the whole game, just knowing the game plan we had to stop them and that me not being out there really hurt me most, sitting on the sideline.”
Still, Garrett found a way to keep himself engaged.
On multiple occasions, Garrett was seen giving instruction to teammates during huddles or breaks in the action. That was particularly true of the freshmen Braun and Tristan Enaruna, who made late contributions that would’ve drawn headlines had the outcome gone the other way.
Braun, a player Garrett earlier in the season said reminds him of himself, appreciated the pointers, adding that the junior guard’s second-half absence created a tangible void.
“It shows how important he is to our team and everything that he does for us,” Braun said. “... Marcus means a lot to our team.”
Moss looking to shake funk
Isaiah Moss, the Jayhawks’ senior guard and a former graduate transfer from Iowa, has hit a rough patch in his first season in Lawrence, going 2-for-11 from the field and 1-for-8 from beyond the arc across KU's last two contests. Those showings have dipped the 3-point shooting specialist’s long-range conversion rate to 33.3%, which would be a career-low.
Even more worrisome to Self is Moss’ lack of contributions in other areas — across his last three games, Moss has combined for one rebound, one steal and no assists while averaging 17.7 minutes.
“There’s more to it than just making shots. You feel better about yourself when you’re impacting a game,” Self said. “He didn’t do anything the other day (against Villanova). Not good, not bad — he was just out there. He made a bad turnover or two. But for the most part, I think he’s a better basketball player than that. And when you do (play with activity), then you’re going to obviously shoot the ball and there’s not as much pressure on you making shots.”
Moss now averages 7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.6 assists this season across 22 minutes per game.
“The reality of it is we need him to make shots. Seeing a couple go in will obviously be a benefit, but also, activity,” Self said. “That’s something I’ve been getting on all our guys about. Our activity level can be improved from everybody.”