|Reserve guard Rodrick Stewart's knee injury comes on trying day for Kansas Jayhawks|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 04 April 2008 11:54|
It ended some 40 minutes later with the crowd watching in silence as Jayhawks reserve guard Rodrick Stewart writhed on the court, his knee shattered when he fell while attempting a dunk at the end of Friday's light workout. Coach Bill Self said Stewart had fractured his kneecap and would have surgery when the team returns to Lawrence after the Final Four.
So much for a fiesta.
``We're very disappointed. It's bringing us down right now,'' said teammate Brandon Rush, who hurt his knee last summer. ``We definitely don't need that right now.''
Stewart's injury wasn't the only adversity Kansas faced as it prepared to meet mighty North Carolina in a national semifinal Saturday night. Self spent part of his scheduled news conference answering questions about whether he was interested in taking the job at Oklahoma State, his alma mater.
Self confirmed he met Tuesday with Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins and told him, ``Heck, no, I don't want to go anywhere.''
``Part of the conversations we've had is, 'Hey, when the season is over, we're going to sit down, we're going to talk, get everything ironed out, so hopefully you can be here for a while,''' Self said. ``I take him at his word. He takes me at mine. So I'm sure that will be the case.''
Kansas gave Self a five-year contract extension last season, increasing his annual compensation to more than $1.3 million with a chance to make another $350,000 each year if he meets incentives.
Asked if he wanted a new deal, Self replied, ``Yes, yes, I would love - and I hope Lew is talking about something in that regard as opposed to, you know, where we're going to play golf when he said he wanted to meet with me after the season.''
The Jayhawks seemed unfazed by speculation over Self's future. But they clearly were affected by Stewart's injury.
The injury occurred with less than 20 minutes to go in the 50-minute workout, which was open to the public. Some of the Jayhawks had formed two lines at halfcourt and appeared ready to put on a dunk show to entertain their fans.
``I told our freshmen they could go dunk,'' Self said. ``Rodrick jumps out there, goes and tries to dunk, which I'm disappointed that we - we do that every tournament, but I'm disappointed, certainly hurt for him. Guys practice their whole life to get to participate in a Final Four. That's been taken away from him.''
Stewart, a 6-foot-4 senior, came flying in from the left side. He bobbled the ball, landed awkwardly and immediately began pounding the floor.
``For a minute, I thought he just fell,'' Rush said. ``I didn't know he was hurt at all.''
Self and trainers ran to Stewart and knelt over him. The player lay on the court for several minutes, and the Jayhawks were ushered off the court by coaches. Stewart's leg was placed in a brace, and he was loaded onto a golf cart, whisking him down a tunnel.
Back in the dressing room, Self told the stunned Jayhawks about the extent of Stewart's injury.
``I don't know exactly how it will affect the guys other than the fact that it was a subdued locker room when I told them what the injury was and how bad it was,'' Self said. ``The doctor said he caught a break in that it could have been worse.''
Teammates expressed sorrow for Stewart.
``It's tough to see a teammate down - especially for him being a senior, and this is his last go-around,'' teammate Mario Chalmers said. ``It's hard for him to go out like that.''
Stewart, a 23-year-old from Seattle, transferred to Kansas from Southern California in 2004. As a freshman, he teamed with his twin brother, Lodrick, on the Trojans.
Rodrick Stewart's bio in the Kansas media guide said he ``can provide highlight reel dunks'' and once shattered a backboard on a 2005 summer tour of Slovenia.
He also gave Kansas depth off the bench, averaging 2.8 points and 11.6 minutes per game. The Jayhawks will need lots of bodies as they try to keep up with the Tar Heels, who often wear down opponents with their up-tempo style.
The Jayhawks vowed to keep Stewart in their thoughts Saturday.
``He knows we're going to go out there and participate,'' Chalmers said. ``He knows we got his back.''