Kansas Jayhawks centre Joel Embiid's return from a spinal injury has been delayed. The freshman has been declared unavilable for this week's Big 12 conference tournament and will likely be out for at least the first weekend of the NCAA tournament after meeting with a spinal specialist on Monday in Los Angeles.
"Based on that, this weekend (in the Big 12 Championship) is out," said Kansas coach Bill Self. "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."
A native of Cameroon, Embiid was named the 2014 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
"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 19-year-old seven-footer set the Kansas freshman record for blocked shots with 72 and he leads the team in rebounds with 8.1 per game.
"Everyone is 100 per cent 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."
The Jayhawks, the top seed in the Big 12 tournament, will first see action on Thursday when they play the winner of Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Competitors for this month's NCAA tournament will be announced on Sunday.