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Mr. Laz
10-31-2006, 09:43 AM
KU’s Kaun hurt, out several weeks

Junior’s knee injury won’t require surgery, but he may not return until mid-December.

By JASON KING
The Kansas City Star
LAWRENCE | Two weeks ago they were being hailed as one of the deepest teams in college basketball.

Now, just two days before their first exhibition game, the Kansas Jayhawks suddenly seem shallower than a shot glass.

As if the suspension and possible dismissal of center C.J. Giles weren’t enough, the Jayhawks took another huge hit when junior Sasha Kaun suffered a partial tear of the patellar tendon in his right knee during a Sunday evening workout.

Kaun, who was scheduled to start at center, will be out of action for three to six weeks.

“My excitement (about the start of the season) is a little tempered right now,” coach Bill Self said Monday. “We had a pretty rough day Sunday.”

Although he won’t need surgery to repair the ligament, Kaun still faces a potentially tedious and taxing rehabilitation period.

The hope is that he’ll be able to return in time for KU’s Nov. 25 showdown against defending national champion Florida, but the Jayhawks’ coaches aren’t keeping their fingers crossed. The more reasonable guess is mid-December.

Kaun wasn’t available for comment Monday. He averaged 8.2 points and 5.3 rebounds as a sophomore in 2005-06, when he made 29 starts.

“We’re actually a little fortunate, because (Sunday) we thought it was worse than it was,” Self said. “I think he just planted his leg wrong when he jumped. It’s not a rupture or a torn ligament.

“He can’t do much immediately, but the rehab process won’t be known until we find out in a few days how the injury looks.”

With Kaun on the sideline, Self has no choice but to alter his schemes. Julian Wright, who was expected to split time between small forward and power forward, will now play almost exclusively in the paint, where he’ll probably start alongside freshman Darrell Arthur.

Darnell Jackson will provide assistance off the bench along with walk-on Matt Kleinmann, a Blue Valley West graduate who was hardly in KU’s plans a few weeks ago. Self even said he’s considering moving 6-foot-4 guard Rodrick Stewart to power forward.

“Those are the only guys left,” said Self, adding that Kaun was the team’s best low-post defender. “We’ve gone from being a deep, long athletic team to being — in the short term — a team that does not have much inside depth at all. We’re a pretty thin group right now.”

One player definitely not in the mix is Giles, who was removed from the team Oct. 17 because of a laundry list of off-court issues that is threatening his future with the program.

At times Self appears to be leaning toward kicking Giles off the team permanently. Other times his stance isn’t as strong. Still, even if Giles is allowed to return, don’t expect him to contribute early.

“We’ll visit sometime soon,” Self said. “But my focus right now is not on C.J. Giles. My focus is on trying to get our team better, and right now he’s not a part of our team and he may never be a part of our team.

“I’m not going to make a final decision until I’ve had a chance to visit with him and check some things out.”

•ARTHUR CUTS HAND: Kaun’s injury wasn’t the only one a KU player suffered during Sunday’s workout. Self said Arthur cut his hand while dunking and needed stitches to close the wound. He’s expected to play in Thursday’s exhibition against Washburn.

•MORNINGSTAR REDSHIRT? Self said he may redshirt freshman guard Brady Morningstar, a former Lawrence Free State standout. He can play in KU’s two exhibition games and still be eligible to redshirt.


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•Missouri freshman Keon Lawrence is sidelined by a stress fracture. | C4