Archive for Tuesday, December 12, 2000

Axtell’s ankle ailing

Kansas shooting guard questionable for tonight

December 12, 2000


— Luke Axtell has sprained his left ankle again.

Axtell, Kansas University's 6-foot-10 senior shooting guard who missed KU's first four games because of a sprain, stepped on teammate Bryant Nash's foot while attempting a shot midway through Monday's practice at Allen Fieldhouse.

"It's a sprain, not as bad as last time. It's the kind of thing I pulled the team together and said, 'We can feel sorry for ourselves and say woe is me and all that, but the bottom line is we got to get our butts in gear."

KU coach Roy Williams

X-rays proved negative and Axtell is listed as questionable for tonight's game against DePaul (8:05, United Center).

"It's a sprain, not as bad as last time," KU coach Roy Williams said. "It's the kind of thing I pulled the team together and said, 'We can feel sorry for ourselves and say woe is me and all that, but the bottom line is we've got to get our butts in gear.'

"We feel badly for Luke, but at the same time it won't help us in the game. We've got to get five guys on the floor ready to battle as well as they can."

Axtell has re-tweaked his ankle several times since the original injury suffered in practice on Nov. 7, when he also came down on a teammate's ankle. He's bounced back rapidly after each re-tweak.

So what will KU's coach do for lineups if Axtell can't go? Remember, small forward Kenny Gregory also will miss tonight's game because of a stress fracture in his right foot.

After Axtell left practice, Williams went with two different lineups. He used three big men Nick Collison, Eric Chenowith and Drew Gooden with guards Kirk Hinrich and Jeff Boschee. Another lineup had three guards Mario Kinsey, Hinrich and Boschee with two of the three big men.

"We've got some obstacles to overcome," Williams said. "We've got to go up there and say, 'Daggum we're going to do it.'"

Today figures to be a long day for the KU players and coaches.

A blizzard in Chicago on Monday forced the cancellation of KU's late afternoon commercial flight to Midway Airport. The Jayhawks instead were to try it again commercially at 9:30 a.m. this morning.

That means about a 6:30 a.m. wake-up call for the Jayhawks, who are still planning to hold their regularly-scheduled shootaround at noon today at Chicago's United Center, site of the game.

"No question we like to get in the night before and have a shootaround, go over personnel and scouting clips like we always do," Williams said. "We've got to go with the hand we've been dealt."

Williams made the call at 11 a.m. Monday to re-book the Jayhawks on the morning flight.

"The airports in Chicago were closed until noon. The weather prediction was it would get worse late in the afternoon and evening," KU assistant athletics director Richard Konzem explained.

"John Novotny of Travellers and I explored flights for Tuesday. We immediately went to coach Williams. He had the Weather Channel on in his office. They were talking about how it'd get worse in the afternoon in Chicago. Coach called in his staff and everybody concurred it was the prudent thing to do.

"It turned out the Chicago airports were closed until at least 6 p.m. and we would not have been able to fly out anyway. The people at DePaul had tremendous difficulty getting to work. Everything in Chicago was shut down," Konzem added.

Monday was a tough day for commuters in Chicago.

"I'm stuck in the middle of a snowbank using my cell phone," DePaul coach Pat Kennedy said on Monday morning.

He used a more serious tone to discuss tonight's challenge against KU (7-1).

"It's a tough matchup. Kansas is extremely big," Kennedy said. "Their big kids take it down the floor and to the basket."

DePaul is off to a 4-3 start. The Blue Demons have beaten Lewis, Florida State, Alaska Anchorage and Chicago State and lost to Syracuse (92-84), Missouri (99-84) and Florida (83-76).

"We are struggling defensively in the worst way," Kennedy said. "We are not stopping anybody. Offensively, we are fine."

DePaul averages 83.1 points a game on 49.2 percent shooting while allowing 81.9 points. Its leading scorer is forward Bobby Simmons at 16.7 ppg.

The team is led by freshman point guard deluxe Imari Sawyer, a 6-2 guard from Chicago.

"He's good. He's really good," KU's Williams said.

"From what I've seen on TV he's very good," noted Hinrich.

Williams grew upset at a caller Monday night on his Hawk Talk radio show. The caller said it appeared KU's coaches and players were not fired up and ill prepared for Thursday's 31-point loss at Wake Forest.

"I can travel this country 100 times and not find anybody more into it than our coaching staff every night," Williams said. "I am 50 years old and never looked anybody in the eye who was more competitive than Roy Williams. To make that assessment is absolutely, unequivocally wrong. I'll fight anybody who has a daggum chain saw.

"Our kids did get down. We made some mistakes. To say we are not prepared I am not putting up with that because that is not an option. No way in Hades our staff was not prepared; no way in Hades our staff was not competitive."


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