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Archive for Wednesday, December 5, 2001

in return

December 5, 2001

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This was supposed to happen nearly three weeks ago in Maui for Wayne Simien.

The freshman from Leavenworth didn't want to make his Kansas debut at Allen Fieldhouse. But a knee injury kept him out of the Jayhawks' first five games, and his opener was against No. 23 Wake Forest on Tuesday night.

And boy, did he make the most of it.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound freshman, who goes by the nickname "Diesel," scored 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 15 minutes. The double-double is the first by a player making his debut under Kansas coach Roy Williams.

"I did OK," Simien said. "I felt comfortable out there, but struggled a little from the free- throw line, as the team did. There was a lid on the basket. I got good numbers, got a double-double and I'm definitely satisfied with that."

Simien's 15 minutes were half of what forwards Nick Collison and Drew Gooden received. He said his amount of playing time wasn't indicative of the status of his knee, but the quality of play by Collison and Gooden.

"As far as wind-wise, I felt good," Simien said. "That's just coach's rotation. Nick and Drew are All-Americans and they've been doing it for three years. I don't see why they shouldn't be in there over me."

There may come a game, though, when Collison will get into foul trouble early and Simien will be needed to play much more. That's fine with his teammates.

"It helps a lot to have him there," Collison said. "He rebounds so well and is so strong. He gives us another body if someone gets in foul trouble, tired or whatever. It's so nice to have a four-man rotation instead of three."

Simien missed Kansas' first five games because he suffered an injury to his left knee in practice and had arthroscopic surgery.

"It's good, felt real good out there," he said about his knee. "The doctors are being real cautious. As you can see I've got 10 pounds of ice wrapped around it. They said I could probably go against Arizona last week but since it wasn't a tournament game and I'm just a freshman they wanted to make sure I didn't have any problems and were extra cautious with it."

The McDonald's High School All-American is no stranger to missing games because of injury. He missed most of his senior season at Leavenworth because of a shoulder injury and was not able to play in the state playoffs, McDonald's All-American game or other high school all-star games.

After he hurt his knee this season, there were whispers that he was injury-prone and would never be at full strength, but he said he disagrees.

"People say that and I get real frustrated about it," Simien said. "No one wants to get hurt and as many times as it has happened to me, I get frustrated. When you play as hard as I do you get hurt sometimes."

That's for sure. With three-and-a-half minutes remaining, he grabbed an offensive rebound left of the basket, turned to pass the ball to the perimeter, pivoted back inside toward the hoop, knocked the defender over and banked the ball off the glass for a basket. Thirty seconds later, he went for a loose ball headlong into press row.

Don't look for Simien to ease up or not give his best effort. He's not going to take any plays off.

"I'm a real physical player and that's what I've done before," he said. "Coach says it's my job to just go out there and play hard."

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