Lee’s recovery still on schedule
Michael Lee paid a visit to the doctor’s office Friday — right after returning to Lawrence from his hometown of Portland, Ore., where he had a holly, jolly, four-day Christmas vacation.
Lee, who suffered a broken right collarbone at practice Nov. 28, received a great gift from Kansas University’s medical staff — word that his recovery is right on schedule.
“I had X-rays taken. The doctor said everything is going well. I should be able to play Jan. 5 (at Colorado),” said Lee, who is in the fourth week of what was expected to be a 4-to-6 week rehab.
The 6-foot-3 shooting guard, who has shed his sling, has started shooting the basketball, but has not been cleared to practice.
“I can shoot close range with no contact,” Lee said Saturday while signing autographs at KU’s holiday clinic for youths at Allen Fieldhouse.
“It (shooting) is real awkward now. My collarbone is getting a lot better, but a lot of it is getting range of motion back. The doctors say it will be stronger than it was initially before the break. I’m still counting on Jan. 5.”
KU will play at least two more games without the junior. The Jayhawks play host to Binghamton at 7 p.m. Monday (with a live broadcast on Sunflower Broadband channels 13 and 15) before meeting Villanova in another 7 p.m. home game Friday.
Lee’s presence on the court has been missed, KU coach Bill Self said.
“I think we will be a lot better when we put all of our pieces together,” Self said. “I think Michael getting injured hurt us because he’s such a glue guy. Michael has shot 50 percent for his career behind the arc. He can also defend the other team’s best offensive player on the perimeter if it’s not a point guard.”
One of KU’s team leaders, Lee was asked to describe the team’s mood after last Sunday’s 14-point loss at Nevada.
“It was bad after the loss. We got to go home fortunately for break,” Lee said. “Now everybody is focused and ready to get things going.
“We should be disappointed. But that game is behind us. We’ve had four days of break. Now everybody has fresh legs. It’s a fresh start.”
Clinic draws 500: A record throng of about 500 youths — some from as far away as Texas — attended KU’s annual holiday clinic. The Jayhawk players taught fundamentals and signed autographs for an hour.
“This brings back a lot of memories,” said Leavenworth junior Wayne Simien, who attended the holiday clinic and KU camps as a youth. “It wasn’t too long ago I was a little snot-nosed kid running around tugging on Paul Pierce’s jersey getting his autograph.
“It’s a lot of fun being out here spending time with kids. They have fun and make some new friends.”
KU guard Jeff Hawkins explained the Jayhawks’ duties.
“We put them through some defensive drills, plus ballhandling, and shooting layups,” he said. “We talked about them having fun and respecting their parents, thanking them for bringing them here. We talked to the kids about being good listeners. That’s something they can take with them in life.”
KU freshman Omar Wilkes was amazed at the turnout.
“I’d heard about this but never imagined there’d be this many,” he said. “It was fun getting out there with the kids. I kind of liked being called, ‘Coach Wilkes.”’
Of the clinic, senior Jeff Graves said: “It went real well. Anytime you can spend time with kids, it’s good. I enjoy giving something back. They seemed to all have a good time.”
After the clinic, KU’s players headed downtown to serve food to the needy as a charitable effort during this holiday season.
“We served food. We cleaned up. We had a busy day,” Self said. “They started watching film at 8 a.m. We had the clinic, went downtown, then we get to have a three-hour practice. Our guys are loving life right now.”
Self stressed despite some early rough spots, he “loves” his 6-2 Jayhawk team.
“If I get in an argument with my wife, I still love my wife,” said Self. “So there’s no way I’m not gonna like these guys. I love our guys. Our guys want to do well. Our guys are not as hungry as what they should be. They’ll be the first to tell you. They saw a hungry team in Nevada. We didn’t match their hunger. We need to work on that and will.”
Bonding still to come: Self said last week he hoped the trip to Nevada would be a bonding experience for his Jayhawks, similar to a company taking its employees on a retreat.
Did it work out that way?
“You mean when a team becomes a team? Eh, I don’t think it was what I’d envisioned to be honest,” he said of KU beating Santa Barbara and losing to Nevada.
Self had some anxious moments spending Christmas with family in Oklahoma.
“I’d been waiting for five days to practice last night,” Self said of Friday’s workout. “We went hard and we went long. We talked a lot and worked a lot.”
Team manager tears ACL: None of KU’s players suffered any freak injuries at home during the four-day break. Team manager Shannon O’Connor, however, reported back to school limping while wearing a brace on her left knee. She tore her left ACL when falling in a skiing accident on Christmas Eve in Aspen, Colo. O’Connor, an Emporia senior, reports that she will need surgery to repair the ligament damage.