Rush returns in rout of Ichabods

Kansas University guards Brandon Rush, left, and Sherron Collins bust out laughing while watching fellow guard Rodrick Stewart stumble after a tomahawk dunk in the second half of KU's 92-60 rout of Washburn. Rush made his season debut Thursday at Allen Fieldhouse, while Collins sat out his first game after undergoing foot surgery.

Fans behind Kansas University’s basketball bench started clapping as Brandon Rush stood and headed to the scorer’s table 3 minutes, 20 seconds into Thursday’s mismatch against Washburn at Allen Fieldhouse.

Cheers spread to all corners of the building as the 6-foot-6 Kansas Citian sat still, waiting for a stoppage in play.

Finally, upon being waved onto the court by the refs at the 16:17 mark, most of the 16,300 fans were on their feet, applauding the return of the junior guard who had right ACL surgery on June 1.

“I got chills all through my body,” Rush said.

He scored seven points and had three rebounds – in a 12-minute stint – sparking a slow-starting KU team to a 92-60 victory over the NCAA Div. II Ichabods.

“It felt really good. I was really excited about it,” Rush added of the warm greeting.

KU and Washburn fans alike recognized the hard work of Rush, who obeyed all the orders of KU’s doctors and trainers during long months of rehab.

“I think it was the whole thing, my dedication to rehab, me going in every day, two times a day. It came out pretty good,” said Rush, who said he learned he’d be making his season debut on Monday.

“We tried to keep it a little secret, well a big secret,” he said. “We wanted to keep it under wraps so there wouldn’t be so much media (interest leading to game).”

Rush – he told his mother, AAU coach and teammates of his impending return – deemed himself “85, 90 percent” of his old self.

“I don’t have my full explosiveness back yet. My first step is slow,” Rush said. “It’ll come back in time.”

Rush showed some rustiness, misfiring badly on a 3-pointer just seconds after taking the floor.

“It was a brick : brick, brick,” Rush repeated. “It was a 3 off the backboard – brick. I thought the shot clock was going down.”

KU’s leading scorer the past two years hit a one-hander in the lane at 12:14, giving KU a 10-9 lead. He swished a 3 from the corner at 7:47, upping a slim margin to 20-13.

Then perhaps in the most significant play of his return game, he went crashing to the floor after getting hammered by Moriba DeCoteau. Rush hopped up quickly, proving he could take a hit.

“I’ve been hit hard at practice,” shrugged Rush, who has been practicing with contact since Nov. 2. “I try to play worry-free. If you bump into that knee brace (which he will wear two more months), they are going to be hurting, not me. That knee brace is all metal.”

KU coach Bill Self said he didn’t hold his breath after Rush hit the deck on two occasions.

“Not really, because he’s been knocked down in practice,” Self said, “but he needed to get knocked down (in a game). When he came out I asked him, ‘Did that feel good?’ He said, ‘Yeah, that felt good.’ He needed somebody to knock him on his can and get right back up.”

Rush played 12 minutes the first half and helped steady the ship as KU, which missed eight of its first 10 free throws and eight of 16 the first half, took a 34-18 lead into the break.

That was it for Rush, who removed his knee brace and sat next to the injured Sherron Collins at the end of the bench the second 20 minutes as KU rolled, 58-42, the second half.

“In his mind, he could have played 25 minutes tonight. They (medical staff) cut me off,” Self said. “I thought I had 10-15 minutes. My trainer told me I only had 10. I got two more out of him than I should.”

As to why he used up all the minutes the first half, Self said: “I thought, ‘Why play him five the first half and rest him all that time for five the second half?’ I thought, ‘Get him loose and let him play and not sit 20 minutes (at half).”

Rush had no complaints.

“I would like to have played a lot more, but the doctor and trainers said I could play only 12-15 minutes. I used all that the first half,” Rush said. “We weren’t playing that well. Coach said, ‘What the heck,’ I guess.”

Self said there were no immediate plans to move Rush into the starting lineup. He said he wasn’t sure how many minutes Rush would play Wednesday against Northern Arizona.

Could he go 20?

“I don’t know. I hope so,” Rush said. “I probably will not start. I hope by December I’m back in the starting lineup.”

The man who started for Rush, Rodrick Stewart, said he was thrilled to see No. 25 back on the floor.

“He worked his tail off the whole summer,” Stewart said. “He did a great job. I feel like he’s 100 percent.”