Notebook: KU freshman Bryce Thompson believes he is ‘around 97%’ back from broken finger
Although he’s been back in the lineup for a few weeks, freshman guard Bryce Thompson has still been battling through his recovery from a broken finger that sidelined him earlier this season.
On Wednesday, however, one day before the 13th-ranked Kansas men’s basketball team’s wild 67-62 victory over upset-minded UTEP at Allen Fieldhouse, Thompson said his right index finger was “around 97%” healed and feeling better than it had in a long time.
Asked if the injury, which required him to wear a protective glove for a few games, affected his shot, Thompson said that, too, was pretty much a thing of the past.
“Early (on) it was a little difficult,” he said. “I had to do a little extra on my wrist motion to get the full extension. But now it’s pretty smooth.”
Because of what he saw from the former five-star prospect before he was injured, Self said he never doubted that Thompson would make a meaningful impact upon his return.
“Bryce would have put himself in a position, if he hadn’t been injured, to be a starter now and certainly be a guy that can be playing 20-25 minutes a game,” Self said. “So it was a setback for him, and, in my opinion, he was just going to find his groove in January.”
Kansas is 6-1 in the seven games Thompson has played in since returning from injury. And the 6-foot-5 combo guard from Tulsa, Okla., entered Thursday averaging 5.5 points, 2 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in 17 minutes per outing since his return.
Thompson finished with two points and two rebounds in 16 minutes during Thursday’s victory.
Kansas Athletics donated “more than 1,300 tickets” for Thursday’s game to first frontline workers in the Lawrence community, as a way of saying thank you for their efforts in fighting the pandemic during the past year.
Employees at LMH Health and KU Health Systems, Lawrence/Douglas County Fire/Medical, Lawrence Emergency Medicine, KUPD/Lawrence PD and the Kansas Highway Patrol were made up the list of recipients.
As has been the case for most home games this season, 2,500 tickets were made available for the non-conference game that was added late to KU’s schedule. After offering them for sale to donors and students, KU donated the rest.
The gesture was announced on Kansas coach Bill Self’s “Hawk Talk” radio show with Brian Hanni on Tuesday night.
“These people have sacrificed a lot for people they don’t even know,” Self said during the show. “Hopefully they’ll have some people who would like to come to the game and check out their Jayhawks.”
Added KU Athletic Director Jeff Long: “We will never be able to fully express our gratitude to our dedicated first responders and frontline workers, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the addition of the UTEP game, we took the opportunity to provide tickets to some of those heroes in our community.”
During the first media timeout of each half on Thursday, Self and Long greeted the frontline workers with a welcome message and thank you on the video board. The honorees who were in attendance also were asked to stand and be recognized.
At 12-6 in Big 12 play, the Jayhawks entered Thursday in second place in the conference standings and in position for the No. 2 seed in next week’s Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
But the bracket will not be finalized until the rest of the conference finishes play this week. Sixth-ranked West Virginia is also in contention for the No. 2 seed in the conference tourney and the Mountaineers (11-5) still have one game remaining this week, Saturday against No. 17 Oklahoma State at home.
Based on winning percentage, WVU would earn the No. 2 seed with a win in that game, pushing Kansas to the No. 3 seed and a matchup with whichever team finishes sixth at 8:30 p.m. next Thursday in the Big 12 quarterfinals.
Third-ranked Baylor earned the No. 1 seed by clinching the regular season title with a win earlier this week.
How others see Kansas
The last month has been good to the Jayhawks in terms of how pollsters and the national rankings view this team.
In addition to climbing up to No. 13 in the Associated Press poll, from a season low of 33rd about a month ago, KU has spent the past week jumping back and forth between a No. 3 seed and a No. 4 seed on ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s projections. And CBS Sports Bracketology guru, Jerry Palm, also has bumped Kansas up to the 3 line in recent days.
Beyond that, Kansas recently made a significant climb in the NET rankings, jumping from No. 17 entering last week to No. 10 following its recent win over Baylor.
While the NET rankings are not the only thing the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee uses to seed the tournament, they do play a big role. KU still has time, in the Big 12 tournament, to add to its case for a high seed and it looks more likely today than it did a month ago that the Jayhawks are poised to continue Self’s streak of not having been seeded lower than No. 4 in all but one of 18 of his seasons at Kansas.
The lone exception, of course, was at the end of the 2019-20 season, when the NCAA Tournament was cancelled because of the pandemic.
This and that…
Thursday’s victory gave Kansas its 20th consecutive win over a nonconference opponent at Allen Fieldhouse… Self is now 143-8 against nonconference foes during his 18 seasons at Kansas, including a mark of 133-5 in non-Big 12 games played at Allen Fieldhouse… KU’s win in Thursday’s regular season finale also cut into UTEP’s all-time lead in the head-to-head series with its second win in five tries… The Jayhawks finished the pandemic-shortened regular season at 19-8 overall and 13-1 inside Allen Fieldhouse.