Jalen Wilson arrives in Indy, expected to play tonight vs. USC
Indianapolis — The Journal-World learned Monday morning that Kansas freshman Jalen Wilson landed in Indianapolis a little after 9:30 a.m. local time, roughly 12 hours before tipoff of 3rd-seeded KU’s Monday night game with No. 6 seed USC at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Wilson, who missed KU’s opening-round NCAA Tournament win over Eastern Washington on Saturday, is expected to play in Round 2 against the Trojans.
How much and how well remain unknown. A lot will depend on how his conditioning holds up after being away from the program and isolated in Lawrence since testing positive for COVID-19 on March 12.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said Sunday that Wilson would play in Monday night’s game as long as he made the trip to Indianapolis.
“He’s going to be rusty, he’s going to be fatigued and he’s going to be far less than 100%,” Self said of Wilson on Sunday. “But he can rebound the ball and do some things, so he may play three minutes, he may play 10 minutes, he may play 15. I don’t know.”
A source familiar with the situation told the Journal-World on Sunday that Wilson experienced only mild symptoms after testing positive while waiting to follow in KU teammate David McCormack’s shoes in returning to the team in time for an NCAA Tournament game.
McCormack, in his first game back from COVID isolation, scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 25 minutes in KU’s first-round victory over Eastern Washington on Saturday.
Regardless of how many minutes Wilson plays, his teammates said they anticipated the 6-foot-8 redshirt freshman wing providing the Jayhawks with a huge lift, both on the court and in terms the mental advantage of getting the roster back closer to 100%.
“He contributes rebounding and an offensive aggressiveness that we need,” said senior forward Mitch Lightfoot of Wilson. “He’s a bigger guy, too, so that that helps. I think he’ll help us win games, and when he gets back that’ll be a boost to us.”
Added McCormack, when asked if he had talked to Wilson recently: “He’s good. He has a great attitude, has a positive spirit, stays encouraging us, and I put that same energy back to him, making sure he’s staying encouraged. He has the right mindset for when he comes back.”
With Wilson back with the team, only sophomore guard Tristan Enaruna, who tested positive for COVID-19 before KU left for Indianapolis, remains absent as the Jayhawks look to advance to the Sweet 16.
KU (21-8) and USC (23-7) will tip off at 8:40 p.m. (central) from historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in the final game of the second round. The winner will complete this year’s Sweet 16 puzzle and stick around Indianapolis for another week.