Standing 7-foot tall, Joel Embiid is something to talk about. A 250-pound freshman center originating from Cameroon, he has proved himself again and again this season for the young Jayhawk squad. He averages 10.7 points a game and shoots about 60% from the floor, but Embiid truly shines when it comes to using his frame to its full potential: he averages almost 8 rebounds a game. He has helped the Jayhawks remain first in the Big 12 conference, with an overall season record of 18-6 so far.
Yet, the past few games have been troublesome for the talented freshman. Embiid hasn’t played more than 18 minutes in the past three games, when he was averaging 22.3 minutes per game before. It was assumed that this lack of playing time was due to foul trouble (against Baylor and West Virginia he had 4 personal fouls, and 1 during the Kansas State loss this past Monday.) But it turns out that there are more serious problems for this colossal center that go beyond his performance on the court.
According to the Kansas City Star, over the past two weeks Embiid has endured a sprained knee and a back injury. During the game versus Kansas State, he walked carefully, avoiding putting much weight on his knee and had ice taped when he left the arena following their defeat.
The back problems seemed to affect his playing ability during the West Virginia game, even though he still nabbed 12 rebounds and scored 11 points. With these injuries plaguing the all-star, it is going to be a game time decision to see whether or not he will play versus Texas Christian University this Saturday. The Jayhawks just endured a tough loss versus in-state rival Kansas State, and Embiid struggled, only scoring 6 points and grabbing 6 rebounds during the 85-82 overtime loss against the Wildcats.
So much does an injured Embiid affect the Jayhawks? Immensely. The Jayhawks’ defense will not be the same without him: his rebounding and blocking averages provide a force to be reckoned with under the basket. Also, his impressive stature provides an easy target down low. Considering his performance during this freshman season so far, and that he is easily a future top-tier NBA recruit, it is crucial that these injuries are taken care of and he can get off the bench and lead the Jayhawks to a successful season.
There have been talks of him entering the NBA after his freshman season, but considering his young age and current injuries, waiting would be his best bet. Without Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, the star guard for the Jayhawks who has continued to had an on and off season, and forward Perry Ellis, the sophomore forward who is averaging 13.2 points per game along with 6.8 rebounds, will both need to buckle down if their paint-ruling giant is going to be on the sidelines
The game this upcoming Saturday against Texas Christian University is at home, in the Jayhawks beloved Allen Field house. Their last game at home, last Saturday versus West Virginia, proved victorious with a final score of 83-69. According to Jayhawks fan Joey Bergman, the feeling in the arena was incomparable versus West Virginia last weekend:
“Once we got to our seats, it was amazing to see how packed the Field house was, even for a game versus a non ranked opponent. Allen was as loud as I remember and is truly the best venue in all of college basketball”.
Although Embiid’s playing ability this weekend is going to be questionable, hopefully the support from their charismatic home crowd will provide some luck and he will return strong as ever to defeat the Horned Frogs a second time.