October 12, 2007
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- The last thing Brandon Rush wanted to be was the center of attention at the 2007 Kansas media day.
He thought his college days were behind him. And anyone who looked closely at the 6-foot-6 guard as he sat on a chair on the Allen Fieldhouse floor Friday and patiently answered reporters' questions about his injured knee and the upcoming season could detect at least a slight sense of dejection.
Kansas' top scorer each of the past two seasons is back for his junior year because he has to be, not because he wants to be.
Rush declared for the NBA draft last spring, as did his fellow sophomore Julian Wright. But a couple of weeks later, while practicing a two-handed dunk, he came down awkwardly on his right knee.
He heard a pop. He crumbled to the court. Now here he is in college again, a Kansas junior instead of an NBA rookie.
On June 1, Rush underwent surgery to repair his ACL. Luckily, he hadn't hired an agent, so he was still eligible under NCAA rules. And the Jayhawks were happy to take back the quick, talented guard who scored 970 points and pulled down 407 rebounds in two seasons.
If he gets back to the top of his skills, the Jayhawks will be loaded with talent and experience, prime candidates for another run at the Final Four.
But will he get all the way back? No one knows. He's still not allowed to have contact. The minimum time for athletes to get back after ACL surgery is six months, which for Rush would be the beginning of December.
"We don't have plans yet for exactly when he'll play or how he'll be utilized yet, or the number of minutes he can play starting out," coach Bill Self said.
"We don't have any of that because he's still a little ways away, maybe a week or two, from going through his final examinations for testing with doctors to see exactly where he is and how quickly that can progress."
Rush admits he never intended to take so long to get started on his dream of an NBA career. He wanted to skip college altogether and go right into the pros out of high school, but decided against it when everyone told him he wasn't ready.
"No, I wouldn't think I would have been here this long," he said. "Things happen."
With another year to mature physically and mentally, and with time to work on his shortcomings, the injury could turn out to be a positive for Rush and the Jayhawks.
"I'm trying to strengthen my game, work on some things," he said. "I've worked on a lot of ball-handling drills this whole time I've been hurt, just staying focused.
"And discipline. It's taught me a lot of discipline. The last couple of years, I've been slacking off, not working too hard. But this whole five months I've been working hard, harder than ever."
With Rush back to full strength, the starter missing from last year's team that won the Big 12 regular season and postseason championship will be Wright, who is with the New Orleans Hornets.
"The timing was pretty bad. I was in the middle of something," Rush said. "I was really working out trying to get ready for the NBA. But like my grandma always says, things happen for a reason."
Everyone says he's been working as hard as anybody could ask.
"I knew what I was going to have to do. I knew I was going to have to come back to school," he said. "I knew I was going to have to be in rehab every day, work hard to get my knee back right. I've got to do extra working other people aren't doing.
"I'm not mad at what I had to come back for. It's just bad timing."