KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas coach Bill Self said guard Brandon Rush is recovering nicely from his June 1 knee surgery and should be ready to go by Dec. 1. Rush has yet to be cleared for contact drills. The Jayhawks face USC on Dec. 2.
"The timetable has always been Dec. 1 as far as him participating in games," Self said Wednesday at Big 12 media day. "But it's too early to have a definite timetable because he still has to go through a (final) round of tests. How quickly he comes back after that remains to be seen."
Rush declared for the NBA Draft after leading KU in scoring as a sophomore. But because he didn't hire an agent, Rush was allowed to withdraw his name after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.
Speaking of knee injuries, Kansas State's Bill Walker said he's back to 100 percent after tearing his ACL in last season's Big 12 opener at Texas A&M. He received a medical redshirt, meaning Walker will be classified as a freshman again this season.
Walker, who has now suffered ACL tears in both knees, said coming back from knee surgeries is "all mental."
"It's very possible to get back to 100 percent," Walker said. "It just depends on how hard you work. If you think you can make it back you can. It's all in the mind. You have to be confident when you step back on that court. You have to go hard. You can't hold back."
Walker, by the way, said he gained 30 pounds in the months following his January knee injury.
"I gained it and then I lost it," Walker said. "Lifting, eating and not running – that's bad. I have got a strong appetite. I like Chinese food, popcorn, pizza, burgers. I used to go to Wendy's and put down a couple of triples."
Funny that Walker mentioned popcorn. Last season television cameras filmed him eating the yellow stuff while sitting at the end of K-State's bench, which is why he'll now be referred to as Popcorn Walker in various articles on Yahoo! Sports. All in good fun, Bill.
One year after averaging 18.5 points and 8.7 rebounds, Nebraska center Aleks Maric is hoping his senior season is his best. Maric is on the preseason All-Big 12 squad.
"I need to be more consistent," said Maric, a potential NBA Draft pick next spring. "I'm the leader of the team. It starts with me. If I can bring positive energy to the team and start off well, that energy will spread across the board."
Aside from Kansas, no team in the Big 12 has a guard lineup as deep and talented as Baylor. Henry Dugat, Aaron Bruce, Curtis Jerrells and Tweety Carter all averaged at least 25 minutes a game last year – and now the Bears are adding highly touted recruit LaceDarius Dunn to the mix.
Baylor, though, is still without a high-quality post player, which means Kevin Rogers – a natural small forward – will be asked to be the Bears' top banger once again. Rogers averaged a team-high 7.6 rebounds last year.
"I still fit that (small forward) role, but now I've added some of that banging to my game," Rogers said. "I'm still able to be that versatile type of guy. Having both styles is definitely a plus. The post players in this league are so strong. Rebounding is all about getting position."
And keeping it.
"So often you get knocked out of that rebounding position," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "You either hit or you get hit. Right now he's hitting."
Speaking of Drew, he received word Wednesday that his wife, Kelly, was in the hospital preparing to give birth to their son. The couple also has a daughter.
The offseason departures of players such as Mike Taylor and Corey McIntosh has left Iowa State as one of the league's most inexperienced teams once again. So green are the Cyclones that sophomore Wesley Johnson has taken on a leadership role.
Johnson was one of the league's top freshmen last season, when he averaged 12.3 points and 7.9 rebounds.
"We're probably asking him to do it before he's ready," said coach Greg McDermottt, whose squad features six newcomers. "But because of his personality and the fact that he had a successful season, he's earned the respect of the new guys in our program."
A Corsicana, Texas native, Johnson also earned the respect of his opponents. Texas coach Rick Barnes said he didn't even know about Johnson until he signed with Iowa State.
"Our assistants do a great job with recruiting," Barnes said. "But after watching (Johnson) on tape I looked at them and said, ‘Why didn't we go after this guy?'"
BZDELIK LIKES ROBY
New Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik said he likes what he sees from guard Richard Roby, who lost his starting job for a few games last season because he "lacked fire."
"He's been very professional in his approach," Bzdelik said, "and he's in the best shape he's ever been in.
"He can score in a variety of ways. He can post somebody up, he can knock down a long range shot, he can score off the dribble and he slashes well. If other people can take some pressure off him, he could have a really good season."
Asked if Roby has NBA potential, Bzdelik said: "Yes, definitely."
That's high praise coming from Bzdelik, the former head coach of the Denver Nuggets, and a longtime NBA assistant before joining the college ranks.
"I'm really trying to pick his brain as much as I can about everything," Roby said. "He's been in the NBA more than he's been in college. I'd be a fool not to use that to my advantage."
One person who could make things easier on Roby is Marcus Hall, who missed last season for academic reasons. Hall was one of Colorado's top players as a junior in 2005-06. A point guard, Hall said he's looking forward to running Bzdelik's "Princeton" offense.
"We're playing a type of offense that's tough to prepare for in a few days," Hall said. "We've got the chance to surprise a lot of people."
Hall has changed his jersey number from 21 to 1. Roby switched from 23-20.
"It symbolizes a fresh start," Roby said. "We want to erase what happened before. We've got the opportunity to do a lot of good things."
Colorado went 7-20 last season under Ricardo Patton.
Texas Tech coach Bob Knight was asked whether junior college transfer Ricardo De Bem could have an immediate impact on the Red Raiders.
"When you sign a kid you think he can play," Knight said. "You're not always right. But when somebody says to me, 'You signed Billy Jones. Do you think he can play?' I think 'What the hell do you think we signed him for? We didn’t sign him to be a cheerleader.'"
Knight spent the rest of his time at the podium talking about the Major League Baseball playoffs. Asked if the Indians could beat the Rockies, Knight said: "If I knew whether the Indians could beat the Rockies, George Bush would be asking me how the hell to get out of Iraq. I'm not that smart."
Missouri coach Mike Anderson is hoping Vanderbilt transfer DeMarre Carroll turns out to be a difference maker for the Tigers. The 6-foot-8 Carroll averaged 10.9 points and 6.8 rebounds for Vanderbilt in 2005-06.
"Sitting out a year has created a hunger in him," Anderson said. "Maybe his (aggressive) play will trigger something in our other players. The way we play, you've got to have aggressive players."
AGGIES' ROUGH ROAD
First-year Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon doesn't sound all that excited about inheriting a non-conference schedule that includes games against Alabama, LSU and Arizona as well as an appearance in the NIT Season Tip-Off. Turgeon even took a good-natured jab at former Aggies coach Billy Gillispie, who left College Station in April to take over at Kentucky.
"Billy must have known he was leaving," Turgeon said. "They didn't play anyone for three years, and now this."