Bruce Weber stopped short of making promises or guarantees, but the Kansas State coach expressed optimism Thursday that junior point guard Kamau Stokes would return to the court Saturday when the Wildcats play at West Virginia.
“I’d say it’s too soon to know, but if he makes progress we hope to have him for maybe 10 or 15 minutes,” Weber said during the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. “It all depends on how he reacts the next two days in practice.”
Stokes has been sidelined since suffering a broken foot on Jan. 6 at Texas Tech.
He was cleared for activity on Monday and warmed up with his teammates before K-State’s game with Kansas, but he didn’t see action against the Jayhawks.
Weber said Stokes worked out on his own Tuesday and practiced with the team Wednesday, participating in most drills.
“He’s got a little bit of swelling, a little bit of soreness, but you probably anticipate that when you don’t use a part of the body for a long time,” Weber said. “He was fine. Now it’s just about getting in shape and getting some conditioning. I think that’s the biggest part of it.”
Stokes was averaging 13.4 points and a team-best 4.6 assists for the Wildcats (16-6, 5-4 Big 12) at the time of his injury.
Redshirt freshman Cartier Diarra has performed well in his absence, averaging 10.9 points in Big 12 play and 12.0 points since Stokes went down. Diarra also has 19 assists in league play.
While working Stokes back into the rotation — ostensibly as a backup in the near term — would require some adjustments, he would give K-State another proven ball-handler against West Virginia’s aggressive, pressing defense. The No. 15 Mountaineers (16-6, 5-4) have lost three straight and five of six, but they still lead the Big 12 in steals (8.8 per game) and turnover margin (plus-6.8).
Stokes’ return also would be welcome news for a team struggling to get production from its reserves. The Wildcat bench scored only nine points in Monday’s 70-56 loss to KU and didn’t contribute a single point last Saturday to the team’s 56-51 victory against Georgia.
“We’re hoping it’s a positive and can give us a little bit of depth,” Weber said. “If you’ve watched our games, we haven’t got much production out of our bench.
“We told Kam, ‘You’ve got to realize the situation; you’ve got to work your way back into it and help the team in any way you can.’ I think he’s mentally prepared for it. I think he’s been around enough to know that it’s going to take a while before he can play a full game.”