March 15, 2002
Top-seeded Kansas is preparing for its second-round Midwest Regional game as if Kirk Hinrich will not in the lineup.
"I'd say it's doubtful," forward Nick Collison said. "He can barely walk today."
The all-Big 12 guard sprained his left ankle near the end of the first half of the Jayhawks' 70-59 first-round victory over No. 16 seed Holy Cross on Thursday night. He didn't participate in Friday's closed session in preparation for Saturday's game against No. 8 Stanford, and coach Roy Williams said if the game had been Friday then Hinrich would have been unavailable.
But he has been able to discard his crutches. Williams said he'll decide after the shootaround Saturday whether Hinrich will be able to participate in pregame warmups. Hinrich was not made available for comment Friday.
"Last night, I thought he had absolutely no chance," Williams said. "He says it feels better and he is walking without a limp, but I can't believe what he tells me."
Stanford (20-9) will only count Hinrich out when he's not on the court for the opening tip. Coach Mike Montgomery said Kansas (30-3) will do the "same thing, not quite as well" without Hinrich.
"They have a great system and the pieces fit in the system and it's a very solid, proven system," Montgomery said. "But we're figuring on him playing."
When Hinrich went down, Williams said it was like losing three players. Hinrich is averaging 15.2 points, 5.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds, and is a 46.5-percent 3-point shooter.
"There's no question that Kirk is our most valuable player in one aspect in that he can play so many spots," Williams said. "His ability to run the floor, we don't have anybody else that can simulate that, that can give us that same look.
"You lose your best perimeter defender, you lose the guy that makes your break go, you lose your backup point guard and you lose a guy who can shoot and penetrate."
If Hinrich can't play, Williams said he'll give freshman Keith Langford his first career start. Langford is averaging 7.5 points and three rebounds in 20 minutes a game.
"Keith gives us some things, the ability to rebound and slash to the basket," Williams said. "It changes our team a great deal, but at the same time they're not going to give us a three-day break."
By R.B. FALLSTROM
AP Sports Writer