DES MOINES, Iowa — It’s still unclear whether Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self will coach Thursday in the Jayhawks’ NCAA Tournament game against Howard.
At least two players, redshirt senior guard Kevin McCullar Jr. and redshirt junior forward Jalen Wilson, have spoken to their excitement around that happening. It would be Self’s first game back since the regular-season finale at Texas, considering he missed the Big 12 Conference tournament in Kansas City last week due to health reasons.
But assistant coach Norm Roberts came across more noncommittal on Wednesday, as he once again referred to Self’s status as day-to-day and noted that they are hopeful Self will be able to coach Thursday.
Regardless, Self has returned to practice this week. He’s been back with the team since he was discharged Sunday from the University of Kansas Health System, where he had two stents inserted to treat blocked arteries in his heart. Roberts said the players have certainly seen the “same old Bill” out there with them as they’ve prepared for their NCAA Tournament opener.
“He’s the same old coach,” freshman guard Gradey Dick said. “I can’t really tell anything different at all. You go out and you kind of mess up on defense a little, and you’re getting yelled at like the same as he always does. So it’s great.”
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KU coach Bill Self is in Des Moines with the Jayhawks after being hospitalized last week.
Even if Self had taken more of a step back in his return to the team, there’s value in his presence. Dick said they all tried as hard as they could during the three-game stretch in the Big 12 tournament that Self missed, but it’s an advantage for them to have him back.
Self has won two national championships with the Jayhawks, including the 2022 title. He’s a key reason this is the 16th time in program history that Kansas is a 1-seed, and why the Jayhawks have been able to remain undefeated against 16-seeds like Howard.
“March Madness can be some ups and downs, as we’ve seen last year, and it’s important to stay together, block out all the outside noise,” Wilson said. “It’s a lot of fun, but you’ve got to still be focused.”
Should Self not coach against Howard, and Kansas still win, Self would then be in line to make his return Saturday when the Jayhawks would play against either 8-seed Arkansas or 9-seed Illinois. In his stead, it would be Roberts filling in once again. So far this season, Roberts is 6-1 while operating in that role.
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal.
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Bill Self back at Kansas practice; unclear if he’ll coach vs. Howard