Barring some sort of physical setback at practice and shootaround, Australian men’s basketball sensation Johnny Furphy should be able to make his Kansas basketball debut during Wednesday’s exhibition game against Fort Hays State.
Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse. It will be streamed live on Big 12 Now/ESPN+
According to KU coach Bill Self, the 6-foot-9, 202-pound Furphy has returned to practice on a limited basis the past “four or five days” after being shut down completely for two weeks while resting from shin splints in both legs.
“He’s doing a little bit, but it’s very little,” Self said of Melbourne native Furphy. “He’s going to practice some today (Tuesday) and then we’ll have some restrictions on him but hopefully he can play, get in the game at least (Wednesday) and play a little bit, get his feet wet. My goal is by next week hopefully he’ll be in a position he can play some meaningful minutes if need be.”
Furphy — he averaged 14.3 points a game and hit 39.3% of his threes last season at Centre of Excellence in Australia — was held out of Sunday’s 82-75 exhibition loss against Illinois in Champaign, Illinois.
“We said before it’d be probably two weeks (of inactivity). It was closer to three, but he’s been back out there doing a little bit,” Self said. “Hopefully he won’t have any setbacks. According to Johnny, this has been bothering him a little over a year now. I hope like heck he can get this behind him where he can focus in and be able to play pain-free.”
Asked what he’d like to see from Furphy in his freshman season, Self said: “I’d like for him to be healthy. If he’s healthy he can certainly be a guy that can play 15, 20 minutes a game. I would anticipate that as long as he’s healthy.”
Meanwhile, senior guard Kevin McCullar, who suffered “whiplash” symptoms after diving for a loose ball with a minute left in the Illinois scrimmage, was expected to be able to practice Tuesday and play in the practice game against Fort Hays State on Wednesday night.
“From what I’ve been told Kevin’s neck is stiff. He got whiplash,” Self said. “I’ve been around Kevin a lot. He’s been sore a lot of days before games and somehow miraculously has recovered to participate in the game. I’m hopeful that will be the case.”
Senior guard Nick Timberlake, who scored four points off the bench versus Illinois, said Tuesday he hopes Furphy can play in games soon.
“He’s going to be really special for us — 6-8, 6-9 who can do pretty much everything — rebound, defend, shoot it. He’s pretty athletic. Whenever he gets healthy he’s going to be a problem (for opposing teams) for sure,” Timberlake said.
Timberlake — he said he thoroughly enjoyed the 2023 Late Night in the Phog — is eager to play in his first actual game at Allen Fieldhouse. The opponent, Fort Hays State, a Division II school, is picked to finish third of 14 teams in the MIAA.
“I thought Late Night was a great experience. Hearing from everyone, that was nothing compared to a home game,” Timberlake, a transfer from Towson, said Tuesday. “I’ll be more excited to see what it’s actually like on game day.”
As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, there were 11 student groups camped in Allen Fieldhouse for the exhibition.
“It was a good learning experience for us, to play our first real game away and not in front of our own fans,” Timberlake said of Sunday’s loss. “I think it was kind of eye opening for us, learning what we need to be better at for sure.”
KU coach Self said he may briefly address what the newcomers can expect Wednesday night.
“I’ll probably let them feel it for themselves,” Self said of the atmosphere of Allen. “We may mention it. It won’t be a big deal.”
KU will play a pair of home games next week: Monday versus North Carolina Central (7 p.m.) and Friday versus Manhattan (7 p.m.).