After learning Sherron Collins would be on the shelf for at least six weeks, Brandon Rush returned to action Thursday to help ease the pain for KU fans and provide a boost for his teammates.
"It was great to have Brandon out there. He is one of our best players, and with Sherron (Collins) held down, we needed someone to step up and fill his shoes and I think Brandon and Rodrick Stewart were able to do that,” said KU junior Mario Chalmers.
With less than four minutes gone, Rush arrived at the scorers table and was welcomed back by a boisterous Allen Fieldhouse crowd.
"It felt good. I got chills throughout my body. I was pretty excited about it,” said Brandon.
This was a different role for the talented junior who came off the bench for the first time in his Kansas career.
Rush entered the game donning a brace with a little over 16 minutes left in the first half and fired up his first shot of the year from three. It clanged hard off the rim. KU’s leading scorer from a year ago grabbed his first rebound of the year 3:30 into his first appearance for the Jayhawks. Not long after that Rush’s first hoop of the year came on a runner across the lane.
"I applauded him when he hit that first shot. He is great for basketball. For a kid like that to stay and play another year is great. He looks good. I hope he keeps going and has a tremendous year. I hope he then is able to play many more years in the NBA," said Washburn head coach Bob Chipman.
Then with less than eight minutes left in the half, Rush spotted up in the corner and nailed an open three. The one three was enough to tie Steve Woodberry for 11th on KU’s all-time three-pointers made list.
When a player returns after ACL surgery it sometimes appears they are dragging the leg a bit. You can see that Brandon is going through some of that now but after 12 productive minutes in the first half, it appeared that he has passed his first test of the year. Though the fans held their breaths every time Rush took a hit or went to the basket, Brandon did not appear tentative at all.
"I did not hold back at all. In practice, I was aggressive all the time, so I just tried to bring it out here on the court. I was a little nervous because I had not been out on the court in awhile, only in practice. I was a little nervous, but I was not worrying about my knee at all,” said Rush.
Rush did not play in the second half but accumulated an impressive array of stats in limited minutes. To go along with the 12 points on 3-5 shooting, Brandon had one steal which by the way was followed by one really pretty feed to Mario Chalmers for a dunk, two assists, 1 block, and three rebounds.
"I was not stiff at all. They told me that I could not play in the second half, so I just sat down and chilled out,” Brandon said. “I would like to play a lot more. The trainers and doctors said that I could only play 12 to 15 minutes, and I used all of those up in the first half."
“He isn't the old Brandon yet, but he is getting there,” Chalmers continued. “I think a couple of games will give him more confidence and he will be ready. I think he needs one or two more game just to get a feel for it. He only played 12 minutes tonight, so he just needs to play a little bit more."
Brandon Rush may not be 100 percent yet but it certainly didn’t take long for Rush to earn the praises of KU head coach Bill Self.
"I thought he played really well,” stated Self. “They told me he was done at the four minute time out, but I tried to get a few more minutes out of him. We just wanted to see how he feels. He had a couple of shots, got knocked down a few times and went to the hole hard. I thought he did a nice job, maybe even our best player tonight to be honest with you."
As for the bulky brace Brandon was forced to wear you won’t see it for the entire season but Rush told reporters he will have to wear it for the next two months.