Arizona forward Rawle Alkins will make his season debut Saturday against Alabama, unless he suffers a setback in practice this week, UA coach Sean Miller said Thursday.
Alkins suffered a broken foot on Sept. 26 and had surgery a day later, UA said, putting him into his 11th week of recovery. UA had estimated he would miss between 8-12 weeks.
“With us, it was making sure we did not rush him back because anytime you have surgery, the No. 1 thing you can cost yourself is further injury to the same foot or even another injury if you go from nothing to full blast and we’ve really progressed him really slowly,” Miller said Thursday, at his weekly news conference at McKale Center. “To his credit, the hardest thing to do when you’re injured and you can’t run is to not put on weight and not only did he not put on weight but by working hand-in-hand with (strength coach) Chris Rounds and (trainer) Justin Kokoskie, he’s almost in better shape than he was prior to getting hurt. His body fat’s down, his weight’s down and he worked really hard which is a tremendous complement to him.”
That said, Miller added that Alkins won’t be his normal self right away and that UA’s goal is to get him hitting his stride as the Wildcats enter Pac-12 play. Arizona has four games remaining before beginning Pac-12 play on Dec. 30 against ASU.
Miller had said Tuesday night that he "really can't comment" on Alkins, which was an unusual response to a player injury, so I asked Miller if Alkins’ time off was 100 percent related to his injury, and he nodded affirmatively.
"Like we always said, it was an 8-12 week injury and right now he's above and beyond 10 weeks so he's ready," Miller said.
Later, I asked Miller if Alkins' return meant that all his players have been cleared by the ongoing investigation the UA has commissioned. Miller responded by saying that “my focus is coaching our team.”
The only NCAA-rules-related suspensions that UA has publicly handed down this season have been two games to assistant coach Mark Phelps and one game to senior forward Keanu Pinder. UA is also moving to fire UA assistant coach Book Richardson after his Sept. 26 arrest on federal bribery and fraud charges.
In the Sept. 26 federal complaint, a sports agent alleged that a current UA player has been paid. There were also allegations that Richardson accepted money to pay recruits in exchange for trying to steer current UA players to him for professional representation.