SALT LAKE CITY – When Kadeem Allen dislocated his finger on Feb. 14 and took off the Wildcats’ following two games, the word inside the program was that he would have played if it was the NCAA Tournament instead of just regular-season games at Washington State and Washington.
But this was the Tournament.
So when Rawle Alkins suffered an even worse injury when he tried to grab a defensive rebound in the first half against Saint Mary's, he went back in the game.
And he’ll likely play Thursday against Xavier, too, after probably taking it easy in practice this week with his broken and dislocated right index finger.
“We’ll tape it correctly, give him some stability and a little medicine to minimize his inflammation,” athletic trainer Justin Kokoskie said. “The body heals fast, especially somebody his age. It’s just the way it popped out that kind of scared him.”
Alkins said because the injury was unlike any he’d had before he “was panicking,” but when doctors told him he could play with what he called a “minor fracture” he was OK (Kokoskie said it was actually a regular fracture common to dislocated fingers).
The break before the Sweet 16 should help Alkins heal. UA will take Sunday off, then likely practice Monday and Tuesday before leaving for San Jose on Tuesday afternoon, then practice privately on Wednesday in or near San Jose.
FWIW, UA is not holding any media availability until the mandatory NCAA Tournament pregame interviews on Wednesday in San Jose, so there may not be any update on Alkins until then.
Allen’s bone-through-the-skin ordeal may have looked worse, but he only dislocated his right pinky and did not break it.
"His was an open dislocation," Kokoskie said. "This was a regular dislocation with a fracture."
Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Dusan Ristic, the only two Wildcats who actually played on Arizona’s last Sweet 16 team, said this one felt different. Ristic is in a more prominent role without Kaleb Tarczewski around and Jackson-Cartwright noted how this season’s team has been through more adversity.
“Kadeem wasn’t playing that year so this is a whole new team,” Ristic said. “It feels a little different but we have he same aspirations and goals. We’re not done yet. We have to play Xavier and they’re gonna be same team like they were my freshman year – they’re really well-coached. It’ll be a great challenge for us.”
After playing 14 minutes against North Dakota on Thursday – including eight in the second half – Kobi Simmons went back to a limited role again Saturday even with Alkins missing time.
Simmons played six minutes, going 0 for 3 from the field. He has played single-digit minutes in five of his past six games.
Although the locker rooms were open to media because of NCAA Tournament rules, allowing Simmons to be asked about it, Simmons answered questions about his role with only a minimum of words.
“Just playing hard and doing my job,” he said.