Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Kevin Haskin: Upside for Joel Embiid Outweighs Injury Concerns

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Kevin Haskin: Upside for Joel Embiid Outweighs Injury Concerns

Article excerpt

He was the player whose capabilities could not be found on any other team in college basketball.

In the end, however, Kansas could only situate Joel Embiid on the bench for the NCAA Tournament.

A back injury kept him from playing for the Jayhawks, who could not survive the first weekend of the knockout round. Now, foot surgery left Embiid to potentially tumble in the NBA draft.

Potential, however, won out. Embiid's upside was too good for Philadelphia to ignore as the 76ers took the 7-footer with the third overall pick Thursday, a position they felt was worth risking on the promise Embiid possesses.

Oh, if only we could have seen it play out to the finish for KU.

Embiid progressed as if his Hakeem Olajuwon instructional tape was on fast forward, yet Embiid still did not miss a beat.

"I don't know if I've ever seen a guy that's only played a sport for three years that's better than him,'' KU coach Bill Self said of the late bloomer.

Had Embiid not hurt his back, he would have probably gone as the No. 1 overall pick rather than his KU teammate, Andrew Wiggins. The top slot was just what Self projected -- only a couple of seasons from now.

That stings. Embiid was such a quick study, he joined the certain one-and-done, Wiggins, as quick-change artists donning crimson-and- zoom.

These days that happens with elite college programs. Kansas is squarely in that mix, and will carry 2015 draft hopefuls among freshmen on next season's roster.

However, the mercurial rise to stardom for Embiid may never be repeated. His absence from the NCAA Tournament makes it difficult to fault Self, or the Jayhawks, for their sudden ouster as a No. 2 seed last year.

The Jayhawks were completely different without Embiid, a loss Wiggins accounted for with a 20.8-point average over those last six games, though the four-point disappearance in the NCAA loss to Stanford remains all too memorable. …

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