When Jalen Wilson hobbled over to the bench after less than a minute of time on the court, you knew something was wrong.
Wilson left the game at the next stoppage in play and immediately made his way to the locker room, only coming back to the bench in the second half in street clothes. It was later announced that Wilson had suffered a broken ankle and would be out around three months.
The injury came during a somewhat ho-hum win over a solid mid-major in UNC-Greensboro. Unfortunately, the injury to the freshman was the most notable outcome of the affair.
Wilson was KU’s top ranked recruit in the 2019 recruiting class. The 6-8 small forward was expected to play a good number of minutes on this team, especially as a sharp-shooting floor stretcher on the wing.
Wilson never got the chance to turn those expectations to a reality, as he played only two minutes and the season opener against Duke and only about 20 seconds against the Spartans on Friday night.
What the Jayhawks will miss most from Wilson is upside and versatility. The rangy wing could’ve guarded multiple positions on defense and allowed Bill Self some real lineup flexibility. On offense, Wilson was known as a good shooter and passer who featured smooth mechanics.
The benefactor from this injury will likely be Tristan Enaruna. Enaruna, another freshman, played 16 minutes against Duke compared to Wilson’s two. That number went up to 20 after Wilson’s quick injury against UNCG. Enaruna has a similar build to Wilson and has done a nice job playing the traditional small forward and small-ball four spot so far this season. KU will need him to continue his solid shooting start to help fill the hole left by Wilson’s injury.
The timetable for a return seems to be a bit up in the air as of now. Wilson underwent successful surgery on his ankle earlier this week and the three-month timeline given by Bill Self after the game would suggest that Wilson could return in early February.
Some reports are suggesting that Wilson could come back in late January if his rehab goes as planned, but I don’t see that happening. Wilson will have to take some time to get back into playing shape once the ankle is fully healed.
Wilson could redshirt this season and keep his full eligibility going into his second year on campus. That plan sounds good, but it might not really make sense. Wilson is unlikely to stick around until he’s a senior and looks more like a two- or three-year player that will then leave for the pros.
If he can come back at full strength this season, Wilson could provide a boost during the Big 12 slog and play himself into shape to contribute during the postseason.