For the purposes of continuing its ever-growing domination of the University of Texas, many fans wouldn’t mind seeing K-State play UT in the Big 12 tournament. Most of the K-State players probably wouldn’t mind it either. One player who could shy away from facing the Longhorns for a third time this season is junior guard Will Spradling, who has missed more playing time due to injuries resulting from games against Texas than all other players have missed for any injury.
The first injury occurred January 30th in Mahattan, when Spradling came up midway through the first half with a face covered in blood. As one of the team’s top shooters, it was frightening to imagine losing Spradling over the short term while being forced to wear a mask a la Rip Hamilton the rest of the season. When Spradling was taken to the locker room, the towel used to cover his face was literally dripping blood – it was so saturated that it couldn’t absorb any more. Will looked like he had suffered a major injury. Three days later, Spradling led the team in scoring in a 52-50 victory over Oklahoma while also fighting for three rebounds.
If the first match up with Texas was unkind, the rematch was just plain evil. Spradling took a hard hit to the chest during a screen and struggled the rest of the game, missing a fair portion of it. He spent the next game against Texas Tech on the bench. Against Baylor last Saturday Spradling attempted to play, but was pulled after five ineffective minutes in which he missed one shot and did not record any other stats. He was once again held out of the entire TCU contest.
K-State has a big game this Saturday against #13 Oklahoma State, and will win a share of the regular season conference title against KU if they leave Stillwater with a victory. Should KSU win and KU lose at Baylor, the Wildcats would win sole possession of the crown and the top seed in the Big 12 tournament. Should they tie with KU at 15-3 in league play (or 14-4), KU will receive the #1 seed by virtue of its sweep of K-State in the regular season. Either way, a win could help push the Wildcats all the way to a two seed in the NCAA tournament should they defeat the Jayhawks in the Big 12 Championship game. To do so, they need Spradling to be healthy. So is he?
Will suffered a bruised sternum against Texas, which is both causing him pain during movement and limiting his ability to breath. Depending upon the extent of the injury, a contusion to this plate can take 2-6 weeks to heal. Spradling’s problem is that just about anything you do can cause additional strain that exacerbates the problem. Patients often take short, shallow breaths to reduce pain, but it’s important to breath as normally as possible because shallow breathing can result in infection and hinder healing. On the flip side, heavy breathing is both painful and a source of increased strain. And every time Spradling does anything physical – run plays in practice, practice free throws, or play the the first five minutes of the Baylor game – heavy breathing is guaranteed to follow.
Will Spradling’s twitter account has been silent on his prospects of playing, which indicates Bruce Weber is doing a good job of ensuring his players aren’t giving away too much information. Spradling was in his warm ups during the TCU game and was reportedly ready to play if need be, Martavious Irving filled in admirably with 15 points and five assists over 36 minutes and K-State was able to maintain just enough of a lead to keep the game out of reach against the Horned Frogs. Regardless of Spradling’s status, the senior has played well filling in at the shooting guard spot and is likely due for more minutes anyway. Healthy or not, Spradling will have missed two weeks worth of conditioning and asking him to play the 30+ minutes he’s used to may be a stretch, chest pain or no chest pain.
The University has been completely silent on Spradling’s status, but it’s likely he will be available to play against Oklahoma State. He will also be playing through some pain. Don’t be surprised if Irving gets another start and Spradling is used off the bench to spare Irving. And if Martarvious’s shots start falling short and Will is called upon to step in for the rest of the game, we’ll get a sense of how much of a warrior he truly is.