By Rob Gray
AMES — Will he, or won’t he?
Iowa State’s do-everything point guard DeAndre Kane has so throughly stamped his signature across his seventh-ranked team’s 14-1 start, his health status entering Monday's 8 p.m. “Big Monday” ESPN-televised game against No. 20 Kansas serves as central theme material.
Kane, who averages 16.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and a Big 12-leading 6.1 assists, injured his left ankle with 22 seconds left in Saturday’s first loss of the season — an 87-82 setback at Oklahoma.
So will the 6-4, 200-pound portrait of versatility play tomorrow in front of a jacked Hilton Coliseum crowd?
Stay tuned, literally.
“ It’s really not up to me,” Kane said. “It’s up to Coach (Fred Hoiberg) and (athletic trainer) Vic (Miller). Like I said, it’s pretty sore. I always want to go out there and help my brothers win, try to do whatever I can to play. … I’ll keep getting treatment every 20 minutes or so and see how I feel.”
Without Kane, the Cyclones (14-1, 2-1) are a vastly different team.
That’s hardly a news flash, but when it means a freshman becomes the primary point man against a suddenly rolling Jayhawks team (11-4, 2-0) that dismantled formerly-hot Kansas State 86-60 on Saturday at Lawrence, his possible absence looms large.
But that freshman, Monte Morris, seems well-suited to the task.
The 6-2 Flint, Michigan product hasn’t committed a turnover since Dec. 22.
He’s dished out 15 assists since that last miscue.
And his overall assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.9 ranks first in the Big 12.
“You can see it on his face, when he turns the ball over, it’s like the end of the world because he doesn’t do it,” ISU’s sharp-shooting sixth man Naz Long said.
Near-perfect execution against the nine-time reigning conference champion Jayhawks is always required, home or away.
An abbreviated list of their talent begins with Andrew Wiggins, a likely one-and-done NBA Lottery pick who torched the Wildcats for 22 points Saturday on 3 of 4 3-point shooting.
Frontcourt matchup nightmares Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid average a combined 14 rebounds per game.
Ellis is tied for the conference lead in field goal shooting at 57.9 percent and scored 28 points in last season’s conference tournament win over ISU.
“He’s playing with confidence,” Hoiberg said of Ellis, who has helped Kansas outrebound 13 of 15 foes. “When your guys play with confidence it sure makes you a different team and Perry’s playing with a lot of that.”
So is Kane, who, again, may or may not play tomorrow, given the possible long-term implications of a hasty return.
“It can get worse, or it can stay the same,” Kane said. “Like I said, it’s up to coach and Vic. Whatever they say goes.”
Hoiberg deemed it a game-time decision.
After all, Big Monday deserves high drama, and the Cyclones and Jayhawks usually deliver, like last season when Kansas broke cardinal and gold hearts with a banked-in 3-pointer to force overtime and an eventual win at Hilton.
“The fans have been waiting for this game,” Long said, “ and so have we.”
That notwithstanding, “big” is a relative term — for Kane and ISU’s team as a whole.“There’s a lot of basketball to be played and if anything can happen to further the injury or make it more severe, then obviously we’ll hold him out,” Hoiberg said. “We’ll take a cautious approach with this one.”