Purdue's Haas hopeful he can still play in NCAA Tournament
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) Purdue coach Matt Painter has all but ruled out Isaac Haas for the Sweet 16 after the star center fractured his right elbow in the Boilermaker's first-round NCAA Tournament win.
But the Boilermakers' 7-foot-2 senior is holding out hope that a new protective brace will give him a chance to play - even if just a few minutes - in second-seeded Purdue's East Region matchup with third-seeded Texas Tech on Friday night.
"If I did play, it would just be really short minutes, I'm sure," Haas said. "But I'll play as many as I'm asked of."
Painter said it's still a long shot at this point.
"He didn't practice the last two days, so I don't see him playing," he said.
One of Painter's markers for considering whether Haas would be able to play was if he could rebound using both hands and shoot with his right one.
Haas said Thursday he hadn't really tried to shoot and was focusing on letting the elbow rest. The 290-pound big man was injured during the second half of last week's win over Cal State Fullerton when he hit the floor hard going for a rebound. The Boilermakers said after the game that he needed surgery, meaning his season was likely over.
He was fitted the following day with a bulky brace. But the NCAA didn't allow it, citing safety concerns for other players.
Graduate students from Purdue's engineering department got wind of that and worked all night Monday to construct a suitable replacement.
Haas received it Tuesday and said he's "95 percent sure" the NCAA will approve this version because it doesn't have the rigid metal components in the banned brace. The NCAA will make a decision on Friday.
"I know the brace should be cleared, but it really just depends on Coach Painter," Haas said.
Using it in practice required some adjustments on Thursday.
Haas initially tried to slip on the new brace over a sleeve he wears on the injured elbow. But he wound up having to remove the sleeve and place the brace over athletic tape.
During practice, he was able to participate in a fast break drill and execute a right-handed layup. But he had very limited flexibility in the elbow, which he kept at a 90-degree angle. He could rebound with both hands but only throw passes with his left hand.
He never attempted a jump shot with his right hand during the 15-minute portion open to the media.
Haas has received lots of support on social media wishing him a fast recovery. He's also getting support from possible opponents.
"He's trying to play as much as he can. I saw him struggling to shoot a free throw," Villanova guard Phil Booth said. "That's just part of the game. ... He wants to be out there so bad. I see him on the bench cheering his teammates on."
While optimism still exists in Purdue's locker room, the Boilermakers have to prepare like Haas won't be back.
Forward Vincent Edwards said the longer turnaround since playing their first game without Haas has helped them prepare for a possible second.
"Any time you lose such an important piece of your offense like Isaac, it takes time to adjust," Edwards said. "We had a quick turnaround playing Butler like we did, but getting in the gym, having a few more days of practice ... it definitely helped that timing."
Haas knows that getting in Friday night's game might mean playing through more pain than he did when he initially suffered the injury.
He has spoken with Painter to try to ease any concerns his coach might have about him hurting his elbow more.
"He's a guy that goes off desire to win and desire in the game," Haas said. "I told him multiple times even if it's one minute, it's worth it to me."
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Updated March 22, 2018