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Returning players to make difference


updated: Dec. 22, 2005

In my 27 years of calling games for ESPN and ABC, I can't remember a time when so many injured or ineligible players could return to change the landscape of college basketball. A number of teams will be influenced in a positive way in the near future. Really, adding a player during the season can make a big difference.

Kentucky got a major Christmas present when Randolph Morris was told by the NCAA that his suspension has been reduced to 14 games. The big man will be back for most of the SEC schedule.

Iowa is expecting to have guard Jeff Horner back from a knee injury. Indiana will have D.J. White at full speed soon; he scored eight points in 17 minutes against Charlotte in his season debut Monday.

Connecticut's backcourt will be improved when point guard Marcus Williams returns from a suspension. Williams' first game back will be Jan. 3 against Marquette. He was one of the most improved players in the nation a year ago before struggling with an off-court issue.

UCLA will add another scorer on the wing when Josh Shipp returns from hip surgery. He should be back in the next two weeks.

Kansas gets Darrell Jackson back this week against Northern Colorado. Jackson sat out a nine-game suspension from the NCAA for extra benefits provided by a booster. The Jayhawks added Rodrick Stewart Monday. The transfer from USC saw limited time against Pepperdine.

Duke should add depth when DeMarcus Nelson comes back from a fractured ankle suffered against Drexel in the NIT Season Tip-off. Gonzaga will be stronger when Erroll Knight is back at full strength following a knee injury. He saw his first action of the season against Virginia Saturday, playing two minutes. He got in for four minutes against Eastern Washington Monday.

Michigan hopes forward Brent Petway is eligible for the second semester. Arizona's Jawann McClellan is also working on returning after being academically ineligible during the first semester.

Boston College has added a big body, as Sean Williams was allowed back on the team after some off-court issues. Williams is a great shot-blocking and rebounding complement to Craig Smith and Jared Dudley.

Washington will get some help up front, as 6-foot-8 senior Mike Jensen has returned after surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder. He is expected to play Thursday for the Huskies.

Also, SMU got guard Bryan Hopkins back Monday; he was academically ineligible and sat out seven games. Hopkins scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds against Savannah State. Wow, more than a dozen players could make a difference in conference play!

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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