UK's Washington practices, still unsure of status

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kentucky forward PJ Washington returned to practice Thursday for the first time since the SEC tournament, sparking hope he could return to play in Friday's Sweet 16 game against Houston.

"I don't know yet," Washington said about playing against the Cougars. "Right now, it's up in the air."

Still, a return to practice is a positive step for Washington, who played in neither of the Wildcats' first two NCAA tournament games because of a sprained left foot. He had a cast removed from the foot this week and was jogging, stretching and shooting with his teammates at the start of Thursday's practice.

"I feel good," said Washington, who leads Kentucky in scoring (14.8 per game) and rebounding (7.5) this season. "It's just about going out there and seeing if I can get back on the court [for a game]."

The Wildcats, seeded No. 2 in the Midwest Region, beat Abilene Christian handily in their first-round NCAA tournament game and defeated Wofford 62-56 to advance to the Sweet 16.

"We're a very different team without him in the lineup," forward Reid Travis said of Washington. "When he's in the game, just the rotations and the way we move the ball and defensively, he makes our team a lot better. If we can get him back, I feel like we'll be a lot stronger team."

Kentucky coach John Calipari suggested whether Washington plays against Houston would be a game-time decision.

"Thank goodness the game is at 9 [p.m. CT]," Calipari said. "We have more time. ... I wish it was 10. But the greatest thing for him is that the [doctor] said, '[Washington] can't hurt yourself.' If that were the case, I wouldn't let him play.

"He wants to play. Now it's, 'Can he play?' We don't know. If PJ played more than [15 or 18] minutes, I would be stunned, surprised. If he doesn't play at all, I would not be surprised."