It appears Rawle Alkins is on track to return to the Arizona Wildcats’ lineup this week in the Pacific Northwest.
Alkins did not experience any soreness in his surgically-repaired right foot after a Saturday workout, and has been cleared to practice Monday, head coach Sean Miller said.
And Alkins will likely play Wednesday at Washington State if he can get through Monday and Tuesday’s practice unscathed.
“But we’ll know more after practice,” Miller affirmed.
The Wildcats have chosen to be extra cautious with Alkins, who was in a walking boot prior to Saturday’s win vs. Utah.
The wing has been held out of two straight games and three of UA’s last four because the pain level in his foot was at something other than zero.
Miller hinted that Alkins could have (or would have) played if the stakes were higher.
“It’s not as if we’re hiding anything,” Miller said Saturday. “If I knew more information, I’d be the first to tell you. He doesn’t have a fracture of any kind. We’ve given him a CT scan, an MRI, and an X-ray. His bone is healing. In some parts of it, it’s completely healed. In others, it’s good healing. But when a player has a foot like his that’s been surgically repaired and he runs into some discomfort of all a sudden, you just really have to shut him down.
“And when Rawle’s being shut down, you’ve got your fingers crossed that his pain subsides, lessens, and then eventually goes away.
“So as we start to amp him up now, which we will, our hope is that discomfort doesn’t come back. That it just stays away because he was pain-free for a couple months. And if that’s the case, we’re going to take a look at once in a while lessening his practice (time) and then implementing him in the game.”
Alkins broke his foot in late September, which forced him to miss the first nine games of the season. He debuted Dec. 9 and appeared in every game until he was held out at Cal on Jan. 17.
Alkins returned a few days later against Stanford, but felt soreness in his foot afterward and has not played since, sitting out both home games against the Rocky Mountain schools this past weekend.
Arizona has won all three games Alkins has missed in league play but two of them came down to the wire, so Miller is anxious to get Alkins back.
“If you go through our conference and you take away one of another team’s best players and he doesn’t play for a home stand, I think you’ll see that there’s probably things that are affected,” Miller said.
“That was part of it this weekend. That doesn’t mean that the guys that were in his place didn’t do a good job, it’s just we’re not nearly as deep and we’re not as talented. It’s just the facts.”
Alkins is averaging a career-high 14.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game this season, shooting 48 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3.
The Wildcats are 9-1 with Alkins in the lineup, but Miller still thinks the best is yet to come for him and this Arizona squad, which moved back into the Top 10 on Monday.
“In fairness to him, he’s had some really good moments while he’s played, but he hasn’t been able to get into that consistent routine,” Miller said.
“I do know that, especially in his case, him playing at his very best takes our team to another level because his very best encompasses a lot of different things. Offensive rebounding, a bigger wing, defending the other team’s perimeter players, passes the ball exceptionally well, another guy who’s capable of having a big night scoring. So his versatility is a big part of our team.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire