PISCATAWAY - Kadeem Jack's best Christmas present came a day late.
That's because after fracturing a bone in his right foot that required surgery in early October, the freshman forward was cleared to return to practice Sunday night following the team’s three-day holiday break.
"Kadeem was pretty full-go at practice," head coach Mike Rice told New Jersey Newsroom after practice today. "Right now I have plans of using Kadeem in the Florida game. That may change. He still doesn't know our plays. He still doesn't know our defensive rotation. That may prohibit him from getting in the game and getting some minutes."
Jack — who was expected to have a major impact in Rutgers frontcourt alongside sophmore Gilvydas Biruata prior to the injury — only has one more day to study the offensive and defensive system with the Gators coming to the RAC on Thursday night.
Along with his grasp of the offensive and defensive system, Jack’s playing time will also depend on how his foot feels.
“With an injury like this it's going to be pain through the whole process. I’m not sure until when, but they [doctors and trainers] said it’s going to be pain, but they said there’s a difference between soreness and pain,” Jack said. “If it’s sore than it’s fine. If it starts being real painful then I should relax.”
How prepared the 6-9 power forward will be and how his foot feels remains to be seen. So does the amount of time on the floor he’ll get. But however long — or short — his time out on the court is, Jack is excited to finally make his collegiate debut almost a year after he enrolled at Rutgers.
“It’s going to be a real big day for me,” Jack said. “My first college game, coming out playing after not playing as long as I didn’t play for, it’s going to be a real emotional day for me.”
With his emotions riding high and adrenaline pumping through his veins come Thursday night, the Rice High School product isn’t fazed by the fact that his first game will be against the No. 10 team in the country followed by the start of Big East play.
“I don’t think it’s really that big of a transition because to me, basketball is basketball, so it doesn’t matter what level you play on,” Jack said. “You just have to go out and play basketball and get used to it so that’s what I’m going to do.”
He's also going to need to brush off the cobwebs.
"Getting him back in the swing [of things] and getting the rust off," Rice said are the immediate challenges. "There's going to be substantial rust. A year and a half, that's a substantial rust."
The other walking wounded for Rutgers is freshman forward Malick Kone. After undergoing knee surgery at the beginning of the month, Kone is slated to come back at the start of conference play on January 1.
"Malik's probably three or four days behind Kadeem," Rice said. "I'll probably be able to have him for South Florida."