K-State’s Nowell flips page after ‘scare,’ eyes FAU

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  • Joined ESPN in 2014.
  • Graduate of University of Delaware.

NEW YORK — Less than 24 hours after his historic Sweet 16 performance, Kansas State guard Markquis Nowell said his injured ankle is 85% to 90% healthy. However, he left zero doubt about his status for Saturday’s Elite Eight game against Florida Atlantic.

“It’s good,” Nowell said. “It will probably be [better] tomorrow.”

Nowell said that he was able to move around at practice on Friday.

“It was a scare,” Nowell said. “I tweaked it a little bit, but it feels good now. Just been icing it, elevating it, stuff you do with a rolled ankle.”

Nowell had one of the greatest individual performances in NCAA tournament history in Thursday’s 98-93 overtime win over Michigan State, setting a tournament record with 19 assists while also contributing 20 points and 5 steals.

Much of that performance came after Nowell suffered a seemingly serious ankle injury early in the second half. He was on the floor for several minutes and needed to be helped off the floor by two Kansas State staffers.

After sitting at the end of the bench and getting his ankle retaped, Nowell checked himself back into the game two minutes later and propelled the Wildcats to a win.

The 5-foot-8 Harlem native woke up Friday morning to his face on the cover of his hometown paper, the New York Post, which declared him the “King of New York.” He received messages from a half-dozen current and former NBA stars, including Trae Young, Donovan Mitchell and Carmelo Anthony.

But Nowell is looking toward Saturday’s game.

“Just keep focusing on things that’s important. Going 1-0. Like we’ve been preaching the whole season,” Nowell said. “We had a great performance yesterday, celebrated last night and now today is the time to flip over the page and focus on Florida Atlantic. … We just gotta focus and lock in like we’ve been doing after games.”

FAU is aware that Nowell is the No. 1 item on its scouting report. However, as Owls coach Dusty May pointed out, the goal is to choose your battles and slow Nowell down — not eliminate him completely.

“You don’t shut him down,” May said. “You try to make him score inefficiently. You try to challenge every pass, every passing lane with anticipation, with our athleticism. But you don’t stop a guy like that, you just hope to make him inefficient on that particular night.

“You have to pick your poison. … Because when you have the range, the midrange, the floaters to the rim, the passing to the left and right hand, he has no holes in his game and he’s going to find a solution to whatever coverage you’re in.”

FAU players said it’s imperative to be cognizant of Nowell’s teammates and not allow him to rack up easy assists to wide-open cutters — as Nowell did against Michigan State.

“On-ball pressure is a big key, and also the help-side defense and making sure that the rest of the defenders see their man and don’t get backdoor cut and different things that just give him an opportunity to find open people,” junior guard Bryan Greenlee said. “I believe with our switching defense and how attentive we are to being disciplined, we can do a good job of containing him.”

FAU has experience against high-level playmaking guards, facing Memphis’ Kendric Davis in the first round of the NCAA tournament and UAB’s Jelly Walker in conference play.

Nowell, who is averaging 21.3 points, 14.0 assists and 3.7 steals in three NCAA tournament games, will be a different test.

“They’re a very good team that you have to worry about,” Nowell said. “I’m not overlooking them because I’ve seen what they did to people in this tournament.

“But Kendric Davis and Jelly Walker is them. I’m Markquis.”

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