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Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson ‘hopeful’ as he eyes return for Kel’el Ware this week



Indiana basketball center Kel'el Ware
Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson says he's hoping to get center Kel'el Ware back for Tuesday's matchup against Iowa. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson is ‘hopeful’ he can have his starting center Kel’el Ware back this week, but is still uncertain when exactly he’ll be back on the floor.

Ware, who has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, had been off the practice floor for most of the last week after suffering a ‘twisted ankle’ in practice leading up to last week’s game. He returned to the court on Wednesday for light endurance work but was unable to get enough reps to play in Saturday’s 70-62 loss to No. 1o Illinois.

Woodson provided a small update on his center postgame.

“Hopefully we get big fella (Kel’el Ware) back, I don’t know if he’s gonna be back for the Iowa game or not but we’re gonna try to get him going tomorrow (Sunday) if we can,” Woodson said. “And hopefully that can be some difference because we are, I think, a better team when we’ve got him in there clogging it (the paint) up a little bit.”

In a small step of progress, Ware was not wearing a walking boot on his foot.

Ware has been an extremely consistent player for Indiana this season, currently averaging 14.2 points, 9.4 rebound and 1.6 blocks per game. He is averaging 13.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game in Big Ten games.

The 7-foot center has seven double-doubles this season.

After eight games scoring in double-figures last year, he’s done so in 14 of 17 games this season

Woodson provided another update on his weekly radio show Monday night.

“We’ll know more tomorrow (Tuesday),” Woodson said.  “He did some things on the floor today (Monday), but we’ll know more tomorrow when he comes in.  We want to make sure he’s not puffy and sore.”

Ware is a projected first-round draft pick in the 2024 NBA Draft after transferring to Indiana from Oregon.

His consistency and, in turn, increased production has led to his raise in draft stock.

“From where he was, man, he’s come a long way,” Woodson said last week. “It’s kind of nice to see because a lot of people just didn’t expect that because he hadn’t played.

“Well, it’s the second effort. When we first got him, that didn’t even exist in terms of him making second and third efforts to try to go get the basketball. A lot of it was he just hadn’t been taught and pushed to do it. I mean, it’s like night and day from the time we got him to where he is today in terms of going hard and understanding that you just can’t take possessions off.”

Indiana basketball faces Iowa on Tuesday night at home.

SEE ALSO: Kel’el Ware’s motor ‘night and day’ better from last year, providing consistent backbone for Indiana basketball

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.