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Thursday’s practice will give Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson ‘better feel’ for status of Kel’el Ware ahead of Illinois



Indiana basketball center Kel'el Ware
Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson said Thursday's practice will be a huge factor in the status of Kel'el Ware ahead of Saturday. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson said Thursday’s practice will be a huge factor in determining the status of Kel’el Ware ahead of Saturday’s road matchup with No. 10 Illinois.

Ware, who missed Friday night’s 91-79 loss to No. 11 Wisconsin with an ankle injury, had been off the floor for most of the last week after suffering a ‘twisted ankle’ in practice leading up to last week’s game.

On Thursday morning, Woodson said Ware had returned to the floor but in a ‘non contact’ capacity.

“He was on the floor a little yesterday,” Woodson said. “He did some warmup drills with us. Nothing where he’s had contact where he had — has to cut and — and block out and block shots, things of that nature, no. He just basically did some endurance stuff on the floor with us during our warm up.

“So I’ll get a better feel today once we get down there and see where he is today.”

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.

Coach Q&A: Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson discusses upcoming matchup with Illinois

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

Ware has scored in double-figures in 14 of his 17 appearances this season. He is averaging 13.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game in Big Ten games.

Illinois enters Saturday with a different style of play than year’s past. The Illini play 6-foot-10 point forward Coleman Hawkins at the center position with 6-foot-7 hybrid forward Quincy Guerrier at the other forward spot.

The two forwards average 8.3 attempted 3s per game bringing a different offensive skillset than reserve forward Dain Dainja. Dainja is a 6-foot-9 and 275-pound forward who has seen his playing time drastically decline from 20.5 minutes per game last year to just 9.9 minutes this season.

“The big challenge is that we’ve got to make sure we get our bigs back in transition because they are pushing every opportunity they get, and you know, it ain’t — really, it’s not going to matter who is guarding who. You’ve just got to make sure we get the ball stopped and we’ve got a body on a body,” Woodsons said of Illinois. “I mean, and there’s going to be times, big fella (Kel’el Ware) might be playing, you know, one of their smaller guys. I mean, that’s just the nature of how they play. And you know, we got to take advantage of, you know, our size a little bit, too, inside, and see how they play us.

“So they are a different team. You know, more different than we’ve played any team in college basketball this season the way they play, and they basically are playing small ball with Hawkins at the five. They bring the big fella (Dainja) in sparingly, but that’s pretty much what you going to get a dose of is small basketball.”

Illinois ranks fifth in the country in total rebounds (43.3 per game) and have an offensive rebound rate of 27 percent — 16th in the country — so Ware’s status will go a long way in determining the outcome of Saturday’s critical game 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.