Think back to Kansas State’s road loss to Kansas last week.
Not much went right for the Wildcats. Most will remember the end-game brawl that overshadowed the game itself, and rightfully so, but K-State was blown out.
Just don’t tell Mike McGuirl.
K-State’s junior guard, who returned to the court Saturday for the first time after missing three games with a concussion, blissfully watched the KU game from his Manhattan apartment — at least at the beginning.
When point guard David Sloan threw down a fast-break dunk in the opening minutes, McGuirl jumped up.
“I was acting like I was on the bench,” said McGuirl, a regular starter who is averaging 6.3 points in 25.6 minutes per game, plus a team-best 45.8% clip from range. “I was running around screaming.”
That’s the kind of story that helps explain just how he spent the two weeks he missed with the concussion.
He was alone, mostly. Isolated at home. He wasn’t allowed to eat with the team or even be around the team much. Sports medicine coordinator Luke Sauber didn’t want McGuirl’s condition to worsen.
For that reason, McGuirl enjoyed when the occasional teammate or two dropped by to visit.
“That was much appreciated,” McGuirl said with a grin.
The story of how the concussion happened in the first place, McGuirl said, goes something like this.
On Jan. 11, K-State was in the middle of what turned into a 64-50 road loss at Texas. During the game — McGuirl didn’t specify when — his head started to hurt, but he didn’t think anything of it. He figured it was just minor pain, the kind that passes soon enough.
After the game, though, he alerted Sauber. The next day, McGuirl underwent testing.
“I didn’t do so well on the tests,” McGuirl said.
That confirmed Sauber and Co.’s suspicions: McGuirl had a concussion.
And so McGuirl was relegated to isolation. “I just feel bad for him. It’s killing him,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said on Jan. 14, after McGuirl missed his first game, the Wildcats’ home setback to Texas Tech. “He’s sitting in a room in the dark. He texted me two times, ‘Coach, this is boring.’ You’ve got to get him back.”
After a couple weeks passed, though, McGuirl finally took the test that cleared him to return to the court.
The tests, he said, were “pretty tricky.”
McGuirl sat at a computer. He was asked to memorize a host of words, shapes that corresponded to numbers, then different shapes of lines. Fifteen minutes later, after he completed several other tests, trainers brought out those same words, shapes and numbers and asked McGuirl to repeat them. Eventually, he passed.
“I was very excited,” McGuirl said.
That meant McGuirl could return to practice, but here’s the catch: This was late last week, which didn’t leave him much time to prepare for K-State’s road contest at Alabama. On Thursday, McGuirl participated in a non-contact practice. The next day, he joined the Wildcats’ full practice.
On Saturday, he played 30 minutes in the 77-74 loss to Crimson Tide, the Wildcats’ sixth loss in seven tries.
Even McGuirl said he was surprised he played that many minutes — “But I’m not complaining,” he said.
He likely would say the same about his role in K-State’s home matchup with Oklahoma on Wednesday.
“It was a lot of fun. It felt good to be back out there,” McGuirl said. “I was bored for, like, two weeks. So it was fun to finally have some fun again. We lost, which sucks, but it was still nice to be out there.”