UConn center listed as questionable

Connecticut junior center Emeka Okafor will have his aching back re-evaluated by an out-of-state doctor Wednesday.

Updated: March 9, 2004, 9:22 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Connecticut junior center Emeka Okafor will have his aching back re-evaluated by an out-of-state doctor Wednesday and is listed as questionable for Thursday's Big East tournament quarterfinal game against the winner of Wednesday's matchup between Notre Dame and West Virginia.

"If he's healthy and feels good, there's no question," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said when asked if Okafor could carry his team. "I could see that happening in a four- or five-game set."

The Huskies (24-6) would only need it to be three games to win the Big East tournament. They are the second seed in the 12-team field behind Pittsburgh (27-3) and ahead of Providence (20-7) and Syracuse (21-6). All received byes to the quarterfinals.

Okafor and Connecticut team doctor Dr. Jeff Anderson are scheduled to fly in and out of New York City on Wednesday to get another opinion on Okafor's back. Okafor has been bothered throughout the season by back spasms, which peaked during Sunday's 67-56 loss at Syracuse. Okafor took only two shots in 32 minutes and scored a season-low two points. He still had nine rebounds and three blocks but was obviously in a lot of discomfort as he tried to compete against the Orangemen.

Connecticut officials declined to say where Okafor will be seen Wednesday, but he won't return to New York in time for practice. Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun told the team Tuesday that it should prepare to play without him on Thursday. If that occurs, the Huskies will start freshman Charlie Villanueva in his place.

The Huskies have discussed not playing Okafor -- who picked up the Big East player of the year trophy during Tuesday's Big East awards dinner -- in the Big East tournament so he can rest his back for the NCAA Tournament. The team doesn't want to jeopardize Okafor's health for the NCAAs or the NBA. The Huskies have also discussed the possibility of playing him in one game rather than two or three in the tournament, depending on matchups.

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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