Ray OK, team unsure about NCAA availability

Updated: March 11, 2006, 7:30 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Villanova's Allan Ray's right eye is sore and he has a bit of a headache, but he was resting comfortably as the team was driving back to Philadelphia on the bus Saturday after suffering an eye injury during Friday's loss to Pittsburgh.

Team spokesperson Mike Sheridan told ESPN.com that Ray will see an eye specialist in Philadelphia Sunday or Monday for an examination.

Ray will use eye drops for treatment. According to Sheridan, Ray hasn't complained of any blurry vision.

Sheridan said it's too early to speculate on Ray's availability for next week's NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats will be off Saturday and Ray is expected to rest through the weekend.

Ray was released from St. Vincent's Hospital in New York early Saturday morning. The official report was a "soft tissue" injury to the right eye.

"He couldn't see when he was here," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "They got pressure on it right away. ... When I first saw them [team officials after the game] they said his vision was starting to come back. Now they said his vision is good and they're going to release him."

Getting to this point, however, was a traumatic emotional journey for everyone involved in the program. Wright said this was the happiest he has been after a loss.

Ray, one of the No. 2-rated Wildcats' integral parts, took an inadvertent finger to his eye from Pitt's Carl Krauser 32 seconds into the second half as Krauser, Ray and Pitt's Ronald Ramon went for a loose ball.

According to those who were physically close to Ray, he immediately grabbed his eye and said he couldn't see.

"I just seen him hit the floor, cover his eye and holding it," said Krauser, who added that he has known the fellow Bronx native for years. "I thought I hit him in his head because my finger is kind of swollen."

Krauser then showed a few members of the media in the Pitt locker room a swollen left index finger.

Everyone involved in the Big East tournament took a serious tone about the injury. One member of the Villanova extended family was even seen crying with the initial reports that it was a "severe" eye injury.

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese credited the tournament's doctor, who had coincidentally been repositioned on the team bench side for this year's event. The doctor, who Tranghese couldn't name, immediately rushed onto the court and told officials to call an ophthalmologist and have that doctor meet him at St. Vincent's. The eye doctor apparently rushed to the hospital where Ray, his parents, who were in the stands, and some Villanova personnel met him.

Wright was unaware of the extent of the injury as the game was going on. Villanova ended up losing 68-54. A family member told ESPN's Mark Jones that Ray wanted to know the score as soon as it went final.

Meanwhile, after the game, the team was in the locker room, not sure if Ray was going to be OK.

Villanova personnel huddled in the bowels of MSG, awaiting word from the hospital. Finally, after midnight, Wright emerged to make his statement with news he was praying to hear just twenty minutes earlier.

"It looked a lot worse than it was," Wright said. "It's going to be day-to-day."

Wright said he was told there was no damage to Ray's cornea, and no stitches were needed.

"I feel great right now," Wright said. "I didn't ask if he could play. I was more worried about his future. And they said he's fine."

From a basketball standpoint, no one knows how this will affect Villanova's seeding in the NCAA Tournament, if at all. The likelihood, with the possibility of Ray's return, is that it won't have an effect, and the Wildcats will still be a No. 1 seed in Washington, Minneapolis or Oakland, Calif. Still, there is the possibility that the Cats will be without Ray.

"He's our vocal leader out there," said fellow senior Randy Foye.

"We're confident he'll be fine, but what we would miss is leadership, that's it," said fellow senior Jason Fraser. "We'll make up for that in the event he can't go next week."

Villanova has had its share of bad luck from Fraser's myriad injuries to Curtis Sumpter being out for the year with an ACL injury.

"Sometimes I do wonder why all of this happened, but it must happen for a reason," Foye said. "We'll adjust and stay together. We'll just keep playing hard out there."

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com