During Tuesday's media availability, Al Nolen said he might return next week when the Gophers face South Dakota State in their final nonconference tilt. Nolen said a lingering stress fracture has caused the pain that's kept him out of the team's last four games.

Nolen said he felt good in limited action in practice Monday and Tuesday.

"I’m feeling good," he said. "They’ve got a couple orthotics for me in my shoes, help taking the pressure off that one area. ... I’m just trying to get my wind back out here and get ready to play."

Tubby Smith said there's still a possibility that Nolen will play against Akron Wednesday.

"Al is working out some. He didn't get much work in [Tuesday] morning so I'm not sure whether he'll play [Wednesday] or not," Smith said after practice Tuesday.

After a strong start that included a 17-point performance in the Puerto Rico Tipoff title game against West Virginia, Nolen said the foot pain became too severe to play through.

"It’s really been bothering me for awhile now but I always figured it was my shoes, so I kind of didn’t put too much thought about it being an injury," he said. "But after Puerto Rico, we played so many games in a few amount of days, it really starting hurting a lot. That’s when I decided to go possibly check it out."

Nolen said doctors and trainers told him that former Gophers suffered from the same condition and recovered with varying results. The Gophers co-captain said he wants to make sure he's ready to play because he doesn't want to incur further injury. He also said he's trying to get back into game shape after missing so much time. 

"I wasn’t sure [when I would return] from what the doctors had told me about the kind of injury. [They] said it was a frequent injury," Nolen said. "Arriel McDonald, Bobby Jackson had it and they said they ended up coming back and one of them actually broke their foot trying to come back too early, so they told me don’t push it. I was hoping I would be back a little earlier than this, but I have to take care of it and just get ready for Big Ten season."
Nolen said he opted against a procedure that would address the stress fracture with screws.

"I decided not to take that option," he said. "It’ll just heal up on its own."

Nolen led the Big Ten in steals (2.8) before the foot injury interrupted his season. He's one of the top perimeter defenders in the Big Ten. He's averaged 9.2 points and 4.2 assists per game this season.

 Gophers seeking toys at Wednesday's game

The weather disrupted the athletic department's plans to host toy drives for Toys for Tots with the cancellation of the weekend's Gophers hockey games and sparse attendance at Saturday's men's basketball game.

So the Gophers will collect toys at Wednesday's men's basketball game and the Dec. 23 women's basketball game, both at Williams Arena, according to Gophers spokesman Matt Slieter.


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Al Nolen practices Monday, Tubby Smith concerned about his stamina

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5ive Questions: How will Al Nolen's return affect the rotation?