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Marquette's Smart says Kolek is participating in full-court, 5-on-5 drills this week

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Marquette coach Shaka Smart says star guard Tyler Kolek has been practicing in 5-on-5 drills this week as the 2023 Big East player of the year gets ready to return from an oblique injury.

Kolek has missed Marquette’s last six games, but Smart has expressed confidence the Associated Press All-America second-team selection would be back for the NCAA Tournament. Marquette (25-9), the No. 2 seed in the South Region, faces Western Kentucky (22-11) on Friday in Indianapolis.

“He has gone live, he has gone 5-on-5 up-and-down fullcourt,” Smart said Wednesday before the team left campus. “He’s done a lot of good things.”

Kolek has 7.6 assists per game to rank second among all Division I players. The 6-foot-3 guard also is averaging 15 points and 4.7 rebounds.

He injured his oblique during a 91-69 victory over Providence on Feb. 28. Marquette went 3-3 in the games Kolek missed, with two of the losses coming to NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed UConn.

Smart noted there would be an adjustment process for Kolek after missing three weeks, but the coach was encouraged by what he saw in practice.

“He looked like himself,” Smart said.

Kolek’s health also was an issue in last season’s NCAA Tournament. He injured his thumb in Marquette’s first-round victory over Vermont. Kolek continued to play but wasn’t nearly as effective as usual in a second-round loss to Michigan State.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness