The beneficiaries of good health for much of this season, the Connecticut Huskies have managed to win 19 games in Kevin Ollie’s first season despite having a roster depleted by NBA Draft entries and transfers due to their being ineligible for postseason play.
But down the stretch the good fortune has run out for Ollie’s program on the injury front, as Shabazz Napier (foot), Omar Calhoun (wrist) and Niels Giffey (finger) have all dealt with health issues.
With Giffey already ruled out for UConn’s season finale on Saturday against Providence the Huskies will be without another rotation player, as junior forward Tyler Olander is out after breaking his left foot in a loss at South Florida on Wednesday night.
Olander’s certainly had his bouts with inconsistency, but the fact of the matter is that he’s UConn’s most experienced front court player after both Alex Oriakhi (Missouri) and Roscoe Smith (UNLV) transferred and Andre Drummond entered the 2012 NBA Draft.
Olander played 18 minutes on Thursday, finishing the game with two points and five rebounds, and on the season he’s averaging 4.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.
With Olander out the Huskies will rely even more on freshman Phil Nolan, who has seen more playing time with Enosch Wolf suspended indefinitely after being arrested last month. Nolan scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds in UConn’s loss at Cincinnati on Saturday but was quiet against South Florida, finishing with two points and six rebounds.
With Olander and Giffey out and Napier a game-time decision UConn doesn’t have much depth entering their season finale against a Providence team that is currently playing its best basketball of the season.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
Stanford guard Marcus Allen will be out indefinitely after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot, the school announced on Monday evening.
“We want to make sure Marcus is fully healthy before returning to the court,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said in a statement. “Marcus played at a high level during our summer exhibition competition in Italy, where he was one of our leading scorers. We will certainly miss him as we continue to prepare for the season, but we are fortunate that this happened now and he will be back before he knows it.”
The loss of Allen is a potentially brutal blow in an already-thin back court. The 6-foot-3 Allen started 23 games as a sophomore last season, averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 boards. But he averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 boards as the Cardinal made a run to the NIT championship and looked poised to be able to replace the departed Chasson Randle’s production this year.
What’s worse is that without Allen, Stanford does not return a single player in their back court that averaged more than 11.5 minutes. Sophomore Robert Cartwright looks poised to step into the starting point guard role, but neither Dorian Pickens nor Christian Sanders looked like they were ready for that kind of role in the Pac-12 last season. Dawkins does return Malcolm Allen, Marcus’ twin brother, who sat out last season with a broken wrist.
The good news is that Stanford’s front court is strong enough to carry the Cardinal until Marcus is healthy. Rosco Allen, Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey will be able to hold their own against any front line in the Pac-12, while Grant Verhoeven and freshman Josh Sharma will provide adequate depth.
Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.
Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.
Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.