Iowa State v Ohio State

Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim exercising patience with rehab process

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With the amount of personnel that the Iowa State Cyclones lost from last season’s NCAA tournament team, most programs would not be considered to once again be in line for a trip to the Big Dance. With some talented additions, led by Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane, joining Fred Hoiberg’s returnees, Iowa State is expected to have a shot at earning another NCAA tournament berth.

A key cog in the attack is 6-foot-6 senior forward Melvin Ejim, who last season accounted for 11.5 points and a Big 12-best 9.3 rebounds per game. Unfortunately for Ejim and the Cyclones he’s dealing with not only a hyperextended left knee but a bone bruise as well. The time needed for recovery was set at four to six weeks, but understandably the reigning Big 12 rebounding champion is itching to return to the court.

The key for Ejim, as he told Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune, is to be patient and hopefully he’ll be back at full strength earlier than originally expected.

“I don’t think it’s going to take as long. Hopefully it doesn’t take as long,” said Ejim. “It’d be the best if I took a couple weeks, and I could play right away, but we’ve still got to be smart and it’s something if I do play on it and it’s not properly healed, it’s potentially something that could hurt me down the line.

“Just got to be smart about it.”

Certainly Iowa State would like to have Ejim back on the court as soon as possible, and Ejim obviously feels the same way. But if not handled accordingly re-injury, or having the issue linger throughout the year, could occur so it’s best to exercise caution as they currently are. Ejim’s going to be a critical piece for Iowa State, and while they may not be in the class of Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor right now they can be competitive.

But that’s with a healthy Ejim. Iowa State will be tested in non-conference play, as they have games against Michigan, BYU (in Provo), Northern Iowa, Iowa and an appearance at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii before opening Big 12 play in January. Ejim’s absence will mean even more opportunities for sophomore Georges Niang and Northern Illinois transfer Abdel Nader, with the latter having to sit out the entire 2012-13 season.

If the remaining front court players can take advantage of the reps now available with Ejim sitting out, Iowa State can be an even better team inside when Ejim returns to the court.

Stanford loses key veteran guard to stress fracture

Marcus Allen
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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 lands top-75 center Jayce Johnson

Larry Krystkowiak
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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 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.