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.