Nebraska is hoping that a key piece will return from injury early and so far, signs are looking promising. According to a report by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, Nebraska senior forward Leslee Smith is way ahead of schedule on the recovery of a torn left ACL and he could be back by January.
The 6-foot-8, 255-pound Smith suffered the ACL tear on July 3 playing for his native British Virgin Islands in the FIBA Caribbean Championships.
“We’re hoping to have him ready in mid-January, about a week or two into Big Ten play,” Nebraska head coach Tim Miles said to Rothstein. “We’re hoping to get him live in practice soon and just take it from there.”
Smith averaged 5.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season on 51 percent shooting from the field but he would give the Huskers additional interior depth that they sorely lack in the first months of the season.
Nebraska has Walter Pitchford back, but he lacks the interior presence on the defensive end that the Huskers need. Georgetown transfer Moses Abraham is also on the roster along with 6-foot-10 center Jake Hammond but Smith would give Nebraska more experience.
On Tuesday it was reported that Nebraska senior power forward Leslee Smith was expected to miss the entire 2014-15 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. Having posted averages of 5.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season, it would be easy for some to gloss over his absence as the Huskers look to earn a second consecutive NCAA tournament bid.
However with his size (6-foot-8, 255) Smith is a valuable piece for head coach Tim Miles, as he’s capable of helping Nebraska deal with some of the more physical interior players in the Big Ten.
The question for Nebraska to answer this summer is who steps up in Smith’s absence, with Nebraska needing some added interior depth to go along with returnee Walter Pitchford and graduate transfer Moses Ayegba. One option is 6-foot-10 freshman Jake Hammond, and according to Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln Journal Star Smith’s injury could potentially change things for the newcomer.
So not only does Smith’s injury mean Hammond has, on the court, lost the teammate who’s helped him most, it also could change the true freshman’s plans entirely.
“Yeah, I might not be able to redshirt this year,” said Hammond, listed at 6-foot-10 and 227 pounds. “It is something I was probably going to do. But now that he’s hurt, I don’t know. That’s up in the air still.”
It’s noted in the story that redshirting was considered an option due to Hammond’s need to become stronger, and during Nebraska’s summer program he’s gained seven pounds. The freshman year can be a tough one for college players, especially when it comes to holding one’s own in a league like the Big Ten.
But due in large part to Smith’s knee injury, these remaining months before the start of practice have become far more important for Jake Hammond than he may have anticipated.
Nebraska forward Leslee Smith has been sidelined indefinitely after tearing the ACL in his left knee, the school announced on Tuesday afternoon.
A timetable for his recovery has yet to be set. The rising senior had previously suffered the same injury in his right knee as a member of SMU back in March 2011.
The 6-foot-8 forward torn the ACL in his left knee last week playing for the British Virgin Islands in the FIBA Caribbean Championships. He had been averaging 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in the tournament prior to the injury.
For Nebraska head coach Tim Miles this is a tough loss. In his first season with the Cornhuskers, Smith saw 16.8 minutes per game. He, along with retutrning forwards Walter Pitchford and David Rivers, were going to hold down the frontline. Nebraska does bring back its two top players Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields, as the Cornhuskers look to build off last season’s NCAA tournament appearance, the program’s first since 1998.
Smith averaged 5.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.