San Diego State’s Steve Fisher: ‘We’re going to start the season with two freshmen unable to play’

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With star guard Xavier Thames graduating, it was already going to be difficult for Steve Fisher’s San Diego State Aztecs to replicate the fantastic year they had in 2013-2014.

The process will be just that much tougher now that Fisher confirmed what we all pretty much already knew: that two of SDSU’s freshmen, Malik Pope and Zylan Cheatham, will begin the regular season on the shelf.

“We’re going to start the season with our two big freshmen probably unable to play,” Fisher said in a press conference on Tuesday, “and that is for sure Zylan, who came in with a broken foot that we didn’t know he had. Malik, who is making steady progress, is yet to do anything other than being unguarded.”

Cheatham had surgery on the foot in late August and will likely be out at least another two months. Pope is strengthening a leg that he fractured twice while in high school.

“Malik is kind of at our discretion,” Fisher said. “We’ve been taking it a little slower than even he thinks we should. We’ve had him do some 5-on-0 and individual stuff lately, but he hasn’t done any live, competitive stuff, even 1-on-1or that kind of stuff. Hopefully that will be the next step.”

If there is a saving grace here, it’s that both Pope and Cheatham are front court players, which is a position where the Aztecs can afford to take a hit. J.J. O’Brien and Skylar Spencer are both back this season, and Arizona transfer Angelo Chol will be eligible to play as well.

SDSU’s two other freshmen — guards Trey Kell and Kevin Zabo — will join Winston Shepard, Dwayne Polee and Dakarai Allen in trying to replace Thames’ production in the back court.