Injuries continue to plague Hurricane basketball squad
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Saturday, January 12, 2013
1/12/13 at 4:58 AM
The University of Tulsa basketball team is about to play its 17th game - Saturday's Conference USA clash with Rice, set for 5:30 p.m. at the Reynolds Center.
Rashad Smith, a 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 14.5 points through the Golden Hurricane's first four contests. He hasn't played in nearly two months, missing 12 games with a stress-type injury in his lower left leg.
What might first occur? That Smith is cleared by doctors to play again? Or that TU coach Danny Manning leaves Smith on the shelf, with 2012-13 becoming a redshirt season? In that scenario, Smith would return in 2013-14 as a third-year sophomore.
"We're getting close (to making a decision)," Manning said. "Obviously, we miss him and need him. We've had conversations."
In every game this season, at least one TU player has been benched because of an injury. While recovering from wrist surgery, guard Pat Swilling Jr. missed the first seven games. Forwards Brandon Swannegan and D'Andre Wright also have been plagued by lower-leg stress injuries, and Swannegan sustained an additional injury - a knee injury - during TU's Jan. 2 victory over Buffalo.
The 6-8 Wright hasn't been at full strength since mid-December. The 6-7 Swannegan has missed nine games. Smith, Wright and Swannegan are expected to be inactive again on Saturday, which obliterates Tulsa's interior depth and intensifies the pressure on forwards Kauri Black and Zeldric King to be productive while avoiding fouls. Black has fouled out of seven games this season.
If Smith, Wright and Swannegan all were available, Manning says he would occasionally have them on the court simultaneously - Smith with his all-around game, Wright with his low-post talent and Swannegan with his ability to block and alter shots.
"I wouldn't say we're snakebit, but when you look over at the bench and they're all three sitting there, you certainly look forward to their return," Manning said. "How many big guys go through an entire career without having some sort of injury like this? It's common, unfortunately. Because of the length of their legs, along with the pounding and the torque and the wear and tear - big guys are just more susceptible to issues like this."
Manning and TU officials suspect that the floor in the Reynolds Center practice gym might be too firm and at least partly responsible for the rash of leg injuries. The university plans to replace the practice court during the summer. In the meantime, the Hurricane will spend most of its practice time on the game floor.
At 9-7 overall, the Hurricane opens its home conference schedule against Rice (3-11 overall, 0-1 in the league). Tulsa is 1-1 in C-USA, having prevailed 48-47 at SMU - on Swilling's 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left - and following with Wednesday's 79-61 setback at Marshall.
While Manning describes the Rice game as "the most important one on the schedule because it's the next one," the Owls may be destined for an 0-16 finish in conference play. In the 12-team league, Rice ranks last in scoring (57.8-point average), last in field-goal percentage (.389) and 11th in 3-point percentage (.318). Rice's average rebounding margin of minus-12.4 is by far the league's worst.
In its series with the Owls, TU has a 25-6 lead and a 12-game win streak.
Original Print Headline: TU getting short on big men
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397