The Texas Longhorns will be without starting center Cameron Ridley for Tuesday's big non-conference game against the UConn Huskies and for the indefinite future, as the emerging senior fractured his left foot during practice on Sunday.
The common timetable for recovery from such an injury is six to eight weeks, which would mean a return at some point in late February. Ridley will undergo surgery on Tuesday and head coach Shaka Smart said Monday that he is "really, really hopeful" that his starting center will be able to return at some point this season.
The news comes as the Longhorns were appearing to hit their stride with a strong December that included the last-second home win over the North Carolina Tar Heels and a record-setting performance by Ridley against the Appalachian State Mountaineers when he blocked nine shots.
For the season, the 6'9, 285-pounder is second on the team in minutes played (26.0), scoring (12.7), and first in rebounding (10.0). Yes, Ridley is averaging a double-double this year, while also contributing his blocking prowess to the Texas defense with 37 of the team's 64 blocks. On the offensive end, he's the team's best low-post threat by a wide margin.
Here's a good statistical look at his impact:
Ridley was No. 5 nationally in block%, No. 17 in ORebounding%, No. 57 in DRebounding%, & No. 66 in effective FG%. #HookEm— Dustin McComas (@DMcComasOB) December 28, 2015
Other than junior point guard Isaiah Taylor, there is not a more indispensable player on the team and there's a strong argument to be made that Ridley deserves that classification because of increased guard depth from freshmen Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach.
And not only is the development extremely disappointing news for a team that is about to embark on the crucible that is the Big 12 conference season in basketball, but it's also extremely disappointing for a guy who has clearly worked extremely hard to get in shape and is now capable of defending guards in the pick and roll, protecting the rim, finishing defensive stands with rebounds, and using his improved athleticism to clean up the offensive glass. The ability that he showed to get off the floor with second and third leaping efforts was an incredible improvement this season after watching him struggle in that regard earlier in his Texas career.
However, the Longhorns do have good frontcourt depth, so the injury will mean more playing time for junior transfer Shaq Cleare, who has been averaging 2.1 points per game in less than 10 minutes per contest. Senior Prince Ibeh will also get more burn, but his high foul rate means that he'll likely continue to have a hard time staying on the court.