The Texas Longhorns will be without junior forward Jericho Sims for an indefinite period of time after head coach Shaka Smart confirmed on Thursday that Sims is dealing with a back injury that could end his season.
However, the medical staff is still trying to determine the extent of the injury, which Sims has been dealing with for several months.
“He’s been battling some injuries in that area for quite a while,” Smart said. “You know he’s been a real warrior, to be honest with you, just the way that he’s hung in there.”
In fact, Texas has limited Sims in practice for the last several months as he’s dealt with pain and discomfort in his back.
“He’s done a really good job fighting and battling and obviously in the games, he’s played really well,” Smart said.
After battling injuries last season and losing playing time to eventual lottery pick Jaxson Hayes, Sims has improved significantly this year, raising his scoring average from 4.2 points per game to 9.7 points per game as his minutes have nearly doubled. Sims is scoring efficiently, hitting 65.8 percent of his shots from the field (No. 37 nationally), crashing the offensive glass, cleaning up on the defensive boards, and blocking shots at a steady rate.
He’s been so good offensively that his lack of paint touches at times have become a major topic of conversation.
“Probably the biggest challenge that we’ve had recently is when we run stuff to try to get Jericho the ball,” Smart said. “In recent games sometimes it’s been feast or famine — it’s been sometimes really, really good. Give him the ball, he’s been very efficient at times when he’s gotten it, but there’s been other times where it’s kind of made us stagnant as a team. You don’t want to stand there for 10-15 seconds, trying to force feed it to a guy and not getting in there and that results in a lack of movement, so we definitely need to move bodies better, we need to move the ball better.”
With Sims out, Texas will give more playing time to junior forward Royce Hamm, Jr., who has struggled to avoid turnovers this season, and freshman forward Will Baker, who has struggled to make baskets — he’s shooting 16.7 percent from the field and 4 percent from three-point range.
And there are also the other injuries that the Longhorns are dealing with. Sophomore forward Gerald Liddell still doesn’t have a timetable for his return as he deals with his own back injury, but the staff is hopeful that freshman forward Kai Jones could potentially play on Saturday against Iowa State with his ankle injury. Jones hasn’t been cleared to practice yet, however.
Junior guard Jase Febres doesn’t have a timetable for a return with his knee injury, either. He was diagnosed with some cartilage damage in his left knee after hyperextending it last Saturday against Texas Tech. The positive news is that he doesn’t have any ligament damage, but the doctors are still waiting for the swelling to go down before making a final diagnosis and determining how long he might be out.