To say the Miami Hurricanes have been banged up on the hardwood over the past two seasons would be an understatement.
The program was not even acclimated to running a full, live scrimmage in practices, instead having to modify team drills towards smaller group settings, while working on their offense or defense without the other.
A few injuries have begun to hinder the program in the early goings of their 2020-2021 season, but they’ve not yet been enough to prevent them from lacking depth this winter.
“We were very beat up after the game,” Miami coach Jim Larrañaga said after Friday’s 82-60 win against Stetson. “We had a number of guys dealing with some bumps and bruises that they needed to treat.”
Those bumps and bruises have mainly included ankle injuries, with the exception to redshirt senior forward Sam Waardenburg’s season-ending foot injury suffered in a preseason practice.
“After he went down, I knew me and Anthony [Walker] were kind of the guys to be in that spot,” said freshman forward Matt Cross, who has transitioned well into starting at power forward through two games. “After that, it’s just been pretty much up to the coaches to decide what they like. Anthony’s been kind of playing the three, too, for us, so he’s a very versatile player. Honestly it’s been moving a lot of pieces around trying to fill that spot.”
Freshman forward Earl Timberlake has now sprained his ankle twice—the second proving to be worse—and has not seen any in-game action thus far as he has sported a walking boot.
“I haven’t gotten the results, but at least I’m hoping that they’ll get him out of the boot, and he’ll start his rehab process,” Larrañaga said. Timberlake had seen a foot specialist as of Monday morning, as his projected return remains closer towards the end of this month, per Larrañaga.
Senior guard Chris Lykes has also experienced the same injury, having gone straight to the locker room in the second half after limping off the court under his own power Friday evening. He attempted a 3-point shot and landed on an opponent’s foot as a team trainer tended to him on the floor with approximately 11 minutes remaining, after scoring 20 points before the intermission.
“He met with a doctor this morning,” Larrañaga said on Monday. “An ankle injury is always serious to me because a player like Chris relies so heavily on speed and quickness. But he got us off to a great start [against Stetson]. He was probably upset with himself for not making those shots in the first game because he had a lot of good looks.”
Lykes’ status remains unknown for Tuesday’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge home matchup versus Purdue, having missed the team practice on Monday. The 5-foot-7 starting guard has remained durable throughout his entire career at Miami, having missed a minute number of games, if any.
“He came out very focused offensively, really working hard defensively,” Larrañaga remarked on Lykes’ dominant performance Friday. “I love the pressure he’s putting on the ball, but I just don’t want him to gamble and get in foul trouble.”
Lykes in fact missed Monday’s practice in order to accelerate the recovery process of his injury, after resting Sunday.
“Sunday was a day off, so nobody practiced,” Larrañaga said. “On Monday, we practiced but Chris spent his whole time in treatment working with our trainer, Cory [Kaplan], on trying to get the ankle stronger, better, and more flexible.”
Despite the early onset of injuries, Miami continues to remain afloat from a productivity standpoint thus far. Walker, who saw little action last season, has contributed well offensively, scoring eight and six points through the first two games.
“Just coming into this year, I had a different mindset,” Walker said. “Of course, with Sam going down I need to step up [and] Matt needs to step up just in that position. I feel confident going into this year with conference play and playing tougher opponents. So, hopefully I can contribute to play at a high level.”
Guard Isaiah Wong, who experienced a stark contrast in individual performance between the first and second half of last season, has continued to produce having notched another double-double Friday. The sophomore currently has 37 points on the year already.
“I’m going to take it one game at a time,” Wong said. “I feel like when I get on the court playing 100 percent and to the best of my ability [while] trying to find my teammates, get every rebound, play the best defense as possible, I’m going to get that throughout the ACC [competition].”
Coach Larrañaga and the Canes seek to continue their strong start to the season while minimizing injuries, as they face Purdue today at 5:00 p.m. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup will be broadcasted on ESPN2.