The Minnesota Golden Gophers might be having an unpleasant dose of deja vu Monday afternoon as another preseason knee surgery set back one of their key contributors for the 2018-19 season.
Redshirt sophomore Eric Curry underwent a surgical procedure on his left knee that will cause him to miss 4-to-6 weeks. He tore the ACL in the same knee last summer, a precursor for what became a disappointing and injury-riddled season for the Gophers. Curry did not participate in Sunday’s open scrimmage due to swelling in the knee, but head coach Richard Pitino said he didn’t think it was “anything serious.”
Curry was a key bench piece on the 2016-17 team that made the NCAA Tournament. He was deeply missed a year ago when center Reggie Lynch was suspended from the team due to sexual assault accusations.
His presence this season was expected to provide improved depth as he joins freshman Daniel Oturu and transfer Matz Stockman in the frontcourt. Now his reemergence will likely have to wait until late November or early December.
“Eric does so many little things,” said Pitino. “If you think about two years ago with that team that went to the NCAA Tournament, probably in a lot of games I put Eric in at the 5 and took Reggie out, and obviously Reggie’s a terrific shot blocker, but Eric does a lot of little things defensively. He moves really, really well, ball-screen defense is terrific, post defense is really, really good.
“We’re a much, much better team when Eric is healthy. He substantially makes our team better.”
The Tennessee native averaged 5.5 points and 5.2 rebounds his first year. He was seemingly headed for a starting role in a seasoned lineup featuring seniors Jordan Murphy and Dupree McBrayer and junior Amir Coffey.
Curry spoke to Zone Coverage at Sunday’s Media Day and said he had just begun to trust his knee again after a lengthy rehab.
“Probably the practices when we first got back from August break, I just got it out of my head, like, ‘I’m good now, I’m fully surgically repaired. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m good. Let’s get it. It’s go time.'”
Curry’s teammates were also looking forward to the 6-foot-9 big man’s return.
“Eric does a lot for this team,” said Coffey. “He’s a high-energy player. He’s high IQ. He’s teaching the young guys.”
“Eric’s kind of a jack of many trades,” said Murphy. “He does a lot of good things. I think that having his presence back and his impact is something that’s really going to help us. Even his knowledge is really high; his basketball IQ can really help Daniel and Jarvis [Omersa] just get used to the game. … The sky’s the limit for Eric.”
The Gophers begin their season on Nov. 6 versus Omaha. If Curry returns after four weeks, he may only miss five games. The Gophers travel to Boston College on Nov. 28, which could mark his earliest possible return, based on the timetable given. If the healing process takes the additional two weeks, Curry would miss the team’s first two conference games on Dec. 2 and Dec. 5 against Ohio State and Nebraska.