By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Will Sherrill slowly made his way to a side entrance at John Paul Jones Arena early Wednesday afternoon, a crutch under each arm, his right leg in a walking boot.
It will be a while before Sherrill plays basketball again. The 6-9 senior forward fractured his fibula midway through the second half of UVa’s 87-79 win at No. 15 Minnesota on Monday night. How long he’ll be sidelined isn’t clear.
“Don’t have a timetable on it yet,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said Wednesday during a press conference at JPJ.
Sherrill fell going for a defensive rebound and then was injured when Minnesota’s Colton Iverson, a 6-10, 258-pound center, landed on him. Virginia’s Assane Sene, a 7-0, 240-pound center, then landed on Iverson.
“That’s a lot of weight, a lot of force,” Bennett said.
Sherrill, a former walk-on who’s a team captain this season, along with classmates Mustapha Farrakhan and Mike Scott, has started UVa’s past four games. He was X-rayed in Minneapolis, then flew with his father to New York for previously scheduled job interviews.
Now that he’s back in Charlottesville, Sherrill will be examined by UVa doctors and head athletic trainer Ethan Saliba. After that, Bennett said, he’ll have a better idea how long the Cavaliers can expect to be without Sherrill.
UVa (4-3) has played its past five games away from JPJ. In the first four, Sherrill shot 57.1 percent from the floor and averaged 8.3 points and 4.3 rebounds. Against Minnesota, he hit two 3-pointers that fueled Virginia’s second-half comeback and also contributed 3 assists and 3 steals.
“Will’s been playing well for us,” Bennett said. “I’ve been happy for him. He’s really been providing good leadership and his smarts, and that will be something we’ll certainly have to adjust to, and throw another one of the first-years in the mix. That’ll certainly be an opportunity for them and a challenge for them.”
Sene, a junior who played well against Minnesota, is likely to move back into the starting lineup alongside the 6-8 Scott, who leads Virginia in scoring and rebounding. Sene started the Cavaliers’ first three games. The top frontcourt reserves will be 6-8 freshmen Will Regan and Akil Mitchell.
Bennett said Sherrill’s injury does not affect plans to redshirt 6-9 freshman James Johnson, who has yet to play this season.
Mitchell has appeared in five games, for a total of 42 minutes. He didn’t play against Minnesota. Regan has totaled 33 minutes in six appearances this season. He picked up two fouls in the minute he played against the Golden Gophers.
Mitchell is averaging 1.4 points and 2.8 boards; Regan, 1.3 rebounds and 1 rebound.
“Up and down” was how Bennett described their play this season, but he noted that “both will have opportunities, and it’ll certainly be healthy for them, for their long-range development. It provides an opportunity for them, and a chance to throw them into the mix in a pretty intense setting.”
UVa opens ACC play Sunday night against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. In the preseason poll, the Hokies were picked to finish second in the ACC.
For the season, Sherrill is shooting 54.5 percent from 3-point range, and that has kept opponents’ frontcourt defenders from focusing only on Scott (16.6 ppg). Morever, Sherrill is second on the team in steals, with 7, and he’s probably the Wahoos’ best help defender in the low post.
“That’s a significant loss in that regard,” Bennett said.
“Akil actually can slide his feet and move and does a pretty good job on perimeter guys, but there’s another art to the physicalness and the fight for position and the foot war going on [inside],” Bennett said. “So that’ll be a challenge, and hopefully those guys will learn, and we’ll certainly have to be creative at times, too.”
Sherrill’s injury means UVa probably will enter the game at Cassell Coliseum missing two players who were expected to be in Bennett’s rotation this season. Junior guard Sammy Zeglinski, who started 29 games in 2009-10, hasn’t played since having cartilage damage in his left knee surgically repaired Oct. 19.
Zeglinski hopes to make his 2010-11 debut against the Hokies, but that’s unlikely, Bennett said Wednesday. At the time of his operation, Zeglinski was expected to be out eight weeks.
“I would never do anything to put Sammy in harm’s way,” Bennett said. “Every player wants to play as soon as possible, but it’s got to be strong, his knee does. It has to be able to withstands [the rigors of a game].”
Bennett said he hopes that Zeglinski will be cleared to practice, if only on a limited basis, this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday afternoon.
“When he’s ready, he’ll play, because I think he’ll be a welcome addition, but I won’t put him out there if it’s even close,” Bennett said. “Nor would Ethan or our training staff.
“I know Sammy is hopeful, but we’ll see how he progresses this week. I would be surprised [if Zeglinski played Sunday], but I’m going to be more cautious than certainly Sammy would. I’ve been in his spot, and I messed up a knee surgery by coming back too soon. In the end it took me longer.”