Some major news broke over the weekend relating to a WCC contender as it’s being reported that BYU center Jamal Aytes had ankle surgery and could be out for months. Darnell Dickson of the Daily Herald is credited as first breaking the story. Dave Rose elaborated on the situation in Dickson’s story on BYU’s exhibition win on Saturday:
“He’s had a sprained ankle for quite a while. There were two outcomes that could happen as a result of the surgery: One would be about a two or three week process and one would be two or three months. It was pretty sad news. He’s going to be non-weight bearing for three months. You feel so bad for the player because he’s waited to play for us.”
Sounds like Aytes when in for some needed surgery and the recovery time ended up being the worst case scenario. The timeline mentioned by Rose would mean it won’t be until late January or early February until Aytes can even put weight on his surgically repaired ankle. With additional recovering time and getting back up to game speed, the only scenario where Aytes would appear this season is if BYU goes deep into the postseason. The WCC Tournament is March 6-10 and it’s hard to believe Aytes could go from no weight on his ankle to game ready in a month.
Aytes was expected to be a big piece of the Cougars lineup in his first year of eligibility for BYU after transferring from UNLV. The Cougars already are entering the season with a weakened frontcourt after Eric Mika left for his two year Mormon mission trip. So they were already in a hole being without the All-Freshman Team selection and his 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.Feb 8, 2014; Provo, UT, USA; Brigham Young Cougars forward Nate Austin (33) shoots the ball while San Francisco Dons forward Cole Dickerson (25) goes for the block during the second half at Marriott Center. Brigham Young Cougars won the game 68-63.Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
The only remaining frontcourt player with extensive playing time is Nate Austin. He started all 35 games last year, but he was primarily a defensive weapon putting up 31 blocks and 7.9 rebounds per game. In fact outside of Aytes and Austin, the Cougars have just two frontcourt players who aren’t freshmen. Both will be expected to assume larger roles now.
A lot of the responsibility will fall to sophomore Luke Worthington who becomes arguably the number two option now behind Austin down low. He saw very limited minutes as a reserve last season, but he has a lot of potential.
Worthington was a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school and was considered one of the best players in his home state of Wisconsin. As a senior at Homestead High School he put up some numbers that will make BYU fans salivate averaging 13.6 points and 10 rebounds per game. With the season right around the corner, the time is now for Worthington to step up and start to bring some of that production to the college level.
There’s room for others to asset themselves as well as even if Worthington lives up to his potential since the Cougars are still dangerously thin in the frontcourt. Skyler Halford and Anson Winder should also have increased duties as the Cougars may have to employ even more guard-heavy lineups than they had anticipated.
Losing Aytes is a big blow for a team that lacked frontcourt depth and was relying on him to carry a lot of that load. If the Cougars weren’t already leaning on their high-scoring backcourt led by Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth, they sure are now. Them performing at a high level and guys like Worthington and Austin stepping up in the frontcourt are now key for the Cougars to have a good season.