The Loyola Marymount basketball team will go into this weekend's Gator Bowl Tournament at Jacksonville, Fla., with one of its top guns, in the words of its coach, being retooled.
Senior guard Jeff Fryer broke the fourth metacarpal in his right--shooting--hand (a bone near the thumb, not his ring finger as earlier reported), but things could be worse.
It is hoped Fryer will be back in uniform before Oklahoma comes to town Christmas week, and for a change Coach Paul Westhead has enough depth at guard to consider several lineup variations.
Fryer led the nation in three-pointers while averaging 22.9 points as a junior and is scoring 24.5 after two games this season. His hand was injured in Saturday's 145-102 victory over Nevada Reno, with Fryer scoring 26 points and four three-pointers. Westhead said, though, that Fryer's hard-nosed intangibles may be missed more than his scoring.
"I told (the team) at practice somebody's going to have to take the shots, and everybody smiled," Westhead said. "Then I added, 'And get the steals and the dives and the hustle.' "
Luckily, Fryer has bounced back from previous injuries faster than expected. He will miss this weekend's two tournament games and a Dec. 7 contest at U.S. International. Depending on medical clearance, he could be back in uniform in time to play a Dec. 16 exhibition against Athletes in Action. The Lions' Dec. 9 game against UC Santa Barbara is improbable, but not impossible.
"There's no exact timetable," Westhead said. "I know this--whenever the doctor says he can play, he'll be ready. He's not one of these guys who needs a week to get back after he's given the OK. He's always been a quick healer, physically and emotionally. He came back from the doctor's yesterday (Monday) with a cast and ran around the outside of practice the whole time we were on the floor. You hate to lose a guy like that."
Westhead, who was injured as a senior at St. Joseph's University, seemed to feel worse for Fryer personally than for the loss to the team. "It's really a shame. He's playing very, very well at this moment," Westhead said. "It's doubly tough when you're a senior. Every day of practice, every game is important to him--and to us. It's something I really have empathy for. On the plus side, hopefully it'll only be a two-week problem, not one of those debilitating things that lingers for the whole year."
In Fryer's absence, Westhead has the option of starting junior Tom Peabody at forward and shifting Bo Kimble back to guard or starting sophomore Terrell Lowery in Fryer's place.