- Texas could go with a smaller lineup now that Cam Ridley is out, but Shaka Smart said the team won't "reinvent ourselves."
- Prince Ibeh, who is averaging 9.5 minutes, is likely to make his first start against Connecticut on Tuesday.
- A timetable for Ridley's return is likely to be known after Tuesday's surgery, but Smart is hopeful he'll have his big man back this season.
At first glance, it looked like a routine boo-boo in practice when Texas center Cam Ridley rose for a layup, came down funny, and hobbled off the court on Sunday.
It wasn’t until a day later, on Monday morning, that his teammates learned of the injury’s significance and that they’ll be playing the foreseeable future without their best post player.
Ridley, a senior who is averaging a double-double and leads the Big 12 in shooting percentage, will undergo surgery on his left broken foot Tuesday morning, meaning he’ll miss Tuesday night’s home game against Connecticut as well as many more in the new year. The official word is Ridley (12.7 points, 10.0 rebounds) is out indefinitely and that doctors will have a clearer understanding about his return following the operation.
“Really, really hopeful he’ll be back this year,” coach Shaka Smart said Monday. “That’s what we’re planning on.”
Texas (8-3) has 20 more games left in the 11 weeks until the Big 12 tournament. That should be a sufficient window for Smart to rebuild his team, should he choose to do so, into a smaller, guard-oriented attack similar to the one he employed at Virginia Commonwealth. In that set, 6-10 power forward Connor Lammert likely would slide to center, creating more court time for 6-6 small forwards Tevin Mack and Jordan Barnett. Shaquille Cleare, a 6-8 power forward, also stands to benefit.
Even before Ridley’s injury, Smart had plans to roll out a smaller lineup against Connecticut, which wants to play fast with four guards, including former Longhorn Sterling Gibbs. Yet Smart said it’s looking like Prince Ibeh, the team’s only other center, will replace Ridley in the starting lineup. Ibeh is averaging 9.5 minutes with 1.2 points and 3.0 rebounds.
“We don’t have to completely reinvent ourselves as a team, but we are going to have to adjust certain things we do on both ends of the floor,” Smart said. “A lot of our offense has been going through (Ridley).”
The Longhorns have won six straight games, and Tuesday night will be their final audition before Big 12 play begins this weekend. Ridley was a big reason for that streak. He was excellent against Appalachian State on Dec. 15 and at Stanford four days later, averaging 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds, and blocking nine shots against Appalachian State. That led to his collecting Big 12 player of the week honors.
Ridley has posted a double-double in five of his 11 games and was shooting 63 percent from the field with more than three blocks per game.
“With him being out we still want to throw the ball inside, but it’s not gonna go in there quite as much because he was by far our most gifted guy around the basket,” Smart said.
At one point during Monday’s media gathering, Ridley poked his head in and cracked a smile. Guard Javan Felix believes Ridley’s cheery disposition will permeate the team and help them move on in his absence. Lammert said Ridley is the “same old Cam,” and Smart called Ridley “probably the most beloved player on our team.”
“Once we see he’s in a good mood, that puts us in good spirits,” Felix said.