Loyola Marymount, which won its second straight West Coast Athletic Conference basketball tournament title Monday, suffered a loss the same night.
Senior guard and captain Enoch Simmons, who jammed his left hand against Santa Clara, is lost for the NCAA Tournament with a broken knuckle in his left middle finger. He is scheduled for surgery today at Centinela Hospital Medical Center.
Simmons’ finger was smashed. He played more than 30 minutes with the injury Monday but hit only one of 11 shots. Simmons, who also plays baseball, shoots and throws with his right hand, might have been able to play in the NCAA regional, but doctors indicated the longer he put off surgery the lower the chance of the finger healing correctly. The prognosis is a six-week recovery.
The injury is a blow to the Lions’ chance in the NCAAs. They appeared to be on the upswing with the return of high-scoring guard Bo Kimble from knee surgery. They open the regionals next Thursday or Friday. Sites and match-ups will be announced Sunday.
Simmons’ absence weakens Loyola in several areas. The powerful four-year letterman opens at point guard but is capable of playing several other positions, including a power spot. Simmons is so strong that he is one of Loyola’s best rebounders at only 6-4. Simmons, who started all 30 games this season, is an 18.7-point-per-game scorer and led the WCAC in assists, averaging 5.6. He was also the Lions’ fourth-best rebounder at four per game.
Simmons is one of four Lions who provided a consistent three-point threat. He led all scorers in Sunday’s WCAC semifinal, getting 29 points against Pepperdine. Earlier in the season he scored 28 points at Oklahoma. He had his career high of 38 against U.S. International.
In his place, sophomore Tom Peabody figures to start, with freshman Terrell Lowery coming off the bench. Peabody has started 20 games this season, filling in for Kimble. Coach Paul Westhead will adjust his eight-man rotation, possibly using sophomore Terry Mister as backup point guard. But nobody on the Loyola bench offers Simmons’ combination of guard and power skills or his ability to drive as well as score from the perimeter.
Simmons finishes as the school’s No. 10 career scorer with 1,379 points.
The injury will also slow Simmons’ pro baseball career. The Riverside native was a fourth-round draft choice of the Oakland A’s last June and played in their rookie league, where he hit better than .300 and showed great promise. He was scheduled to report to spring training camp after the basketball season.