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. Westhead is inclined to start Peabody because Lowery has been effective as the first guard off the bench, backing up Fryer and point guard Tony Walker.
The lineup reshuffling, however, may hinge on the sore knee Peabody is nursing. He missed practices early this week but is thought to be on a day-to-day basis. If the injury proves more serious, it would leave Westhead seriously short-handed when the Lions open tonight against Stetson University of Florida. In the other opening match-up, host Jacksonville plays Campbell University of North Carolina. Friday’s winners and losers play Saturday night.
“Without (Peabody) it’s a much bigger problem,” Westhead said. “Hopefully it’ll resolve itself in the next few days.”
The Stetson Hatters bring a 1-2 record into the Loyola game and, though little known, are generally considered a tough team. Their victory came against Bradley, and they stayed within five points of Atlantic Coast Conference power Clemson. Hatters Coach Glenn Wilkes, in his 32nd year, is two victories away from 500.
The Hatters are led by senior guard Maurice Cowan, averaging 20 points, and junior forward Jim Horn at 13.7 points and seven rebounds. Junior point guard Frank Ireland averages 10.3 points and 7.7 assists.
The Lions attack features Kimble at 26 points and seven rebounds per game, Hank Gathers at 23 points and 14 rebounds, Lowery at 14.5 points and 7.5 assists and forward Per Stumer at eight points and 10 rebounds. After two games the Lions are averaging 118 points.
Both Loyola games will be televised on SportsChannel America cable. Today’s game begins at 3 p.m. Pacific time. Saturday’s games begin at 3 and 5 p.m. PST.