Injuries and off-court issues were to blame for the Gophers men's basketball team failing to live up to big-time hype last season, and now the injury bug has bitten them again.
Head coach Richard Pitino announced Monday that redshirt sophomore Eric Curry underwent knee surgery and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
"I can't stress how important Eric is to our team," Pitino wrote in his blog. "We need him back healthy and better than ever! It's going to be a very challenging November without him. Everyone else is going to have to step up."
The 6-foot-9 forward missed all of last season after tearing his ACL, MCL and meniscus in his left knee during a summer game, a brutal injury for a player who Pitino hoped would have a major impact after jumping onto the scene as an impactful freshman the year before.
Curry's absence could vault true freshman Daniel Oturu into the starting the lineup alongside All-Big Ten-caliber senior power forward Jordan Murphy. Oturu led Cretin-Derham Hall to a championship over Tre Jones, now at Duke, and Apple Valley in last year's Minnesota high school state tournament.
"Very good in both games," Pitino said of Oturu's performance in an exhibition game against Creighton and a team scrimmage held recently. "Very efficient on the block. Has to sprint the court more. Love his timing when he blocks shots. Going to be thrust into a bigger role while Eric is out. We need him to be ready!"
Curry's recovery time of 4-6 weeks means he'll likely be back the week after Thanksgiving or in mid-December, which could keep him out anywhere from 6-11 games, including early Big Ten matchups with Ohio State (Dec. 2) and Nebraska (Dec. 5).
Minnesota opens the season Nov. 6 against Nebraska-Omaha.