CHAMPAIGN — The Illini’s offseason of injuries continues.
After a season-ending injury to senior point guard Tracy Abrams and an injury that’s sidelined top freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands, head coach John Groce announced Thursday that sophomore forward Leron Black tore his meniscus will miss the next four to six weeks recovering from surgery.
Groce said that Black is slated for surgery Friday.
“He has a meniscus tear,” Groce said. “He is one tough cookie. He’s probably had it for a while, to be honest. A lot of guys might not be able to have that type of pain threshold or tolerance, but he’s a pretty tough dude. So fortunately for us, it’ll be a pretty quick deal. And Leron’s one of those guys that’s very thorough in everything that he does. He’ll have a sense of urgency, he’ll do the right things, he’ll listen to our team doctors, he’ll listen to the trainer. We’re looking forward to his comeback.”
It’s another big blow for the Illini, who are already dealing with the loss of Abrams and the recovery of Coleman-Lands. Black, expected to be a big contributor in 2015-16, started 10 games and averaged 14.8 minutes in 33 games last season. He averaged five points and 4.3 rebounds a game during his freshman season.
Initially, Groce said a four-to-six-week range for Black’s recovery, but he doesn’t have an exact date when Black will return.
“When it comes to stuff like that, to be honest with you, each guy’s different,” Groce said. “You do it long enough, you see meniscus a lot. You’ve seen guys come back, I think we even had a football player here come back pretty quickly. Other guys have had stuff that have come back quickly. I think a lot of it depends on a guy’s body. It’s just his body, each guy’s different. We’re going to do the right thing for Leron and JCL and whoever’s injured. We’re going to listen to their body. And we’re going to trust our doctors and trust our trainer, and when they tell us they’re back, they’ll be back.
“Obviously we have a plan in place, but a lot of times you have to be able to adapt with that plan because you’re dealing with the human body. It’s not a rote date or number of days or weeks, necessarily. Typically, what happens with meniscuses is four to six weeks. I’ve seen some guys come back faster, I’ve seen some guys take four, five, six. But you’ve got to feel like it’s probably somewhere in that range.”
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If Black does miss games during the regular season — which begins Nov. 13 against North Florida — the Illini will have to lean heavily on the other big guys on the roster, of which there are not many. Graduate transfer Mike Thorne is expected to be the team’s starting center. Redshirt freshman Michael Finke and sophomore Cameron Liss are the only other players listed as forwards besides Black, and junior Maverick Morgan is listed as a center.
So Illinois might be forced to play small at times, utilizing four-guard lineups.