Concussions are happening in weird ways in Tucson lately.
First, Arizona football’s kickoff specialist — Edgar Gastelum — got hit on the head with a ball in practice, forcing him to miss a game (and likely lose his spot on the team).
Then, a few days later, Arizona basketball’s Dylan Smith slipped during a 3-on-3 drill and hit his head on the court, giving him a concussion.
“He’s the first player I’ve seen to slip and hit his head and get a concussion. So he’s not practicing now, either, which is amazing,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said after his team’s 78-66 win over Cal State Bakersfield on Tuesday. “It’s almost like ice was on the court. So we’re without him and I don’t know when he’ll return to practice.”
While Smith, a transfer from UNC Asheville, can’t play for the Wildcats this season because of transfer rules, he does practice with the team, and he does it well.
“He’s a big part of what we’re doing because he’s a scholarship player that practices everyday, and he’s a good player, so we got to get him back as well,” Miller said of Smith, who averaged 13.5 points per game as a freshman last season.
Smith’s injury is just the latest in a string of injuries Arizona has been inflicted with this season.
Kadeem Allen is currently sidelined with a knee injury and his return date is unknown, while Ray Smith and Talbott Denny have already been ruled out for the season with their own knee injuries.
Plus, Allonzo Trier hasn’t played in the team’s first two games for unspecified reasons, and it’s unclear when or if he will return this season (though he can practice with the team in the meantime).
The result is Arizona is hurting for depth in both game situations and practice. The solution? Arizona will likely add a walk-on to the roster, Miller said Tuesday.
“We’ve already had a tryout and I think we’ll follow that tryout up with trying to add one more (player),” he said.
Arizona currently has three walk-ons — Paulo Cruz, Jake DesJardins, and Tyler Trillo — and Cruz made a brief appearance in Tuesday’s game.
Soon, a fourth will likely be added to the mix, and his role will be simple — if called upon, play well enough to give the scholarship players a breather or help them get through foul trouble.
Miller thought Cruz did that well against Cal State Bakersfield.
“We don’t need those guys to make offensive plays,” Miller said.
The short-handed Wildcats (2-0) return to the court Friday when they host Sacred Heart (1-1). Tipoff in McKale Center is scheduled for 8 p.m. and the game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.
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