Arizona Wildcats center Chase Jeter is questionable for Thursday’s game at USC, as he continues to recover from the back injury he suffered Saturday against Oregon State.
Jeter did not practice Monday or Tuesday, but did some light work Wednesday before the team left for Los Angeles.
“I would just categorize Chase as he’s making progress,” coach Sean Miller said after Wednesday’s practice. “When you have a lower back injury ... there’s a stiffness that just is overwhelming, and it affects your movement and it strips you of your confidence to some degree, because every time you turn, land, get ready to jump, you really think about it.
“But we X-rayed him this weekend and X-rays were negative. He’s on some meds, he’s seen our team doctors and he’s feeling better. It’s not as if he’s feeling worse. ... but I can’t really predict how ready he will be for tomorrow’s game.”
Jeter, UA’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, only played five minutes against Oregon State, exiting early in the first half after taking a hard fall that caused him to land squarely on his back, resulting in back spasms.
If Jeter is unable to play against USC or UCLA, the Wildcats will have to lean on Ryan Luther, Ira Lee, Dylan Smith and maybe even former-walk on Jake DesJardins to fill the void in the frontcourt, just as they did against Oregon State.
Luther had 16 points and 11 rebounds while playing the majority of his minutes at the 5. Smith sank three 3s as an undersized stretch 4.
All together, the undermanned Wildcats outrebounded the Beavers, 41-28.
“They’re really big partly because we don’t have any other alternative,” Miller said of Luther, Smith and Lee. “It’s not like we have four other guys sitting there. We knew a long time ago that health this season was paramount because we didn’t have that margin for error. Here we are in mid-January and we’re experiencing a couple question marks, but we have to do the best that we can.”
Miller, coaching staff under the weather
Jeter is not the only one ailing right now. Miller missed Monday’s practice with an illness, falling victim to a virus that has affected his assistant coaches and walk-on Matthew Weyand.
“This is the first time in maybe 27 years that I’ve missed a practice,” Miller said. “When you miss a practice, it feels like you have a million things that you need to do and can’t do ‘em. So I’m glad we finally had the opportunity here to get together before we leave for L.A.”
Sophomore guard Brandon Randolph said it was “crazy” that Miller missed a practice, but UA players downplayed the significance of his absence.
“Nothing really changes,” Randolph said. “Our assistant coaches, our captains and everybody else brings their energy. We obviously realized he wasn’t there, but we still know we have to work and get better every single day. We can’t drop off.”
Miller, who spoke in a soft, raspy voice at Wednesday’s interviews, said he is feeling better.
“We’re business as usual right now and hopefully none of our guys will get (sick),” he said. “Knock on wood.”