It appears that the status of Massachusetts men’s basketball guard Jesse Morgan’s right knee is worse than initially believed.
Initially ruled as a sprain, it was announced Tuesday that Morgan has a torn ACL in his right knee and will miss the remainder of the 2012-13 season. The junior will have surgery next month.
Morgan suffered the injury during the Minutemen’s loss at Saint Louis on Jan. 10 when his right knee buckled on a drive to the lane. He then fell to the floor screaming in pain and had to be helped off the court.
The initial reports were that Morgan would be day-to-day. Now, UMass coach Derek Kellogg and the rest of his squad will have to chase an Atlantic 10 championship and postseason berth without arguably its best perimeter defender and second-leading scorer at 13.4 points per game.
“It’s really bad for Jesse obviously,” Kellogg said. “He worked really hard to be one of our team leaders and one of our better players. To have an injury like that cost him the rest of his junior year is tough for him. It’s tough for our team to a certain extent.”
Morgan was sidelined for Sunday’s win at Fordham and senior Freddie Riley started in his place, playing 36 minutes and scoring 11 points, including a nail-in-the-coffin 3-pointer with 33.9 seconds left to push the Minutemen’s lead to five. Kellogg says he’s gained a lot of confidence in Riley, whose role will continue to increase with Morgan now out for the year.
“Even before Jesse was hurt, I was gaining confidence in Freddie,” Kellogg said. “I think his whole demeanor, it seems like he’s just matured into a senior. He’s not so much worried about how many points he has, he’s worried about winning, which is the most important thing.”
Kellogg is hopeful that Morgan will come back stronger next year after going through the rehabilitation process for his knee.
“The one thing I know about (Morgan) is that he’s going to work his tail off to get that knee strong and come back even better,” Kellogg said. “We’ll be here with him every step of the way.”
Morgan becomes the second UMass guard to be out for a significant amount of time this season. Senior Javorn Farrell hasn’t suited up this year with an ankle injury that he suffered during the offseason. Farrell was another key member of the backcourt, who spent time at the two-guard and the small forward position.
Freshman point guard Trey Davis should also see an increase in playing time in addition to Riley. Davis played a career-high 21 minutes and scored 12 points in Sunday’s victory while Morgan was sidelined.
Stephen Sellner can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Stephen_Sellner.