UVA frosh Kihei Clark to have wrist surgery: Status uncertain

Kihei ClarkBad news for UVA basketball fans following the fourth-ranked Cavaliers’ 57-49 win over VCU: freshman guard Kihei Clark is set to undergo surgery on Monday.

Clark, a 5’9” freshman who has emerged as a surprise starter this season, was injured in Virginia’s win over Morgan State on Monday, and played 33 minutes in the VCU game with a protective cast on his left wrist.

Coach Tony Bennett was noncommittal after the game in terms of providing any kind of timetable for a return for Clark, who had nine points, and contributed his usual annoying ball-pressure defense.

“His status is this: he is going to have surgery tomorrow,” Bennett said. “During the Morgan State game, he injured his wrist, got a hairline fracture, so he will have surgery tomorrow. He practiced a couple of days with the protective cast, what they do with football players, and you could see that a few times it affected him.

“We will just go from there as far as a timeline after surgery, based on how things heal and what he can do after that. He will go back into the cast and take it from there,” Bennett said.

On top of just gutting things out in a game where the ‘Hoos clearly needed him, Clark also was the impetus behind what was unofficially the second Tony Bennett smile in his tenure at UVA.

After a Ty Jerome three had tied the game at 43, Clark, applying ball pressure in the backcourt, forced a 10-second backcourt violation on the Rams.

“He about made me jump out of my shoes when he got that 10-second call. Our staff said, ‘I have never seen anybody do that on an individual turn,’ and I said, ‘I have. Muggsy Bogues.’ I said that I used to play with him and he used to do that to people. I thought that was terrific,” Bennett told reporters after the game.

Bennett played in Charlotte with the diminutive Bogues, a 5’3” dynamo from Wake Forest who had a 14-year NBA career.

“No I haven’t seen (Coach Bennett) that excited,” Jerome told reporters after the game.  “When De’Andre [Hunter] hit the buzzer-beater at Louisville, that was the first time I’ve seen him smile. This was the most amped I’ve ever seen him. They were trying to bring the ball up the court and call timeout, but the player couldn’t even get to halfcourt to call it. That’s how good of a job Kihei does on the ball.”

As good as he was on the defensive side, Clark was noticeably limited on the offensive end against VCU. Since earning the starting role, alongside Jerome and Kyle Guy in the UVA backcourt, Clark has been the team’s primary ballhandler, allowing Jerome and Guy to operate in the Mover-Blocker offense off screens on the wings, in the process making the ‘Hoos that much more effective in halfcourt sets.

That was missing on Sunday, as Guy took over the lion’s share of the effort in bringing the ball upcourt, and he and Jerome shared time at the point, meaning they weren’t running off screens and creating as they had been of late.

Clark told reporters after the game that he was injured taking a charge in the Morgan State game.

Bennett said Clark pushed him into playing against VCU.

“He said, ‘Coach, I want to play,’ so we practiced him with that cast on to protect the wrist, and he was effective in practice, and it didn’t affect his heart or his legs, that is for sure,” Bennett said. “I think that going left, it was an issue, but he brought what we needed with the drive. That is the status. Hopefully it will go well tomorrow, and we will give you more updates going forward.”

Column by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press
augusta free press news