Marquette men’s basketball announced on Wednesday that sophomore guard Greg Elliott will miss between eight and 12 weeks after undergoing thumb surgery. It’s identified in the press release as the same thumb that was injured last season (please note the brace on his hand in the picture at the top of the page) but did not require surgery.
Elliott averaged 4.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 18.3 minutes per game as a freshman last season, all while essentially playing one-handed because of the injury and the brace on his hand. He was something of a pleasant surprise for Golden Eagles fans, as he came into the year as the least regarded prospect of the three freshmen that played last year and, in fact, was the fourth of the four recruits to commit to Marquette. He ended up finishing in the top 300 players in the country in terms of Offensive Rating, Block Rate, and Steal Rate on KenPom.com, and finished #400 in the country exactly in two-point shooting percentage.
He was presented with an opportunity to make a big impact on the 2018-19 Marquette squad. Someone was going to have to vacuum up the nearly 33 minutes per game that Andrew Rowsey played as a senior, and the two most likely candidates for that time were Elliott and graduate transfer Joseph Chartouny. For now, at least, that plan is on hold.
Let’s address the math issue here.
Elliott’s surgery was on Wednesday according to the Marquette press release, and recovery time from the date of surgery is usually expected at eight to 12 weeks. Eight weeks from Wednesday is December 5th, the day after Marquette is slated to host UTEP at Fiserv Forum in their ninth game of the season, and three days before hosting Wisconsin. 12 weeks out falls on January 2, 2019, the day after Marquette visits St. John’s to start the Big East schedule.
In other words, it appears that Elliott will miss somewhere between nine and 14 games.
The question then becomes what to do with Elliott after his recovery, and that’s not going to be a question that we’re going to have an answer for until his potential return draws closer. For example, if head coach Steve Wojciechowski has the team humming like a finely tuned machine on both ends of the court, do you have a conversation with Elliott about maintaining his redshirt status that he’ll be covered by up to that point of the year? Sit out the rest of the way and have three years left to go? It’s a challenging conversation to tell a 19 year old that they might upset the playing chemistry if they’re inserted into the lineup, but if MU finds themselves nationally ranked with a record of say, 9-1 after the Wisconsin game, maybe you have to have that conversation.
On the other hand, it’s possible that Elliott’s particular set of skills are crucial for the team, and while things aren’t going poorly by any stretch on December 15th, maybe the squad is best served by getting him 20 minutes a game one way or another. One of the expected hallmark of this year’s Marquette team was going to be the roster depth and flexibility at Wojo’s disposal, and without Elliott available until December, that flexibility is going to be reduced to a certain degree.
In any case, it’s a long time between now and December, and a lot of things can happen. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. Best wishes to Greg on a speedy and pain-free recovery.