The Bama basketball team got good news earlier this week about incoming player Trevor Lacey, when the 5-star freshman guard was finally cleared and declared eligible by the NCAA.
However, the Tide got equally bad news today about another incoming player, when it was revealed that JuCo transfer center Moussa Gueye tore his ACL during a pickup game with teammates on Wednesday. Gueye had successful surgery to repair the torn ligament this morning in Birmingham.
Gueye is not officially out for the season, but athletes recovering from ACL injuries usually take between 4-6 months to be back to full strength. Even at that time, though, it doesn't mean that they're ready to compete at a high level right away. So while Gueye could, in the best case scenario, be physically recovered by January, it is doubtful he'd be ready to compete before the end of the season.
Gueye's loss will be a big one. He was likely the most game-ready post player in terms of playing the "5" position alongside JaMychal Green. In fact, he had a very good chance to be a starter on this year's squad.
With Gueye now out of the picture, one of two things will have to happen: either one or both of 4-star freshman Nick Jacobs and returning sophomore Carl Engstrom will need to step up in a big way and be ready to contribute major minutes in the post, or Grant will be forced to play with a smaller, quicker lineup with Tony Mitchell spending a good bit of time at the "4" spot.
I think both Jacobs and Engstrom will play some this year, but I'm doubtful either is ready to start or even play big minutes. Therefore, my money is on Tony Mitchell spending lots of time at the "4" spot, which will open up even more playing time for highly-touted freshmen perimeter players Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper at the "2" and "3" spots. With Mitchell's proven rebounding prowess and Cooper's size, I don't think this sort of lineup will put the Tide in a terrible disadvantage rebounding-wise. It should even give Bama more scoring options on the perimeter and allow for more pressure defense, a trademark of Grant's teams.
Even with these options, though, Gueye will be sorely missed this season. He was the player most likely to be the big defensive and rebounding presence inside, and with his loss, Bama is sure to be in a worse position for the upcoming season both on the boards and especially on defense in the paint.