After a 4-4 start to conference play, the University of Miami men’s basketball team is looking for some sort of spark to finish the regular season on a high note.
Wherever that spark comes from, it will happen without Bruce Brown.
UM announced Tuesday that Brown, a sophomore guard, will undergo surgery on his left foot Thursday. He is expected to miss about six weeks — a timeline that lines up with the start of the NCAA Tournament.
“I talked to Bruce for a long time,” coach Jim Larranaga said. “He’s disappointed, but he’s very optimistic. He’s hoping six weeks is the long side of it, maybe he can get back sooner. He’ll do whatever the doctors tell him to do.”
Larranaga said he’s not sure exactly when Brown suffered the injury but noted that Brown indicated to a team trainer after Saturday’s overtime loss to Florida State that his foot was bothering him. Brown left practice on Monday, and Larranaga said they are taking a “wait and see” approach with Brown’s recovery.
Regardless, the Hurricanes are now without one of their most dynamic players. Brown has played in 19 of the Hurricanes’ 20 games this season and leads the team in rebounds per game (7.1), assists per game (4) and steals per game (1.3) while ranking second on the team, averaging 11.4 points per game. He scored a season-high 23 points in Miami’s 80-74 win against Florida State on Jan. 7.
“Bruce has been a great leader (and) competitor. I think he’s shown the ability to be a very explosive, dynamic college player,” Larranaga said. “He probably put too much pressure on himself and had some games that were not like Bruce Brown games. I felt like he was reaching a point where he was getting ready to explode and have a series of games where he was the best player on the floor.”
With Brown’s injury, freshman Lonnie Walker will likely be relied on more as the season progresses. Walker is third on the team averaging 10.8 points per game but has seen his numbers flourish over the last five games. In that span, Walker has averaged 19 points while shooting 45.2 percent from the field. Senior Ja’Quan Newton, sophomore DJ Vasiljevic and freshman Chris Lykes could also see extended playing time down the stretch.
But Larranaga said he doesn’t anticipate relying on just one person to replace Brown’s production.
“It’s not like you get a flat tire and you replace it with another tire. It doesn’t really work that way. Guys can’t change who they are and take on his responsibility. What really does it work, no matter who you are, play really well. Whatever you’re good at, do that. Maybe someone else will step up.”
Miami (15-5, 4-4 ACC), which dropped out of the AP top-25 poll two weeks ago, hosts Pittsburgh on Wednesday at 7 p.m.