Fractured Fibula Sidelines Sherrill

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UVa will have to replace the minutes of Will Sherrill after his injury.

During Monday night’s ACC-Big 10 Challenge upset by Virginia, senior captain Will Sherrill crumpled to the floor as Minnesota’s Colton Iverson fell on top of him. Sherrill immediately reacted in obvious pain from the weight and force of Iverson’s 6’10”, 258-pound body hitting his right leg. Official word came Wednesday that Sherrill fractured his fibula on the play and there is no concrete timetable for his return this season.

“Unfortunately, he fractured his fibula. He’ll come here and get some more tests and then we’ll see how long it will take,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “We don’t have a timetable on it yet, but you could tell when he went down because he’s a tough kid, a tough young man that he was in a lot of pain. I thought maybe it was his ACL or an ankle or something. … Right away, he was hurting.”

The loss of Sherrill will have a significant impact on the Hoos. Through the season’s first seven games, Sherrill averaged 6.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in 22.1 minutes per game. He knocked down 12 of 22 3-pointers, a 54.5% clip, as well – Bennett underscored the importance of his ability to stretch the floor and take some congestion away from Mike Scott in the paint area.

“He’s been playing well for us. I’m happy for him and he’s really been providing good leadership and his smarts,” Bennett said. “That will be something certainly that we will have to adjust to and throw another one of the first years in the mix. It will be an opportunity for them and a challenge for them.”

The freshman candidates do not include James Johnson at this time. The plan to redshirt the 6’9″, 234-pound forward will remain unchanged.

“Right now nothing has changed with that. We need to find out a little bit more on Will, the length of the recovery, how he progresses but as of right now that’s not in consideration,” Bennett said. “For Akil [Mitchell] and for Will Regan , there will be opportunities there and we’ll keep marching forward. It’s not out of the realm if something else happens, but we’re going to keep it as it is for the time being.”

As Bennett noted, that means freshmen Akil Mitchell and Will Regan will get the first crack at providing some of the post minutes behind upper classmen Scott and Assane Sene . Regan (6’8″, 222) played one short minute at Minnesota and promptly picked up two fouls trying to play post defense, while Mitchell (6’8″, 221) did not see any action. On the season, Regan has played 33 minutes in 6 games; he has 8 total points with one 3-pointer as well as 6 rebounds. Mitchell, meanwhile, has picked up 42 minutes in 5 games; he has posted 7 total points and 14 rebounds.

The bigger issue in replacing Sherrill, however, is on the defensive end. While Sherrill is not a bruiser at 6’9″ and 226 pounds, he understands the Pack-Line defense as well as anyone on the team and is the best team or “pack” defender in the post for the Cavaliers. Sherrill moves well within the context of help defense, slides around the paint effectively, and times his double teams on post traps better than anyone on the roster. While he does give up some bulk, he also positions himself well against post-ups with good footwork and balance. As for the defensive glass, Sherrill displayed quite a bit of improvement from 2009-2010 when he had 52 defensive rebounds in 30 games, an average of 1.7 per game. So far in 2010-2011, Sherrill grabbed 21 D-Boards in 7 games, an average of 3.0 per game and close to twice his average of a season ago.

In their limited minutes to date, Regan and Mitchell are struggling with the Pack-Line’s similar nuances. A step late here or there can wreck the defense and give up untimely shots or rebounds. Sene, who had some issues during his first year with the Pack-Line as well, has done a better job of understanding and executing the tenets that the freshmen to date. Soaking up the Pack-Line may be the biggest challenge for the freshmen to give quality minutes in Sherrill’s absence.

“Absolutely,” Bennett said. “On the defensive end, he has good anticipation because he’s been through the system, he’s a heady player, and if we decide to trap the post, he’s there on the catch. He is probably our best post team defender. That’s a significant loss in that regard. Akil can actually slide his feet and move and does a pretty good job on perimeter guys, but there’s another art to the physicalness and the fight for positioning and the footwork going on in the interior. That will be a challenge. Hopefully those guys will learn. We’ll certainly have to be creative at times too.”

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