Virginia basketball true freshman point guard Kihei Clark had surgery to repair a hairline fracture of his left wrist on Monday (December 10). Cavalier head coach Tony Bennett said on his December 10 Coach’s Corner radio show that the surgery “went well,” but there is no timetable for Clark’s return.
“We don’t have a timeline exactly,” Bennett said during Coach’s Corner. “It’ll be when, you know, just how he heals and everything comes together. We’re always hoping sooner than later. We have some of the best doctors. Doctor Bobby Chhabra is one of the best surgeons out there. He did a great job with [De’Andre Hunter’s wrist injury suffered during the 2018 ACC Tournament] and I know he’s done the same with Kihei.”
Discussing Clark’s recovery process, Bennett said: “He just had the surgery and obviously the incision has to heal. There’s a period where you can’t sweat with the cast on. I don’t know if they X-ray or if they just examine it to see how the healing is going, and then you go from there as far as when you can start doing things.”
“Whenever he can play he’ll have to play again with the protective cast on,” Bennett added. “Hopefully, it’ll be scaled down. And then as time progresses you get into less, a splint, then it goes to tape is sort of the steps.”
The 5’9” Clark suffered the injury during Virginia’s December 3 blowout victory over Morgan State. Coach Bennett wasn’t certain the Cavaliers would have the Woodland Hills (CA) native’s services for Sunday’s (December 9) contest versus VCU. However, Clark was able to play versus the Rams and scored 9 points including 7-of-7 from the free throw line while adding 4 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals. Clark committed three turnovers while wearing a protective cast on his left wrist.
Two outstanding second half defensive plays from Clark – the first when he single-handedly forced a VCU 10-second half court violation; the second when he poked the ball away from Rams point guard Marcus Evans, forcing a tie-up that gave UVA possession – helped fuel a Cavalier 19-6 game-ending run to dispatch the Rams, 57-49.
“He about made me jump out of my shoes when he got that ten second call,” Bennett said in his VCU postgame comments. “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. His heart and his ability, we watched this against high quality players, because [Marcus] Evans is a terrific player for them. He just sets the defense and how can you not be excited if you are behind that defensively. He played with great heart.”
Bennett relayed to the media following the VCU win that Clark would have surgery on Monday.
“During the Morgan State game, he injured his wrist, got a hairline fracture, so he will have surgery,” Bennett said. “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. But 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. I think that going left, it was an issue, but he brought what we needed with the drive.”
Clark has hit the ground running for the now AP no. 6 Cavaliers, playing no fewer than 22 minutes in all nine of UVA’s games. He is averaging 5.8 points per game while making 81.3% of his free throws (13-of-16), has dished out 26 assists to only nine turnovers, and has 10 steals. The former Taft Charter star has started each of the past four games for the Hoos, averaging 32.5 minutes per game in that span.
The undefeated Cavaliers don’t play again until December 19, when they travel to South Carolina. UVA finishes out the year with home games versus William & Mary (December 22) and Marshall (December 31) before beginning the new year with an ACC home contest versus no. 10 Florida State on January 5.