South Carolina coach Frank Martin said third-year sophomore forward Carlton Geathers is unlikely to play this season.
Geathers is 6-10 and 255 pounds, and though he is raw, USC hoped that his return from a right knee injury in the later part of the season might add post depth. But Geathers’ knee wasn’t healing correctly and he had to undergo arthroscopic surgery on it today.
Geathers fractured his knee cap July 19 in a summer pro-am league game in Columbia. The injury required surgery, and when USC announced it, the school said the projected earliest recovery time for Geathers was six months.
But now that Geathers is closing in on seven months since sustaining the injury, and just had to undergo another surgery, he is almost certainly out for the rest of the season.
Geathers, who is from Georgetown, averaged one point and 1.5 rebounds while playing 7.8 minutes per game as a redshirt freshman last season. After playing just two seasons of organized high school ball, he redshirted as a freshman in 2010-11.
USC’s only other true big man on the roster, besides Geathers, is 6-11, 255-pound freshman Laimonas Chatkevicius, who has struggled at times this season. Ditto for 6-8, 220-pound junior RJ Slawson and 6-7, 210-pound freshman wing player Mindaugas Kacinas.
Because of USC’s lack of size, Kacinas and freshman wing Michael Carrera (6-5, 212) have been forced to play in the post. Their length is sometimes an asset there, but they lack the bulk to consistently defend wide-bodied post players like Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes (6-8, 270), who had 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Gamecocks in their last game, a loss on Sunday.
In his first season, Martin has decided to go small and lean more on Carrera and Kacinas than on Slawson and Chatkevicius. The freshmen wings average 21.5 and 21.6 minutes, while Slawson and Chatkevicius average 16.7 and 10 minutes. Chatkevicius didn’t even play against Tennessee.
So USC, at 2-8 in the Southeastern Conference with eight regular season games left, will play the rest of the season with 10 scholarship players. That includes point guard Bruce Ellington, who is technically on a football scholarship. The Gamecocks are also without fifth-year senior shooting guard LaShay Page, who was declared academically ineligible for the rest of the season after the first semester.
USC will try to get a sixth year of eligibility for Geathers. In order to get it, NCAA rules stipulate that an athlete must miss two seasons because of injury or illness. Though Geathers’ official bio does not state that he was injured in 2010-11 while redshirting – or if he redshirted just to develop – Martin said USC has already begun the paperwork for his sixth year.
The Gamecocks will lose just one senior off their current roster – wing player Lakeem Jackson. They have signed three players for next season: shooting guard Justin McKie, center Desmond Ringer and highly recruited wing Sindarius Thornwell, the No. 43 overall recruit nationally, according to Rivals.
If none of the current underclassmen leave with eligibility remaining, then USC will have 12 scholarship players next season, one shy of the NCAA maximum. This presumes that Ellington will continue to be on a football scholarship. He said he hasn’t decided yet if he will play football, basketball or both next school year.
And if the NCAA determines that Geathers was injured while redshirting in 2010-11, he will return next season with three years of eligibility remaining, and will essentially be in the same senior class as the current freshmen (Carrera, Kacinas and Chatkevicius).
But it remains to be seen if Geathers will get the sixth year, or how effective he can be coming off this nagging knee cap injury.
Here’s what Martin had to say at his press conference this morning about Geathers …
“He just had his follow-up about seven days ago, because there was some swelling in the knee that wouldn’t go away, so he’s actually getting that knee scoped today, as we speak. He’s probably just getting out of surgery right now. It’s the knee cap which is the issue. The front part of the knee cap has been healing. The back part of the knee cap, the healing process is nowhere near where it needs to be. So he does all kind of stuff on the court (in practice) from a flexibility, strength (standpoint). He’s been actually jogging the stadium steps (at Colonial Life Arena) while we practice. He’s trying.
“But one thing is spraining an ankle and taping it up. Another thing is when you have the body part reconstructed. The good Lord upstairs is the one who kind of controls how your body heals, and his healing, the early time period was six months, which is what we just passed. But this can go up to 10 months. So I don’t foresee him playing this year. I’ll be very surprised if he wears a uniform this year, especially now that they had to go back in there today. I don’t see him being able to recover before the year is over.”
As for whether Geathers was hurt in 2010-11 and will be able to get the sixth year, Martin said, “I don’t know that answer. I know we’ve already spoken about filing that waiver for a sixth year of eligibility because that would be a second redshirt. I assume … and you know what Benny Hill said about that word back in the day now, and he used to have that classroom session, and he’d put that word on the board and he’d circle it. You didn’t think I knew that one?”
Martin chuckled at the thought of this classic Benny Hill bit.
“But if our training staff is OK with putting that paperwork together, then I’m assuming that two years ago, there was something there (injury-wise),” Martin said. “But I don’t know that answer. You just gave me something else to do today.”
And because Benny Hill is awesome, we’ll close with a hilarious take on his familiar theme.