Injuries bedevil Bulldogs

Updated: November 1, 2003, 2:24 AM ET

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Gonzaga is ranked No. 12 in one major preseason basketball poll, and its exhibition opener is sold out. But all is not well with the Bulldogs.

Many key players have injuries after a couple of weeks of practice, and may not see much playing time against Emporia State on Saturday night.

"There's nothing of a season-ending nature, just a bunch of nagging injuries," coach Mark Few said.

Forward Ronny Turiaf will not play because of a stress fracture. Guard Errol Knight is hobbled with an ankle injury, while Tony Skinner and forward Richard Fox are both nursing knees.

But guard Blake Stepp, who missed nearly all of practice last week with a knee bruise, is back in action.

"It looks like Blake is healthy and ready to go," Few said.

Stepp was last year's West Coast Conference player of the year and played for USA Basketball in this summer's Pan-American Games.

While construction continues on a new $23 million basketball arena next door, the Bulldogs will play their final season in tiny Martin Centre.

The 4,000-seat arena immediately sold out after remaining tickets for the exhibition game went on sale Tuesday.

Emporia State is a longtime power in NCAA Division II, but this is an exhibition game and will not count in the standings. Gonzaga's final exhibition game is Nov. 8 against Northwest Sports.

Gonzaga is ranked 12th in the preseason USA Today/ESPN Top 25 released on Thursday. The Bulldogs were unranked at the end of last season, but beat Cincinnati before losing in double overtime to Arizona in the NCAA tournament.

With all the starters back from that 24-9 team, most preseason polls place the Zags from No. 6 to No. 11. Such early season respect is unprecedented for Gonzaga, which has made five consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament.

The first Associated Press poll is set for Nov. 10 release.

The Bulldogs open their season Nov. 14 against St. Joseph's, ranked 18th in the USA Today poll, in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament at Madison Square Garden. All the injured players are expected to be ready for that game.

They play a typically brutal preseason schedule this year, including games against No. 6 Missouri, No. 17 Stanford and No. 25 Maryland.

Gonzaga continues to lure top players to its campus in Spokane.

Knight, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard who transferred from the University of Washington, becomes eligible to play this season.

Nathan Doudney, a 6-foot-5 guard who started six games for coach Bob Knight at Texas Tech last season, has transferred to Gonzaga. He must sit out this season under NCAA rules and then will have two years of eligibility left.

"He can really, really shoot the ball," Few said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index