Forward's injury 'devastating' for Wildcats
VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Villanova forward Curtis Sumpter will be sidelined indefinitely after re-injuring his left knee in practice and will have surgery next month.
"This is obviously a devastating injury for Curtis and our program," Villanova coach Jay Wright said Friday. "Fortunately, Curtis is incredibly strong, physically and emotionally. I know he will bounce back stronger and better than ever."
Sumpter's injury is a serious blow to the Wildcats, who were expected to open the season in the top 10 and have Final Four aspirations. Without Sumpter, Villanova lost to No. 1 seed North Carolina in the regional semifinal last year.
"I'm just going to try and be even better than I was before," Sumpter said.
Sumpter tore his ACL in the first half of a victory over Florida in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season.
He arrived for the first day of practice last week with a knee brace and said he'd be ready to go by the opener Nov. 8 against Stony Brook. Wright planned to bring Sumpter along carefully and only make him available to practice for about 45 minutes a day.
"In the 45 minutes he was at practice, he was the best player on the floor," Wright said.
Sumpter was injured during practice Wednesday after an awkward landing on a routine layup. Wright said he thought at first Sumpter only hyperextended his knee. But an MRI Thursday showed the injury was much worse.
"I felt stronger and stronger week by week,'" Sumpter said. "I thought I was going in the right direction. Unfortunately, this happened."
There is no timetable for Sumpter's return.
"When I'm ready, I'm ready,'' he said. "If not, I'm going to take my time."
Sumpter also missed three games last season with other knee injuries and finished third on the team in scoring with a 15.3 average.
Sumpter is perhaps Villanova's most versatile player. Besides being the team's only legitimate presence in the post, he plays well from the perimeter, and shot 43 percent from 3-point range (39-for-90) last season.
"We will monitor Curtis' recovery over the next few months," Wright said. "We plan to be very cautious as we move ahead. This is an incredibly gifted young man and he will be given as much time as he needs to fully recuperate."
The Wildcats could shuffle the lineup and fill his spot with Jason Fraser, a 6-foot-9 senior whose career has been stalled by multiple injuries. Chris Charles, Will Sheridan and freshmen Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson and Frank Tchuisi could play more minutes.
"That's what good programs do. We respond to these situations," Wright said.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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