7-Footer Aziz N'Diaye's ''Great News'': No Knee Tear
Dec. 12, 2011
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - The best sight for the Huskies upon their return from New York: Aziz N'Diaye walking around Alaska Airlines Arena without those mega-long crutches he had for Saturday night's flight home.
Their best sounds came minutes later Monday afternoon. Coach Lorenzo Romar announced an MRI exam from the morning showed his 7-footer has no torn knee ligaments. That was the team's fear after N'Diaye had to be helped from the Madison Square Garden court by assistants Saturday following an awkward landing on a dunk early in the second half against Duke.
"Great news," Romar said of it being a sprain instead of an anterior cruciate ligament tear inside a right knee N'Diaye had reconstructed a couple years ago.
The coach said the worst case would be that his center misses the final three non-conference games before Pac-12 Conference play begins on Dec. 29 against Oregon State.
N'Diaye is all but out for Friday's 7:00 p.m. game between Washington (4-4) and UC-Santa Barbara (4-2) at Alaska Airlines Arena (ROOT Sports television, the Washington IMG College radio network and here on GoHuskies.com with game-chat analysis and the only live play by play on the internet).
Yet the fact he was walking instead of limping on crutches into the UW Medicine clinic to have swelling drained from the knee was huge.
"Thank God," he said. "Yeah, it's a relief. I've been through that (ACL tear) before. I don't want to go through that again.
"Thank God everything came out all right."
The Huskies were equally relieved. They rely on N'Diaye's dominance of the lane, especially on defense. Duke's Mason and Miles Plumlee, both 6-11, flourished inside after N'Diaye got hurt.
"Oh, man. He means so much to this team. You have to play an entirely different way without him in there," Romar said. "Even in the Duke game, defensively there wasn't a whole lot going on in the paint when he was in there. Second half, when he was not in there, those (big) guys started taking over. But he was able to neutralize them.
"Aziz now moves his feet defensively. It's hard to get around him and score against him."
While N'Diaye is out, Romar said the Huskies won't exclusively use the four-guard arrangement that rallied them from 19 points down against Duke to within six in the second half.
At the very least, the success of the four guards - Abdul Gaddy, Tony Wroten, C.J. Wilcox, and Terrence Ross - with senior forward Darnell Gant gives UW more versatility than it had before the games against Marquette and Duke in New York last week.
Still, Gant knows how important N'Diaye is in the middle.
"It's definitely good news (that he won't be out long)," Gant said. "That's our enforcer down low.
"We need him back ASAP."
Romar says practice this week will determine who steps in at center. Desmond Simmons is the most likely candidate next to the 6-8 Gant, if the Huskies stay with two bigger men instead of using four smaller ones.
Simmons, a 6-7 redshirt freshman, found himself in the middle of half-court defenses against Duke for the first time since he was at Salesian High School in Richmond, Calif. That was after N'Diaye got hurt with 19:16 left in the game.
Simmons had six rebounds, three assists and three steals in a season-high 32 minutes Saturday.
"If that's the case, I'm ready for it," he said of subbing for N'Diaye. "No problem."
Simmons and his Huskies are also ready for this week following three consecutive losses. Washington allowed a 3-pointer late in regulation then lost in overtime at Nevada on Dec. 2 to begin the trip that ended in New York.
"This is going to be a hungry week for us," Simmons said. "We are hungry to get a win."
QUICK SHOT: Romar went out of his way to praise the fan support his team got 2,800 miles away in New York. The UW ticket office sold about 500 tickets for last Tuesday's game against Marquette in the Garden and 1,500 for the Duke game. Yet it looked and sounded like far more than that were roaring for the Huskies. "I was amazed - I mean, AMAZED - by our fans and how they travel," Romar said. "I mean, NCAA tournament games, last year in Maui ... Then, there were more Duke fans there (on Saturday), but they weren't louder than our fans. And this was in New York. Our fans were fantastic. It made me very, very proud that we would have that type of support. We knew we had it here in Seattle. But we had it all the way across the country ... It was refreshing to see that."