LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Gorgui Dieng, the University of Louisville's starting center, No. 2 rebounder and No. 2 assist man, has a broken bone in his left wrist and will be out for an extended time.
In an interview in the Bahamas, U of L coach Rick Pitino said a fracture could sideline him 4-6 weeks, though no timetable for recovery has been set since the fracture was diagnosed. Dieng will see a hand specialist in Louisville Monday to determine the course of action for his fracture, which is to the scaphoid bone, a chestnut-sized bone located just under the thumb.
Dieng injured the wrist when he fell taking a charge in the first half against Missouri on Friday. The wrist was taped up and he played 22 more minutes in the victory, but couldn't go the next night against Duke.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons' web site called the scaphoid "the wrist bone that is most likely to break." That site said a fracture of the portion of the bone near the thumb often has a better blood circulation and heals within a matter of weeks. If the middle of the bone nearer to the forearm is fractured, healing can take longer.
Dr. Samuel Carter of Norton Orthopedic and Health Specialists in Louisville writes in his own blog of Dieng's injury that recovery could take closer to 6-8 weeks, though he has not examined the player and does not know the exact location or type of the injury.
Writing of scaphoid fractures in general, he says:
"Fractures of the scaphoid can be very serious because the blood supply to this bone comes primarily from one small artery and it occurs in a retrograde, or backwards, fashion. The artery enters the bone near the base of the thumb, so when it is fractured the blood supply to the area of the bone near the wrist may be compromised. This can lead to a painful condition called avascular necrosis in which the bone dies, leading to arthritis of the entire wrist joint. The blood supply also affects how quickly fractures in this bone heal. Fractures near the thumb heal well, fractures in the middle (called the waist) heal less well, and fractures near the wrist (proximal scaphoid) have the lowest healing rates. A fracture that doesn't heal leads to a painful condition called a non-union.
Treatment of scaphoid fractures depends on the type of fracture and the activity level of the patient. Non-displaced fractures, where the two fragments did not move away from each other, can usually be treated in a cast. The closer the fracture line is to the thumb, the higher the rates of healing. The cast will usually include the thumb, and often will be below the elbow but occasionally will extend above the elbow. Some scaphoid fractures will require up to 3 months in a cast to heal."
The same injury got a ton of media attention last season when it was suffered by North Carolina guard Kendall Marshall, who missed the NCAA Tournament after fracturing his wrist and undergoing surgery. Marshall injured his wrist on March 17, and said he was still limited somewhat my his rehab in an interview on May 31.
But whether Dieng's injury is of the same type as Marshall's hasn't been disclosed.
What is known is that the No. 2-ranked Cardinals, who lost to No. 5 Duke 76-71 on Saturday night without Dieng, are going to have to get by for a time without him.
The challenges brought by losing Dieng are many. Dieng is a significant defensive presence. He's averaging two blocks per game and altering a high number of shots inside. Pitino had begun to use him at the point of the press, and his ability to defend away from the basket had been improving quickly. Dieng also is a strong help defender and had been averaging eight rebounds per game.
But the Cards will miss him perhaps even more offensively. U of L's offense against zone defenses was at its best this season when it was running through Dieng. Having developed the ability to hit the 15-footer in the middle of the zone, and the ability to find teammates from the high post, he created problems for teams hoping to pack it in against the Cards.
Outside of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, no player on the team had a hand in its identity on both ends as much as Dieng. And while he's likely not lost to the season, that's no small thing to make up for.
The challenge is nothing new for Pitino. He spent all last season adjusting on the fly, remaking his team almost from game to game. But that in part is what makes this stroke of bad luck even more frustrating.
The Cards got capable play from Zach Price and Stephan Van Treese against Duke. But the loss of Dieng is going to put pressure on Montrezl Harrell, the talented freshman with the 7-4 wingspan, to come along more quickly. He's likely going to have to learn to play the five-spot at both ends. If he does, Pitino has a chance to continue with a dangerous lineup on the court.
Moreover, the Cards' offense is going to have to find new facilitators with Dieng on the sidelines.
Against Duke, the Cards utilized Peyton Siva and Russ Smith on drives to attack the Blue Devils. The Cards played a solid offensive game and shot 45.5 percent, but dished out only six assists.
Instead, without Dieng the Cards will have to put even more of a premium on brisk passing and ball movement, and will need to get some inside scoring from Chane Behanan, Harrell and others.
In the end, the loss of Dieng can help others develop. Not having Mangok Mathiang, a 6-10 freshman ruled ineligible this season by the NCAA, now looks like more of a hardship than it did a week ago.
Losing Dieng takes a bit of a dimension away from a deep U of L team. Fans no doubt will be disappointed at the prospect of not having Dieng for the Dec. 29 showdown with rival Kentucky. But the bigger issue for the team is that it will get him back at some point before conference play. Dieng will be able to work out with the team to stay in shape, even if he undergoes surgery. The injury was to his non-shooting hand, which also is a plus.
Still, it's a setback for a program that has had more than its share the past three years. All the Cardinals can do is try to make the most of the situation. The good news for its fans is that it reached a Final Four last season doing primarily that. It's just a bumpy ride that can turn on the flick of a wrist.