STILLWATER — An innocent practice play might have altered the outlook of Oklahoma State's basketball season.
Brian Williams threw down a two-handed slam Monday in practice — something many figured he'd make commonplace this season — but after the athletic finish, OSU's starting forward fell awkwardly.
The tumble fractured his left (non-shooting) wrist and tore some tendons. Surgery came Wednesday, and Williams is expected to miss the entire 2012-13 season.
“From what I understand, he's going to be in a cast for three months and he needs another month, month and a half to rehab,” coach Travis Ford said after Friday night's Homecoming and Hoops festivities.
It's another tough break for Ford and the Cowboys, with expectations and pressure building for what many believe is an NCAA bid or bust season in Stillwater.
Williams averaged 9.6 points as a redshirt freshman last year (12 per game in conference play) and was slated as the team's power forward in an athletic starting five.
“Knowing he was going to be a starter, it hurts real bad,” guard Markel Brown said.
And now Ford is forced to replace the underrated 6-foot-6 swingman. Jean-Paul Olukemi may slide into the starting lineup, or Ford said he might go bigger with Kamari Murphy. That is yet to be decided.
For Williams, the nightmare news could be worse. He still has a medical redshirt season available, meaning he will start the 2013-14 campaign as a 21-year-old sophomore.
“In four or five years, he'll be the oldest college basketball player in America,” Ford said. “It's a tough break for him first and foremost. He's one of our hardest working players.”
Down the road, that could benefit the Cowboys. But right now, it's just the most serious of examples in an already injury-riddled first week. And a bad omen for a team that struggled to stay healthy last year.
Olukemi is recovering from an ACL injury, and center Phil Jurick is coming back from an Achilles tear. Both have been limited in early practices, but should be ready for the season opener.
Marcus Smart and Phil Forte also have been out recently (and missed Friday's exhibition festivities) because of illness. But that's been more precautionary than anything.
“The last three days, we've been four-on-four, haven't been able to play five-on-five,” Ford said. “I'm giving them off tomorrow, which wasn't supposed to be a day off. With all that said, the only one that's serious is Brian. The rest are guys we hope will be coming back next week. … But it's been tough.”