By Craig Meyer/DFP Staff
Over halfway through its season and stuck at a critical turning point, the Boston University men’s basketball team was forced to cope with yet another setback in what, at that time, had amounted to a 10-13 record as it was announced that junior forward Jake O’Brien would be out for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his injured foot.
The Terriers ultimately went on a run that led them all the way to the NCAA Tournament, even without their sidelined star.
But now, more than seven months later, it’s a reality that they will have to deal with yet again as the school confirmed Monday that O’Brien will miss the entirety of the 2011-12 season after having yet another surgery on the same foot.
“Jake is such a huge part of our program – I think he really exemplifies what we’re all about from a student-athlete standpoint,” said BU head coach Joe Jones. “Any time you lose someone like that, it affects your program.
“But we’re really optimistic that we’ll get Jake back and hopefully this season we can have him back practicing and get him back in uniform when he’s ready to come back.”
O’Brien underwent the procedure on Monday and the decision was made later that day that he would have to miss the upcoming season.
On Monday afternoon, on his Facebook account, O’Brien posted the following message regarding his foot:
“Just got out of surgery to get this foot right, would give anything to play right now, just didnt work out that way…but i WILL be back and 100% for another season”
Sam Perkins of the America East Conference basketball website One Bid Wonders was the first to report the story on Monday.
The Weymouth native and former Boston College High School standout suffered a fractured navicular bone in his left foot last season in a Dec. 31 game at the University of Massachusetts, an injury that forced him to miss the rest of the Terriers’ season.
The team also confirmed that O’Brien will redshirt the upcoming season and will return for his final year of eligibility for the 2012-13 season.
Jones said that he and the team found out a few weeks ago that O’Brien may have to go back in for another round of surgery. Knowing now that O’Brien will miss the season, the team is more concerned with the senior forward’s well-being rather than the potential on-court implications.
“I think the biggest thing right now is that we all feel for Jake,” Jones said. “I don’t think we’ve really thought about how it’s going to affect us as much as we want to be there for him right now.”
While O’Brien’s teammates and coaches are understandably concerned with their injured star on a personal level, his absence from the Terrier lineup will be a profound one for a team that will be without one of its most productive players.
Before getting injured last season, O’Brien was leading the team in rebounds with 5.5 per game to go along with 10.9 points per game. In his sophomore season, he averaged career-highs in points per game (13.8) and rebounds per game (6.4), numbers that helped him earn a spot on the all-America East third team.
Additionally, after a freshman campaign in which he averaged 12.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, O’Brien was named the America East Rookie of the Year.
With O’Brien’s extended absence, the Terriers will also lose a unique threat, as the 6’8” forward has shot no less than 35.2 percent from three-point range in a given season, possessing an ability to stretch the court and create mismatches for opposing teams.
For a BU team that has already lost reigning America East Player of the Year and leading scorer John Holland to graduation, the loss of O’Brien will force some adjustments on a roster that returns all but one player from last season.
Sophomore forward Dominic Morris showed signs of promise and productivity on the low post and from beyond the arc as a starter last season, averaging 5.7 points and 4.6 rebounds en route to collecting all-America East rookie honors. Senior forward/center Patrick Hazel, an all-America East defensive team honoree, also returns, along with other perimeter players like sophomores Mike Terry and Travis Robinson who could potentially be inserted at the small forward position.
But regardless of who in particular fills the void left by O’Brien, Jones knows that someone in some capacity will have to answer the call in order for his team to persevere and succeed in his first season at the helm of the program.
“I think they’re a resilient group,” Jones said. “It’s too early to tell who those guys are right now, but we have some guys that need to be able to step up and play a bigger role than maybe they would have played with J.B. in there. Again, I’m very optimistic that we have some guys who can step up and perform.”