Hartford head coach John Gallagher held out Nate Sikma on the team’s trip to Australia and hoped that the senior would be ready for the season.
Months after the 6’7″ senior had his torn left ankle repaired with surgery, an injury that hampered Sikma to just 22 games played and 6.0 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game, Sikma returned in mid-September to practice and has been slowly building since.
“The way he’s been rebounding as of late, he’s been a big surprise,” Gallagher said. “Because of his health I didn’t know what he could give us, but he’s really ready to go. I think he just makes us really deep. We’re five deep at the post position in the front court.”
He will be ready for the Hawks season opener against Sacred Heart on Friday at the TD Bank Sports Center in Quinnipiac.
“He was back ready to go and it was just trying to get him into shape,” Gallagher said of Sikma, who returned to practice in mid-September. “It’s been a very effective last couple of weeks, he’s really made the adjustment.”
Entering his fifth season as Hawks head coach, Gallagher is comfortable with the front court depth because of how strong freshman John Carroll has looked. The Irish 6’8″ freshman impressed in Australia after sitting out the first two games of the team’s trip.
Gallagher had raved about how strong a performance senior Yolonzo Moore II brought to the Hawks on their Australia trip and he has continued to build off that. The 6’2″ senior guard is clear of a sports hernia injury that slowed him down as a sophomore and stunted his growth as a junior.
“He’s our best rebounder from the guard spot right now,” Gallagher said. “He’s a do it all type of guy and I’m excited.”
Gallagher said he is not holding anyone back on Friday due to injury concerns and hopes that continues as they head into their first week. He also said that they are currently still considering redshirting a player, but have not yet come to a decision on who they might redshirt.
The Hawks follow that up with their home opener Sunday against St. Peter’s, followed up by hosting Dartmouth on Wednesday.
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.