Gophers men’s basketball player Parker Fox suffers right knee injury
Transfer power forward missed all of last season after injuring his left knee
Parker Fox leapt off the floor with one hand on the ball and the other behind his head for a slam befitting a dunk contest; it made a highlight reel the Gophers men’s basketball program posted of summer practices on Saturday.
In Monday’s practice, the athletic, 6-foot-8 forward injured his right knee.
Fox missed all of last season after injuring his left knee, and the Gophers are now determining whether the former Division II All-American from Mahtomedi might miss this season, as well, head coach Ben Johnson said Tuesdsay.
“You feel for him that he’s even put in this position because I saw the work that he put in last year,” Johnson said in a news conference after the first week of summer practices.
Fox, who transferred to the U from Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D., tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in May 2021. Johnson said Monday’s injury occurred during “a normal play.”
“There was a little bit of contact, a little bit of non-contact,” the second-year coach said. “It was in a crowd. It’s unfortunate, one of those things that comes with playing. Now we’ll support him until we find out further information. and obviously hope for the best for him and figure out where we go from there.”
As he rehabbed the initial knee injury, Fox was an enthusiastic teammate on the bench throughout last season when the Gophers finished 13-17 overall, 4-16 in the Big Ten after an undefeated nonconference slate.
“(He) did arguably the best job I’ve been around as far as the rehab,” Johnson said. “He first did (his knee) before he committed, and I pretty much told him he’s out for the year. There was never a rush on his end. Because of that, he took his time and he was diligent. I thought our training staff did a great job. … He was confident and playing well.”
Johnson said if Fox, who has two years of eligibility remaining, has another season-ending injury, the U could look to the transfer portal for another forward but added, “It’s really late, so you’ve got to figure out what is out there.”
“At the same time,” he added, “it can’t impact the next (recruiting) class and you don’t want to make a knee-jerk reaction. At the same time, you have to be fair for the moment right now. If it makes sense, you’ve got to look at it.”
Johnson said one thing he won’t do is talk Eric Curry into playing yet another season. Curry came back for a sixth year after the U’s roster was hit by injuries a year ago.
Fox had a rehab partner in Isaiah Ihnen last season after the 6-foot-10 forward suffered a season-ending knee injury in July. Ihnen has since been cleared for summer workouts.
“(Ihnen) is really good,” Johnson said. “He is so different and unique because he’s a true 6-10 and … he’s a perimeter player, really skilled. I think being around the older guys we had last year has really helped him mature and grow. He has a business-like approach. I know being out a year, he’s hungry.”
The U has not yet submitted the hardship waiver transfer big man Dawson Garcia of Prior Lake needs to be eligible this season. He used his one-time immediate transfer eligibility when he went from Marquette to North Carolina before last season.
“We are going to be as due-diligent as we can,” Johnson said. “We are also at the mercy of the NCAA. You could hand it in early, but still might not get an answer until down the line, so it’s more important on our end that we are crystal clear with the waiver and go from there.”
Johnson has been impressed by the leadership of his new backcourt: transfers Ta’Lon Cooper (Morehead Sate) and Taurus Samuels (Dartmouth). The pair’s ability to command a team and take over ball-handing duties with the departure of Payton Willis will be integral for the U to get out of the basement of the Big Ten standings next winter.
Johnson called 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward Pharrell Payne “one of the top-developed freshman that I’ve been around. Physically, he is made-ready. Now, he’s a freshman still, everything is new.”
The U will take a break from summer practices the Week of July 4 and then return for five straight weeks of work into mid-August.
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