RICHMOND, Va. – Alabama will be down to eight scholarship players when it visits VCU at the Verizon Wireless Arena Saturday (4 p.m.). Crimson Tide Coach Anthony Grant announced that senior guard Andrew Steele had surgery to repair a sports hernia Thursday. It had been previously announced that junior Carl Engstrom, who was injured Dec. 1 against Cincinnati, had a torn ACL and would miss the remainder of the season.
Steele averaged 4.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 assist per game this season in 19 minutes per game. Engstrom, a 7-foot-1 center, was averaging 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds for Alabama this year. He started three games.
The Tide also have three walk-ons, Julian Goode, Keon Blackledge and Dakota Slaughter, on the bench, although they’ve played a combined 30 minutes this season. Alabama’s lack of depth could be an issue against VCU’s high-intensity “Havoc” defense. In addition, Grant’s own “94-Feet, Both Ways” style calls for multiple presses and rugged man-to-man defense. But he says Alabama won’t alter its game plan despite its short bench.
“It won’t take anything off the table from that standpoint,” Grant said Thursday. “Obviously, every game will require different things and you’ve got to game plan for each opponent differently. So for us, I think our guys understand we’ve got to put ourselves in a position to win every game.”
The loss of Engstrom also means the Crimson will have just one available player over 6-8 on their roster, 7-footer Moussa Gueye. Alabama hasn’t been a particularly strong rebounding team this season. The Crimson Tide have been outrebounded by an average of 0.6 boards per game, and guard Rodney Cooper leads the team on the glass with 4.7 per game.
Meanwhile, VCU senior point guard Darius Theus continues to recover from the right knee injury he suffered in VCU’s win over Stetson on Nov. 28. Theus missed the Rams’ win over Belmont Dec. 1, but came off the bench and played 16 minutes Dec. 7 at Old Dominion.
VCU Coach Shaka Smart says Theus, who is averaging 7.4 points and 4.1 assist per game, isn’t back to full strength, but is getting closer.
“He’s really progressing. He’s not 100 percent yet, but he’s really progressing,” Smart said Wednesday. “You can always tell when a guy who is hurt is feeling better because he starts jumping around on his own when he’s shooting and doing things on the court.”
In his absence, sophomores Teddy Okereafor and Briante Weber have shared point guard duties.