Marquette coach Shaka Smart confident that Tyler Kolek will play again at some point this season

Tue, Mar 5, 2024
NCAAB News (AP)

Marquette coach Shaka Smart confident that Tyler Kolek will play again at some point this season

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Marquette coach Shaka Smart is optimistic that Tyler Kolek's oblique injury won't knock the 2022-23 Big East player of the year out for the remainder of the season.

Smart acknowledged Tuesday that "barring a miracle," Kolek won't play in the eighth-ranked Golden Eagles' two regular-season games Wednesday against No. 2 UConn (26-3, 16-2 Big East) and Saturday at Xavier (15-14, 9-9). Marquette (22-7, 13-5) had announced Monday that the 6-foot-3 guard wouldn't be available for those games and would be re-evaluated before next week's Big East Tournament in New York.

"We feel very confident that he will be able to play at some point very soon," Smart said Tuesday.

Kolek suffered the injury during a 91-69 victory over Providence on Wednesday. Smart said after the game that Kolek told him he made a pass, twisted his body and felt it. He left the game early in the second half, returned briefly and then left again for good.

The injury caused Kolek to miss Marquette's 89-75 loss at No. 10 Creighton on Saturday. Smart said Tuesday there's a "distinct possibility" that Kolek could return for Marquette's Big East Tournament opener on March 14.

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"I'm sure he probably doesn't fully communicate how much it eats him up," Smart said. "He's a guy that, it's hard for him to go a matter of hours without going back to the gym and working on his game. So to go days in a row where he can't really do much is a challenge.

"But at the same time, he verbalized to me that it's good that each day he's able to do a little bit more. He was on the bike yesterday. He lifted weights today. So he's making progress towards coming back, which is awesome."

Kolek has 7.6 assists per game to lead all Division I players, and he also averages 15 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. That follows a 2022-23 season in which Kolek was an Associated Press All-America third-team selection while helping Marquette win the Big East's regular-season and tournament titles.

Smart also indicated Oso Ighodaro should be available for Wednesday's game with UConn after an illness prevented him from playing at Creighton. Ighodaro has a team-high 7.3 rebounds per game and is the Golden Eagles' third-leading scorer with 14 points per game.

"He's feeling much better," Smart said. "He had a really tough flu bug and literally wasn't able to leave the hotel when we got on the bus to go to the Creighton game. But he's doing much better. He practiced yesterday."

Chase Ross, who averages 6.5 points and 20.9 minutes, played against Creighton but also wasn't feeling well that day. Smart said Ross didn't practice Monday but is expected to practice Tuesday.

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