Wyoming standout Graham Ike will miss a minimum of six to eight weeks with a lower leg injury. It's a massive hit to the Cowboys as Ike was one of the two players Jeff Linder's squad relied on the most last season.
Linder said it was a "wear and tear" type of injury
"There's never good timing, but it's one of those things, thankfully, that I think we caught early to where it didn't turn into something even bigger," Linder said.
"We are going to make sure we are really cautious with him and making sure that he is fully healed before we bring him back. We are not going to risk his future."
The 6-foot-9 forward was the team's leading scorer through 2021-22 with an average of 19.5 points per game while shooting 51% from the field. He almost averaged a double-double as he also registered 9.6 rebounds per game. Ike ranked No. 30 in the nation in points per game and No. 21 in rebounding.
He only appeared in 12 games the previous season as he was still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in high school. He had a breakout year through the 2021-22 season and that momentum was expected to continue. Ike was named the 2022 Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year, was on the MW Preseason All-Conference Team along with teammate Hunter Maldonado, and was also selected to the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award watch list. Ike was was the No. 92 player in the nation in the preseason rankings.
Linder's plan this season was to find more balance so the Cowboys didn't have to be as reliant on Ike and Maldonado -- one of the most decorated players in Wyoming basketball history. Maldonado averaged 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. He will have to continue that dominance this season if the Cowboys want to succeed, but he will also get help from his teammates.
"It's unfortunate but it's a reality, next man up," Linder said. "We got a lot of depth on this team. It's hard to replace a guy who was Preseason MW Player of the Year, 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds), and what he provides from a defensive standpoint."
One of the ways Linder looked to find balance was by landing transfers USC's Ethan Anderson and Max Agbonkpolo, along with UCLA's Jake Kyman. All three can help in the offense, while the USC duo can also add versatility to the defense. Linder said they will take some time to adjust, but the potential is there.
Wyoming didn't make the AP Top 25 preseason poll, but the received votes. They were picked second in the Mountain West preseason poll, behind San Diego State.
Ike is the second top MWC player who was been injured in preseason workouts. Colorado State's Isaiah Stevens -- a 2021-22 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award finalist -- was deemed out "indefinitely" after he suffered a foot injury during practice in October.