By Ethan Cadeaux, Podcast by Steven Dilsizian
Crushing news came out of College Park Monday afternoon, as news that Terrapins’ center Michael Cekovsky will miss the rest of season with fractured left ankle.
The junior had already missed 10 games earlier this season, dealing with both a strained hamstring and a sprained foot. The 7-foot-1 center posted 10 points in Sunday’s 71-60 loss to No. 11 Wisconsin before suffering the injury with less than five minutes left in the game.
When healthy, Cekovsky was an impact player for the Terps. After bulking up and transitioning his body over the summer, the Slovakian native was averaging a career high 7.6 points per game in just over 13 minutes of action.
“I feel badly for Ceko as he has endured a number of injuries throughout the season,” head coach Mark Turgeon said in the Maryland Athletics press release. “It felt like he was really starting to turn the corner and his best basketball was ahead of him. We anticipate a full recovery for next season and we will be there to support him through the rehabilitation process.”
The loss of Ceko doesn’t bode well for Maryland, who will have to count on big men senior Damonte Dodd and sophomore Ivan Bender even more than before. Dodd has been a dominant force on the defensive end, but the senior is not much of an offensive contributor. Dodd averages just 6.3 points per game.
After seeing limited playing time a year ago, Bender has been a regular in the Terrapins rotation this season. He and Dodd are not the only true big men on the court, which means Bender is sure to see more than his 13.5 minutes per game average.
Despite an increase in playing time, Bender has not been a factor on the offensive end, averaging just 4.2 points per game. At just 6-foot-9, the Bosnian native has trouble competing with larger big men in the Big Ten.
Cekovsky’s injury forces Turgeon to experiment with smaller lineups. Both forwards Justin Jackson and L.G. Gill have seen time at the center position this year. Now, Maryland will be forced to play small ball more than Turgeon might have wanted to.
The Terps rely on their guards as much as any team in the country, but can compete with anyone when their big men are playing well. Although his junior campaign will be cut short, Cekovsky turned in his best season at Maryland to date, and should be a vital piece for next year’s team.
The Terps will take the court for the first time without their junior center when No. 24 Maryland hosts Minnesota at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday.