Wyoming All-America Candidate Ugo Udezue Gets Surgery; Bailey to Start
By Scott Nulph, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
Dec. 10, 1999
LARAMIE – If nothing else, Thursday was a day the Wyoming men’s basketball team could stop wondering "if" and starting looking at "when."
Cowboys coach Steve McClain announced star junior center Ugo Udezue will undergo additional surgery on his left knee sometime next week. It will be the second surgery in less than six months to correct the problem of persistent pain near the knee cap.
The likely timetable will have Udezue undergoing rehabilitation for the following six weeks, which puts any possible return to the team at the start of February.
That would leave Udezue’s participation for the remainder of the season at around 10 games. UW still has the option of redshirting Udezue, leaving him with two years of eligibility.
"I’ve said all along that we’re going to do what’s best for Ugo," McClain said. "We’ll make the decision on whether he plays or not again this season in about six weeks. Right now all we know is that we’ll be without him for the next six weeks."
For the Cowboys (5-2), it means getting on with the task at hand – trying to get UW to its first NCAA tournament since 1988.
They have won two straight games – 83-64 over Nevada and 83-69 over Mount St. Mary’s – since Udezue went on the shelf.
In his absence, 6-8 sophomore forward Josh Davis has stepped into the center spot. He has recorded back-to-back double-doubles, including a 21-point, 17-rebound effort versus the Mountaineers Tuesday.
"We all know that this is the way Josh is capable of playing," McClain said. "Now the question becomes: Can he play at that level all the time? I don’t know if he can go out and get 21 points and 17 rebounds every night. Those are some pretty good numbers."
Davis has accepted the challenge of moving to the post, a position he had never played until last Saturday night.
"I’m getting more comfortable with it all the time," he said after the St. Mary’s contest. "I still have a lot of work to do on my post moves, but they’re starting to come around."
Thursday’s announcement also means freshman forward Marc Bailey can have the "interim" removed from his name as a starter.
The Cheyenne East product – third on the team in scoring (9.9 ppg) and fifth in rebounding (3.4 rpg) in just over 16 minutes per game – now knows the small forward position is his for the taking. He has started there the last two games.
"It feels a lot more comfortable now," Bailey said. "I’m starting to get into the swing of things and I’m getting used to the style of ball we play."
Bailey said the hardest adjustment is the first few minutes of the game.
"Starting is a lot different than coming off the bench," he said. "The first four or five minutes of the game hit your a lot harder than when you’re coming off the bench."
After averaging 15 points off the bench during the three-game Hawaii trip, the former Thunderbird has scored 12 points in the last two contests. Still, that worries neither Bailey nor McClain.
"The first game I had some nerves because a lot of people said they were going to come and watch from Cheyenne," Bailey said. "I was thinking too much instead of just going out and playing. Now I’ve got a different state of mind."
Added McClain, "He’s just playing like a typical freshman right now. Once he gets adjusted to starting, he’ll be fine."
UW’s next step without Udezue comes Saturday at the Casper Events Center. The Pokes play Montana State in the second game of the Wyoming Shootout at 8:30 p.m.
The Wyoming women also will play Saturday in Casper against Montana State-Billings at 6 p.m.