The Harvard Crimson CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (U-WIRE) -- Talk about sophomore jinxes. Just two weeks before its season opener at Boston College, the Harvard men's basketball team has learned that standout power forward Dan Clemente must undergo season-ending surgery to repair a degenerative ankle condition. The 6'7" Clemente, last season's runaway Ivy League Rookie of the Year, aggravated a pre-existing weakness in his left ankle with several sprains over the summer. When the ankle did not respond to attempts by the Harvard training staff to treat and rehabilitate it, Clemente, coach Frank Sullivan and team physician Arthur Boland made the decision to do reconstructive surgery. "I sprained it for the last time at the end of August, just working out and shooting around by myself," Clemente said. "I was being an idiot and playing on it, not wearing a brace. Then I came to school and played on it, and it started getting ridiculous. I couldn't run on it or anything." Clemente and the Harvard training staff did not originally anticipate that surgery of this magnitude would be required -- as recently as the middle of October, Clemente was not expected to miss substantial time. In consultation with Boland, though, Clemente reached the point where surgery was inevitable. Clemente hopes to undergo the surgery around Thanksgiving, and his recovery timetable is roughly three months. Clemente will wear a cast for five to six weeks, then do rehabilitation for another five to six weeks if all goes according to plan. "Sometimes guys have ankle problems, do surgery and get right back on the court," Sullivan said. "This kind of surgery is a pretty big deal. It's about the biggest deal there is. Dan's going to be out for some time." Clemente emerged as one of the league's dominant four-men last season, finishing with 13.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, ninth and 11th in the Ivies, respectively. And in a conference chock full of sharpshooters, Clemente was seventh at 43.2 percent from three-point range, converting on 48 of 111 attempts. "We had the luxury of having a skilled shooter at the four position last year," Sullivan said. "Dan was somebody who could screen or step behind the line, and we don't have that caliber of shooter at the four anymore. This takes a lot of cute wrinkles away from our offense." His departure poses a host of questions for Sullivan and the Crimson's reconstituted lineup, particularly now that replacements are needed for two spots in the frontcourt instead of just one -- Clemente at power forward and 1998 graduate Mike Scott at small forward or swingman. "That it's a major blow for the frontcourt is the least I can say," Fisher said. "We were hoping Dan would build on what he accomplished last year, but now the spot is wide open." There was talk even before the severity of Clemente's injury was known of switching the sophomore to small forward while replacement candidates like sophomores Tim Coleman and Chris Lewis or senior Bill Ewing filled in at the four-spot. Though all three are veterans, Ewing, Coleman and Lewis have yet to establish themselves as scoring forces in the paint, and certainly none will contribute in the manner that Clemente did from outside. But Clemente's injury will increase the pressure on the Crimson to improve its defense, one of the biggest question marks entering the season. "The challenge is that we lose a significant volume of three-point shooting," Sullivan said. "Good three-point shooting was a buffer to poor defense last year. It bailed us out of some games, kept us close in others." The injury comes as a shock and a terrible piece of luck for a team in the midst of the most successful stretch in program history. With 45 wins in the last three seasons, Harvard tied a school record. The Crimson was picked to finish in the top half of the Ivy and to perhaps even challenge a graduation-depleted Princeton team for second place behind the University of Pennsylvania. Clemente's loss naturally makes a first-division finish more difficult, but team members remain optimistic. "If the people that do the predictions knew that Dan was going to be out for the year, they probably wouldn't think that second or third place was doable, more like third or fourth," Fisher said. "But if we pick things up, there's no reason for a decline."Comments powered by Disqus
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