Ike could make Wyoming debut this weekend
LARAMIE -- Jeff Linder is tempering expectations.
For you and Graham Ike.
The 6-foot-9 freshman from Aurora, Colo., has yet to play a game in a Cowboys' uniform while he's recovered from offseason ACL surgery. That could all change this weekend with Nevada coming to town.
"We are hoping that he might be able to play during this series," Linder said Thursday afternoon. "So, we'll know more here later today. But, you know, it's a good chance we'll get him back."
In April, Ike (eek-a) became the last Cowboy to sign on the dotted line in Linder's initial recruiting class in Laramie. The first-year head coach called the 245-pounder from Overland High School a "late, special addition" to the team.
He also offered up this quote: He hopes Ike is "one of the best post players I ever coach."
That's why Thursday Linder reminded the media -- and you -- that he is easing Ike back in.
"You can't can't expect him to come out and be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar," Linder said. "I mean, he hasn't played in 14 months. But at the same time, I mean, he's a guy that, you know, his feel for the game and his size is incredible."
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It's no secret the Cowboys interior defense has struggled throughout the season, but especially in the team's six Mountain West games. Fresno State's Orlando Robinson made light work of the Pokes' makeshift post players, who were without the services of big man Eoin Nelson.
Nelson suffered a left lower-leg injury on New Year's Day and Linder says he "won't be back anytime soon."
That has forced Hunter Thompson into the paint. Freshman Jeremiah Oden has also moved to the five spot at times to give Wyoming some length.
Robinson netted 48 points in the Pokes' two-game series with the Bulldogs, including a career-high 33 in the finale. Abu Kigab, Boise State's athletic forward, scored 36 in a pair of wins in Laramie.
Even Air Force's Keaton Van Soelen chipped in with 13 in a 72-69 victory over Wyoming last Saturday.
"They've got the size and the ability down low to beat you up a little bit," Linder said of Nevada's big men. "That's kind of been our Achilles heel is our ability to guard the post and that's also been a byproduct of us having to play smaller."
Ike is listed as a three-star recruit, per Rivals.com. He was named Second Team All-Colorado as a junior after averaging 17.6 points per game and 12 rebounds. He missed nearly his entire senior campaign with a knee injury. Despite not playing his final year, Ike was still heavily recruited by programs like Washington State, UMass, Bucknell and Loyola Marymount.
Linder said in April that Ike reminds him of current assistant coach, Shaun Vandiver, when he was a high school standout. Vandiver went on to the University of Colorado and later became a first-round draft pick by the Golden State Warriors.
Expectations are sky high, but Linder wants everyone to be realistic.
"So, if he gets in there, I told him don't be too hard on yourself," he said. "Because, I mean, you're a freshman. You're getting thrown in the mix. I mean, as to all freshmen, the game moves fast. But to get him out there for a few minutes here and there will definitely help us on both ends of the floor."
Wyoming hosts Nevada Friday night at 6 p.m. MST