The Gophers are being careful with junior big man Eric Curry this fall, so he can progress toward making an impact again after two injury-plagued seasons.
Curry, who missed a total of 19 games of the 2018-19 season with knee and foot injuries, participated in full contact drills in Tuesday’s first official practice of the season.
The 6-foot-9 Curry played 15 games last season. But he sat out the final seven games, while having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right foot. Curry hasn’t played a full season since before he missed the 2017-18 season after knee surgery on multiple torn ligaments.
“He’s very, very important when he’s healthy, but he’s missed a lot of time,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said Tuesday. “He did 45 to 50 minutes of non-contact (Monday), and he did some contact. But still we’re bringing him along slowly. We’ll be able to rev that up every couple weeks.”
During 3-on-3 drills Tuesday, Curry competed in full contact. He boxed out for rebounds. He posted up. He tried his best to defend the paint and guard ball screens. After scoring on a baseline layup over Drexel transfer Alihan Demir during one sequence, Curry's teammates cheered him on. He ended practice standing and watching the 5-on-5 session.
When asked if Curry would be ready to play for the Nov. 5 season opener vs. Cleveland State," Pitino said he “would anticipate that."
Curry was the first big man off the bench on the U’s NCAA tournament team as a freshman in 2017. He started in place of freshman Daniel Oturu briefly last season after returning from surgery on his previously repaired left knee. But the highlight of Curry’s shortened redshirt sophomore season was an 11-point, four-rebound performance in 25 minutes off the bench in a 65-64 win Jan. 19 vs. Penn State at home.
“You want depth,” Pitino said. “The stronger you’re building a program you have that. You have versatility and guys who can play multiple positions.”
Recovered from Italy
Sophomore guard Gabe Kalscheur and senior forward Michael Hurt were sidelined with ankle injuries at the end of the Gophers’ trip to Italy last month, but they were both healthy for the first practice.
Kalscheur led the Gophers with 77 three-pointers last season as a freshman, but he scored several times driving to the basket in Tuesday’s scrimmage. He worked on making plays off the dribble this summer.
“Every coach I talk to on the road, he’s the first guy they bring up,” Pitino said about Kalschuer. “Just how tough he is and how smart he is. Obviously, (he’s) a great shooter, so now you have to expand your game.”