One of the most prolific scorers in Boise State men's basketball history will not play the rest of this season.
Senior guard/forward Anthony Drmic will undergo season-ending ankle surgery next week. Drmic has missed the Broncos' last six games. Coach Leon Rice initially rested Drmic to take care of a back injury he'd tried to play through after falling hard when being fouled Nov. 18, but his chronically bothersome left ankle had continued to deteriorate during the season.
Drmic said before the season the ankle, which has bothered him most of his career, was still giving him pain and had hoped it would improve, but it only worsened. He injured it during his freshman year, causing him to miss a game at Iowa, then tweaked it again before his sophomore season, and missed a game last season as a junior because of it. The surgery is expected to clean up bone spurs and tighten the ligaments. The Broncos expect they will be able to obtain a medical redshirt for Drmic once the season is completed, which will enable him to play the 2015-16 season.
"He told me 'I just want to play healthy, I want to play 100 percent,'" Rice said. "He'll probably never be that way with how hard he plays, but he's played hurt a lot. I respect that, but I just don't want to have him do that again."
Drmic, whose back still isn't healed, either, has not used a redshirt season, and NCAA rules for obtaining a medical redshirt entail that the player take part in fewer than 30 percent of his team's game, and must not play in the second half of the season. Drmic played in the first seven games this season, averaging 15.0 points per game. Drmic has scored 1,528 points in his Boise State career, sixth all-time and 416 shy of Tanoka Beard's school record of 1,944.
"He needs to have it done, but we've all seen him, if he could play, he would," Rice said. " we hoped for a bit of a Christmas miracle, but it won't get better without surgery."
Drmic jumped and landed on a Fresno State player's foot, injuring his ankle Feb. 26, causing him to miss the rest of that game and all of the next. He also played with a stress fracture in his right foot last season for more than two months, taking him almost completely out of practices, and in turn caused his numbers to dip from 19.5 ppg in nonconference play to 14.8 ppg in Mountain West games. This season, on Dec. 14 after the Broncos' win over Southern Utah, Rice spoke about Drmic's back, but also noted the ankle was as much, if not more, of an issue.
"I’ll never question his toughness and no one in that locker room ever will," Rice said. "So we have to see where he is. Like I said, his ankle still isn’t good. We cannot have a year where he can’t practice and is struggling through everything. He deserves a better year than last year."
If there is a silver lining for the Broncos, it's two-fold — a team that was set to lose two of the top 10 scorers in school history (Drmic and Derrick Marks) loses only one. And Drmic's injuries have lingered, instead of being a sudden incident, so the Broncos have begun to learn to play without him the last three weeks.
"I thought we'd settled into our roles, but then the reality of basketball kind of hit us in the face with this," Rice said. "It's been a five-year process to put this sort of team together. We've been able to get used to not having him a little bit, but you never really get accustomed to not having someone so important."
Boise State loses seniors Marks, Joe Hanstad, Igor Hadziomerovic, Rob Heyer and Jake Ness after this season. Should Drmic get his redshirt, as expected, next year's senior class will consist of Drmic, Mikey Thompson, Kevin Allen and Montigo Alford.
"It's entered my mind a lot, it was going to be tough losing all those guys, but to get back another leader, a great player, a guy I've played with for so many years, that is exciting — but I wish he was out there right now with us," Thompson said.
Drmic, Marks and freshman center David Wacker did not play last Tuesday in a 48-45 loss to Loyola (Chicago) in Las Vegas. Sophomore forward Nick Duncan played after missing the previous two games with an ankle injury. The Broncos play at No. 24 Colorado State on Wednesday. Rice said he may have leaned on Duncan a bit too much against Loyola, and he could be a gametime decision.
"David seems to be a lot better, and Derrick ... I'd expect him to be good to go," Rice said.