MIAMI (AP) — Dynamic Miami Hurricanes point guard Chris Lykes is back at practice and may be back in action for the first time in two months Saturday against No. 16 Virginia Tech.
Lykes has played in only two games this season and has been sidelined since Dec. 4 because of a sprained ankle, one of several injuries that have left Miami shorthanded all season. His availability will be a game-time decision, and coach Jim Larranaga declined to predict how much Lykes might contribute.
“After two months of not playing and having maybe two practices under his belt, I have no idea what to expect,” Larranaga said Friday. “And neither does he.”
But Lykes’ return would provide a big boost. The 5-foot-6 senior was a preseason first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference pick after leading Miami in scoring a year ago.
Teammate Harlond Beverly smiled when asked how Lykes looked Thursday during his first practice in weeks.
“Chris always looks great anytime he touches the basketball,” Beverly said. “It’s Chris Lykes. Y’all know who Chris is. We’re just excited to have him back. That’s our leader.”
The Hurricanes (7-10, 3-9 ACC) are big underdogs against Tech (13-4, 7-3), but Lykes’ potential return lends unpredictability to the game.
That’s the norm for the sport during a pandemic, Larranaga said.
“It’s not just us; I know it’s very frustrating for the coaches around the country,” he said. “There has been no positive rhythm to this season for anybody. I think that’s why you see so many weird scores. It’s just a very strange year.”
Take Hurricanes forward Elijah Olaniyi, for example. The senior wasn’t even expected to play this season after transferring last spring from Stony Brook.
Olaniyi began suiting up in mid-December when the NCAA eased its rules and granted all transfers immediate eligibility amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“He got eligible the day we played Pittsburgh,” Larranaga says. “The game was at 6, and he became eligible like at 5.”
On Monday, Larranaga used only seven played against Duke, but one of them was Olaniyi. The senior missed only two shots and had a season-high 21 points, seven rebounds and three steals in a 77-75 upset victory.
Olaniyi hasn’t been immune to the injury bug, though. He missed two games — both of which Miami lost — because of a sore shoulder before returning this week, and sat out practice Thursday as a precaution.
Eight Miami players have missed a total of 65 games. Twice the Hurricanes had just six scholarship players available.
“Hurricanes could have won the ACC regular season title this season if they had no injuries,” CBS Sports analyst Jon Rothstein tweeted after their win over Duke.
Instead, on Saturday they’ll try for their first two-game winning streak since early December — perhaps with help from Lykes.
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