OMAHA, Neb. — With the same ligament-saving brace wrapped around his right knee, Hanner Mosquera-Perea took the floor for IU’s open practice Thursday afternoon and looked — at least to the naked eye — ready to go.
The junior forward spent much of Thursday’s 40-minute session sprinting, dunking and effusing the same energy IU will need from him against Wichita State.
In basic layup lines, he finished each trip with a dunk. He appeared to move without favoring the injured knee. He boxed out — hard.
It has been one week since that brace kept Mosquera-Perea’s knee from severe damage. In IU’s second-round Big Ten Tournament game against Northwestern, he collided with Wildcat big man Alex Olah and yelled in pain as his right knee buckled. He missed the rest of that game and the next, and has spent the past week working to get back for the NCAA Tournament.
He’s still an uncertainty for tomorrow’s game, but no player wants to miss the NCAA Tournament.
“They haven’t really told me much about it,” he said. “But if you ask me, I’m going to say it feels a lot better because clearly I want to play.”
IU Coach Tom Crean said his starting center has “responded every day,” but couldn’t say for sure what Mosquera-Perea’s status would be.
“It’s gotten better every day, much like we hoped it would,” Crean said. “There is no reason to believe that he’s not going to be able to play, but, again, in all honesty, that will not truly be substantiated until probably tonight and tomorrow, depending on how he continues to respond to the treatment and to the practice.”
If he can’t go, his role figures to be filled by sophomore Collin Hartman, who has started 11 games in place of the oft-injured Mosquera-Perea this season, and freshman Emmitt Holt.
Holt was the Hoosiers’ most effective inside presence after Mosquera-Perea went down in Chicago. He finished with six points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and two steals in 25 minutes in the loss to Maryland.
“He’s continued to progress, had a very good weekend,” Crean said of Holt. “He will definitely be a factor for us if we’re going to have success in this tournament, no question.”
Mosquera-Perea’s status won’t be decided until later tonight, possibly tomorrow morning. The decision will ultimately be made by IU’s team doctors, but Mosquera-Perea said he’ll do what he can to convince them he’s ready to go.
“This is a big deal for all of us, so even if I wasn’t good to play, I’d say I’m good.”