Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Huskers Basketball: Who Can Fill Leslee Smith's Shoes?

By now, all Huskers Basketball fans let the fact that Leslee Smith will be out for the entire 2014-2015 season sink in.  As big as that loss sounds, it may not be as bad as people think.

Don’t get me wrong, Smith was HUGE for Nebraska last season, but he was not on the court enough down the stretch.  He’s always had bad knees and was injury prone overall. That he’s just now been injured has been a surprise to some.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

In Smith’s first 16 games, he averaged 19.6 minutes per game. During the latter 16, he averaged just 13.9 minutes. I’m not trying to say Smith wasn’t valuable, rather that he was getting worn down and this Nebraska team had to find ways to play without him.

That being said, it won’t be easy to replace those 14-20 minutes per game. Here are the best candidates.

Jacob Hammond

You hate to say someone might benefit from another’s misfortune, but if there’s anyone who would be a benefactor here, it’s incoming freshman Jacob Hammonds. A 6’10″ 227-pound center, Hammond was expected to redshirt before the news broke, now he is not so sure.

“Yeah, I might not be able to redshirt this year. It is something I was probably going to do. But now that he’s hurt, I don’t know. That’s up in the air still.” Said Hammond in an interview with College Basketball Talk.

The biggest question mark about Hammond is his strength. He has the height to be a Big Ten center, but he will need to add muscle and weight to his frame to last an entire season in this conference.

Moses Ayegba

A transfer from Georgetown, Moses Ayegba will be looking to improve upon his less than stellar career numbers. He averaged 13 minutes per game and 1.9 points and 2.8 rebounds as a Hoya.

Ayegba will look very similar to Smith on the court standing at 6’9″ tall, weighing in at nearly 250 pounds. Skill was not what kept him off the court. He was constantly in foul trouble and struggled with the game mentally at times.

With Smith’s injury, he’ll have an opportunity to prove that he is more than just a big body inside.

Walter Pitchford

Yes, Pitchford isn’t a newcomer or someone who can step in and do what Smith did inside, but he can take the burden off of the others mentioned by using his size more.

huskers basketball

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

If there was one knock on Pitchford, it was his inability to work inside and play interior defense. He is a very dynamic player, there’s no question about that. However, one part of his game that needs improvement is his work from the free throw line. I think we all can agree on that.

Again, I’m not pretending losing Smith isn’t big. He was as efficient as any for Nebraska.

I still think this Nebrasketball team has the ability to reach the top half of the Big Ten without him. I expect Hammond to have an up and down year while Ayegba will produce very similar numbers to Smith.

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Tags: Nebraska Cornhuskers

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