By Rob Gray
AMES — Iowa State’s do-everything, preseason first team all-Big 12 forward Melvin Ejim owns 93 career starts.
He’ll have to wait until at least December to take the court for No. 94.
Cyclone athletics announced Thursday that Ejim, a 6-6 senior who led the conference in rebounding last season at 9.3 per game, hyperextended his left knee and suffered a bone bruise during Wednesday’s practice.
Ejim likely faces a recovery window of four to six weeks and will miss key pre-conference season games at home against seventh-ranked Michigan (Nov. 17) and on the road at BYU (Nov. 20).
“His spirits are fine,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg, whose team plays its first exhibition game at 5 p.m. Sunday against Augustana (S.D.) at Hilton Coliseum. “He’s historically been a very fast healer, never missed any games with injuries, so hopefully he’ll be on the four-week time frame as far as getting back.”
Hoiberg said Ejim was going after an offensive rebound — “like he always does every possession” — and got tangled up as he came down.
“You could see it on film how his knee hyperextended and after looking at the film, I know I didn’t sleep very well last night thinking about what it could have been,” Hoiberg added. “So looking at everything I guess we’re lucky that it wasn’t worse.”
Worse, like an ACL.
Kind of a scary thing,” Hoiberg said. “I know it certainly was for Melvin.”
But not frightening enough initially to make Ejim willing to miss any practice time.
“This shows you about who Melvin is, he went to the training room, Vic Miller checked him out, he came back out and said, ‘I’m ready to go back in,’” Hoiberg said. “I said, ‘Melvin, I’m not putting you back in there. We’ll see how you’re doing tomorrow.’ He sat on the sideline cheering on his teammates the rest of practice and I thought everything was going to be OK until his knee really started to swell up.”
Hoiberg said he’ll approach filling Ejim’s slot in the lineup by committee.
“We’ll have to play smaller at times,” Hoiberg said. “And there’s times where we could play a little bit bigger with Percy (Gibson) in there and Daniel (Edozie) getting an opportunity and sliding Dustin (Hogue) back to the three. So we’ll have some versatility.”
“You can’t just replace Melvin with one guy,” Hoiberg said. “He does so many things. He was shooting the heck out of the ball, shooting over 43 percent (from long range) with all the practices that we (kept stats). It’s a blow.”
Ejim’s rebounding prowess reached new heights last season — as did his offensive production, which spiked from 9.3 points to 11.3 points per game.
Even more improvement was — and is — expected for 2013-14, especially from beyond the 3-point arc.
Ejim already had doubled his career 3-pointers made (from 24 to 48) last season alone, while raising his accuracy from 22 to 34.8 percent.“Really working with coach and seeing what I’ve been doing wrong and how I can do better,” Ejim, who was unavailable for comment Thursday, said earlier this month. “I’ve been working at it and hopefully I see results this year.”