Olivier Nkamhoua suffered an ankle injury during Saturday’s game against South Carolina, and will now require surgery, according to Tennessee spokesperson Tom Satkowiak. The junior forward is expected to miss the remainder of the season.
Rick Barnes spoke about how much Nkamhoua is a huge part of the program and the progress he was making with his game.
“It’s sad for all of us. He’s become such a huge part of our program and for this team. You could see the strides he was making every game. He was getting more comfortable about who he is as a player and what he needed to do for our team.”
The Vols head coach also pointed out how incredibly selfless he was and how hard he had worked. After Nkamhoua found out that he was done for the year, he apparently told his coach, “I can’t believe I don’t get to practice tomorrow.”
Tennessee point guard Kennedy Chandler said he was speaking with Nkamhoua and they discussed how this could be some blessing in disguise. But, Chandler knows how much he’s meant to the team and will continue doing so.
“It’s tough on Olivier. He’s worked so hard, and his teammates respect him for so many different things. I was speaking with him last night, and he’s emotional about it. We talked about it and how in some way, it’s going to be a blessing in disguise. We’re not sure how it’s going to work out, but I think it’s going to help him in the long run. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen guys embrace it as opposed to just shutting it down. He won’t do that. He’ll continue to be a great teammate. He has been a great teammate for those young guys, and he’ll continue to do that.”
In the win over the Gamecocks, Nkamhoua scored seven points and recorded five rebounds in 17 minutes of action. He was forced to the locker room in the second half, after suffering the injury. It was an awkward looking injury. He made a play at the basket but stayed on the Vols’ side of the court, even when the game had moved to the other end.
He never returned to the game, and joined his teammates on the bench only after his ankle had been examined.
Nkamhoua was averaging 8.6 points and 6 rebounds per game. He was one of the guys who had taken a step in the right direction this season, helping the Vols in the paint. Before the South Carolina game, Nkamhoua put up 15 points and 7 rebounds against Texas A&M.
Nkamhoua released a statement on Twitter.
“Thank you to everyone and all the prayers and the wishes. Time to lock in for the bounce back.”
It will be interesting to see how Rick Barnes figures out his lineup going forward. He has the option of playing three guards, with Fulkeron or Uros joining Josiah-Jordan James on the court. There’s no doubt this is a hit for the team, as they will now need another frontline player to step up in Nkamhoua’s place.