PROVO — BYU basketball's already thin roster got a little bit thinner Monday afternoon.
Sophomore forward Gavin Baxter has suffered a shoulder injury during the opening weeks of practice that could keep the talented forward out for an extended period of time, possibly the season, as first reported by Deseret News reporter Jeff Call. At the very least, the 6-foot-9, 210-pound sophomore from Provo is expected to be sidelined for several months, according to the report.
A BYU basketball spokesman confirmed to KSL.com that Baxter has injured his shoulder, but nothing more is known about the injury, including a timeline for his return.
Baxter was expected to play a key role for the Cougars, especially at the beginning of the 2019-20 season while senior big man Yoeli Childs was suspended for nine games by the NCAA for improper filings when he initially declared for the NBA draft over the summer.
Baxter, a 6-foot-9 Timpview product with a 7-foot wingspan, averaged 4.7 points and 3.1 rebounds as a freshman in 2018-19 when he played in 30 games, including nine starts. He broke out for a career-high 35 points on 10-of-14 shooting in West Coast Conference play against Loyola Marymount in February, and steadily increased his playing time throughout the season.
A source close to the BYU basketball program tells the Deseret News that sophomore forward Gavin Baxter has suffered a shoulder injury that could be season-ending. He's expected to be sidelined for several months.— Jeff Call (@AJeffreyCall) September 30, 2019
Without Baxter, and with Childs unlikely to have his suspension reduced via an appeal to NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, the Cougars are running thin on big men in coach Mark Pope's first season in charge in Provo.
BYU’s only remaining posts on the roster include 6-foot-7 forward Dalton Nixon and 6-foot-9 forward Kolby Lee. The Cougars could also play 6-4 wing Taylor Maughan and 6-6 shooter Connor Harding in a “small-ball” lineup at the four, in addition to 6-7 wing Zac Seljaas, who suffered a Jones fracture in his foot during BYU’s preseason trip to Italy but is on track for a return early in the season, according to Pope.
Utah Valley transfers Richard Harward, a 6-foot-11, 255 center from Orem, and Wyatt Lowell, the 6-10, 240-pound reigning Western Athletic Conference freshman of the year, are currently appealing for immediate eligibility from the NCAA.
While unlikely, a grant of appeal from Indianapolis would demonstrably aid BYU’s thinning post corps.
In addition to all those injuries and suspensions, starting point guard TJ Haws missed the first day of fall practices after undergoing minor knee surgery following the Italy trip. He is expected to return in time for the season opener Nov. 5 against Cal State Fullerton.