Northwestern center Kyle Rowley fractured his left foot on Tuesday while at a basketball clinic in Chicago, according to NUSports.com. Rowley will be sidelined indefinitely. The rising sophomore started 28 games during his freshman season, but played just 13.3 minutes per game and averaged 3.6 points per game and 1.8 rebounds per game.
This isn't a very big loss for the Wildcats on the court. While Rowley did get some valuable experience in the post last season, Northwestern has a number of other options at the center position. In fact, there are three good alternatives on the roster right now.
1. Luka Mirkovic - Mirkovic averaged 18.5 minutes per game and scored 3.9 points per game while grabbing 3.2 rebounds per game. Rowley's fellow classmate also averaged 1.5 assists per game and was able to stretch the defense with the three-point shot where he knocked down 40 percent of his attempts.
Mirkovic started two games last year with very mixed results. Against Illinois at Welsh-Ryan Arena he had his best game of the season going for 14 points and 12 rebounds in 35 minutes. But at Minnesota 10 days later Mirkovic only played eight minutes and went 0-3 from the field with one rebound and two personal fouls.
With another off season to develop, Mirkovic should be a key piece of Northwestern's attack no matter what. If Rowley's injury keeps him on the shelf for a while, Bill Carmody could use either of the following two players as Mirkovic's backup.
2. Davide Curletti - Curletti also was in the center mix during his freshman season. He averaged six minutes per game in 17 games during the season, including one start. Curletti averaged 1.1 points per game and .8 rebounds per game. He also had the highest field goal percentage among the three freshman centers at 53.3 percent.
Curletti started one game, against Ohio State on February 18, 2009. In that game he played 13 minutes and grabbed two rebounds. The Wildcats won the game 72-69. Curletti's best performances of the season were a four points, three rebound performance at Wisconsin on January 7 and a five point, two rebound game to start the season against Central Arkansas.
Another year into his development and his understanding of the Princeton offense, the 6'9 232 pound forward/center should be prepared to play more minutes in the pivot point if necessary.
3. Ivan Peljusic - Peljusic isn't listed as a center on the Northwestern roster, but at 6'8" tall and 215 pounds he certainly has the size to play the position in the Princeton offense and the 1-3-1 zone. During his sophomore season Peljusic averaged 9.8 minutes per game in 24 appearances. When he was on the court he seemed to provide good defensive energy. He also was productive averaging 2.9 points per game and 1.9 rebounds per game.
Coach Carmody would probably prefer to have Peljusic backing up Kevin Coble, John Shurna and Jeff Ryan instead of Rowley, Mirkovic and Curletti, but in a pinch Peljusic certainly could fill in.
Northwestern has obvious fill-ins for Rowley on the court. The biggest problem for the Wildcats is that the injury will hinder the 7-footer's development. There were times during the 2008-09 season where Rowley looked like he was finally beginning to understand his role on the court and adjust to major college basketball. It will be interesting to see how aggressive and comfortable he is when he returns from the injury. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery.