Earlier this week, news broke that Northwestern freshman forward Rapolas Ivanauskas will undergo shoulder surgery and will miss the entire 2016-17 season.The 6-9 forward was a 4-star recruit, and was the no. 97 overall prospect in his recruiting class according to rivals.com. This is obviously a tough blow for the ‘Cats for a second straight year, after basically the same thing happened with Vic Law before last season.
The silver lining here is that Ivanauskas will redshirt for the season, and will have four years of eligibility after that. If he hadn’t gotten hurt, there’s a reasonable chance that he would have redshirted anyways, given the ‘Cats depth at the forward spots this year. Law should play close to 30 minutes per game, senior Sanjay Lumpkin should play around 25 minutes, and sophomore Aaron Falzon will be somewhere around that mark as well. Also, junior Gavin Skelly and senior Nate Taphorn will continue to see playing time in reserve roles.
However, the recovery time for Ivanauskas is estimated at 4-6 months, so it’s certainly not ideal for his development. If he was a healthy redshirt instead, these next 4-6 months of practicing with the team and improving his game would be key. Instead, he’ll almost definitely be set back, and it could take longer to reach his full potential.
As far as the impact this season, the ‘Cats won’t have the added insurance of a redshirted Ivanauskas. Last year, they burned Dererk Pardon’s redshirt when starting center Alex Olah went down with a foot injury in December. It’s definitely nice to have that option in case a rotation player gets hurt, but now the ‘Cats are limited with regards to their flexibility.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see what kind of role Ivanauskas will play on the 2017-18 team. Both Law and Falzon will be in their junior season, and assuming no major regression or injury those two should have the starting forward spots locked down. Lumpkin and Taphorn will be out of the picture though, so if healthy Ivanauskas should be the first forward off the bench.
That same setup should be in place for the 2018-19 season as well, as Law and Falzon should be the senior stars on that team. So it’s not likely that Ivanauskas will have a starting role on this team before the 2019-20 season. The good news is that he’ll have another season of eligibility after that as well, so if he reaches his full potential the ‘Cats should have a nice starting forward for two years after Law and Falzon leave.
That’s all thinking very far ahead though. For now, the news isn’t great, but it’s not back-breaking and won’t make too much of a difference for the 2016-17 season. The real concern is whether or not this halts his development going forward, and that’s where the consequences could get quite serious.