By Brian McInnis
There was one player over the rest that the Hawaii men's basketball team couldn't afford to lose for an extended period of time for the upcoming season.
Of course, we're talking about Vander Joaquim.
Yet it's Joaquim who is out for the next four to six weeks with a torn MCL in his right knee, suffered during a team workout session when bodies got tangled up and a teammate rolled into his leg.
Before people hit the panic button repeatedly, know that he won't require surgery and he could conceivably return for the regular-season opener on Nov. 9.
Everything else about this, though, is a downer for the Rainbow Warriors. Keeping Joaquim involved as much as possible in his final year is paramount for Gib Arnold and his staff. Now the Angolan is sidelined, leaving him out of workout sessions for the next two weeks and out of full practices once they start on Oct. 12. Conditioning could be a major issue by the time he returns.
And if one is being pessimistic, Joaquim's injury could linger going into some key games in December. It will all depend on how he responds to his rehab.
Arnold pointed out that he's had to deal with a key player going down for portions of his previous two seasons, between Bill Amis (foot) missing the early part of the WAC schedule in 2010-11 and Zane Johnson (mono) going out for the WAC tournament in 2011-12.
Davis Rozitis, Isaac Fotu and Caleb Dressler will now have expanded roles while Joaquim recovers.
If there's a silver lining here, it's that this didn't happen in the Big West season.