EVANSTON, ILLINOIS — Northwestern learned of some tough news Monday afternoon. For the second straight year, the Wildcats will be without Rapolas Ivanauskas due to injury.
Ivanauskas had not seen many minutes prior to Monday’s announcement.
The press release from Northwestern states that he is having shoulder surgery on the same shoulder that kept him out during the 2016-2017 season. This is a tough loss for Northwestern and will affect the depth of the team for the season.
Although Ivanauskas only saw 11 minutes of action on the floor, he would have been a viable option off the bench when the front court is in foul trouble. Gavin Skelly will now be the primary player off the bench to spell Aaron Falzon and Vic Law.
Chris Collins now has 11 active players on his roster, which is the same as they had last year. Last season they were without Aaron Falzon and Ivanauskas due to injury. This season, they will be without Ivanauskas and AJ Turner, who is taking a redshirt year due to NCAA transfer rules.
Ivanauskas was recruited for his ability to score and drive in the lane off the wing. His skillset from the limited tape we have and some high school film, shows his ability to drive similar to Sanjay Lumpkin.
Ivanauskas could have potentially been a player for Northwestern to add spark off the bench, similar to Gavin Skelly’s role. With the growing pains Northwestern is having this season, a scorer off the bench would be a valuable asset to the offense.
Although Collins has managed without Ivanauskas so far this season, as the season goes on, his added depth would have been nice for the team. This is especially true in cases when match-ups are an issue and Northwestern gets in to foul trouble. Gavin Skelly will need to play smart off the bench and avoid foul trouble, so he is able to stay in the game for longer periods of time as needed.
Outside of Gavin Skelly, Collins and his staff can try a two-big lineup, where Barret Benson and Dererk Pardon play at the same time. Northwestern will also have the option of playing small ball and using Anthony Gaines on the floor to help space the Wildcats defensively.
Aaron Falzon is starting to get his growing pains out after missing last season, and could potentially begin to fill a bigger role, part of which could have been Ivanauskas’, as the season progresses along.
Ivanauskas can apply for a medical hardship wavier, and potentially still have four years of eligibility remaining after this season. However, it will be a while before the NCAA will make a decision on Ivanauskas.
Overall, this is a tough loss for Northwestern. Hopefully Ivanauskas’ surgery goes well and soon enough he will be back on the court healthy and playing again.
In the mean time, Chicago’s Big Ten Bench Squad, lead by Tino Malnati and Charlie Hall, will be happy to have Ivanauskas as a full time member.