Thursday night Stanford played for the second time this year without senior standout Matt Haryasz, who for the second time sprained his left ankle. The first injury kept him out of the season opener against UC Irvine, a game which the Cardinal surprisingly lost at home. The result for Stanford last night against Oregon State at Maples Pavilion was better, with the Card opening the New Year with an 80-66 victory.
The latest ankle injury, suffered on December 31 in a loss at USC, was between a first-degree and a second-degree sprain for Haryasz, worse than what he suffered in November. The 6'11" senior has had to wear crutches, and then a boot. The diagnosis was that the sprain would keep him out for three weeks. It was painful for both Haryasz and the Cardinal community.
Haryasz, however, was in street clothes last night and walked around with improved mobility. When asked about the status of his senior center/forward, head coach Trent Johnson offered no prediction on whether Haryasz could possibly play Saturday against Oregon.
"I don't know. I don't know," Johnson said.
Haryasz subsequently practiced today for the first time since the injury, albeit in a limited capacity. The swelling in his left ankle had gone down surprisingly quickly this week, giving him the unexpected opportunity to try some practice activities today. Haryasz and the team doctors will evaluate tomorrow morning whether the swelling returns, following today's workout. A gameday decision will determine whether Haryasz might be able to play some minutes against the Ducks.
Stanford beat the Beavers last night without him, but there is no question that Haryasz is an irreplaceable talent on the Cardinal roster. He leads the team in scoring (16.3 ppg) and rebounding (9.7 rpg), and he has been the most consistent player in both categories for Stanford this year. Moreover, this roster is paper thin in the frontcourt - subtracting Haryasz leaves the Cardinal vastly undermanned in the post. Additionally, the senior center has rated as Stanford's best defender this year, both on the ball and away from the ball.
If there is any game that would sweeten the pot for Haryasz to return, it is a dual with the Ducks. Against Oregon, the Page (Ariz.) native has enjoyed the best games of his career. Haryasz had his breakout game in Eugene as a sophomore when he made his first career start in place of an injured Justin Davis. Haryasz' 19 points were nearly double his highest previous output in a Pac-10 game, and they lifted (along with Chris Hernandez' heroic 22 points, all in the second half) the Cardinal to an historic comeback victory at Mac Court after trailing by 19. He added seven rebounds for good measure, along with three assists - two of which were spectacular and enabled key scores in the comeback.
Last year as a junior, Haryasz throttled the Ducks on his home floor. Unlike the 2004 game, there was no drama or deficit to overcome. Haryasz and the Cardinal simply spanked Oregon through and through, ending with an 88-69 score. The 6'11" junior scored 20 points and grabbed 20 rebounds, only the second such double by a Stanford player in nearly a decade. It was one of the most impressive individual performances seen in a Stanford uniform in many years.
Haryasz is not as healthy today as he was in those prior performances, so it is unfair to expect an encore at that level - if he is cleared at all to play on Saturday. But you know that Ernie Kent and his Ducklings will perspire profusely at the site of the Stanford center if he suits out and takes the court. After all, Matt Haryasz is a verifiable Duck hunter.
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