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USC forward Bennie Boatwright out six weeks with MCL sprain

Bennie Boatwright expected to be out six weeks after an MRI reveals a Grade 2 MCL sprain.

Bennie Boatwright laid on the trainer's table with ice bags surrounding his left knee. A towel draped over the USC sophomore forward's face to hide the look of despair that had affixed itself while trainer Jon Yonamine had examined the knee during the first half of the Trojans' 76-55 win at San Diego on Wednesday night.

On Thursday, an MRI revealed that Boatwright had a Grade 2 sprain of his medial collateral ligament and will be out approximately six weeks.

But how long Boatwright will be out could still depend on how well his body recovers.

New York Giants offensive lineman Justin Pugh is nearing a return from an MCL sprain at the beginning of November. Miami Heat shooting guard Josh Richardson missed nearly two months with a partially torn MCL in his right knee before he was cleared early in November. Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams tore his MCL during a playoff game in January and wasn't fully healthy until the middle of the summer.

If Boatwright is ready to play in six weeks, he will miss 10 games, including the first four games of the Pac-12 schedule -- a trip to Oregon State and Oregon and games against Stanford and California at the Galen Center.

Boatwright was averaging 13.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in his first four games. He missed nearly two months leading up the season after a one-inch labral tear in his hip and sat the first two games of the season with a minor nerve issue in the back of his right shoulder, which led to a sluggish shooting start in his initial pair of games. But Boatwright rounded into form in his next two games, scoring 38 combined points against SMU and UC Santa Barbara.

The Trojans expected Boatwright to be one of their leaders this season. He was voted a captain by his teammates and was poised for a breakout sophomore campaign after starting 32 of 34 games, averaging 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds as a freshman. He also had a solid showing in the Drew League early in the summer before the hip injury.

Boatwright's injury leaves a hole in the lineup for the undefeated Trojans (7-0).

"Our rotation isn't the same as it would be without him," Enfield said on Wednesday. "He's a unique player with his size and his guard skills."

The Trojans have the options of playing two true post players as it began the first two games of the season when Nick Rakocevic started beside Chimezie Metu in the frontcourt. Minnesota graduate transfer Charles Buggs has the potential to fill in Boatwright's role as more of a prototypical stretch forward, but he has been limited by his own knee injury after having to have arthroscopic knee surgery in September. Another option for Enfield is to go small. 

"Shaqquan Aaron can move to the four. We can even put Stewart at the four and then play four guards. We did it the first two games of the year," Enfield said. "Our players just have to step up. You have to step up when your teammate goes down like this."

USC next plays Saturday against BYU at 5 p.m. The game is the nightcap of the Hoophall L.A. doubleheader at Staples Center after Gonzaga takes on Arizona beginning at 2 p.m.

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