Creighton sophomore Jacob Epperson will be out of action for a significant amount of time after breaking his right leg in practice Thursday afternoon and undergoing surgery a few hours later.
Epperson, who appeared to land awkwardly during the on-court workout, left the Bluejays’ practice facility on a stretcher Thursday. He was transported to Creighton University Medical Center-Bergan Mercy, where he had surgery Thursday night.
The procedure went well, CU coach Greg McDermott confirmed to The World-Herald on Friday. Epperson’s injury was diagnosed as a fractured tibia. The tibia is the larger of the two bones in the lower leg below the knee.
There is still no estimated timetable for Epperson’s return, McDermott said. However, similar injuries in this sport have been known to sideline athletes for multiple months.
McDermott, in a statement issued Thursday night, indicated that his immediate focus was centered on Epperson’s well-being.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jacob at a time like this," McDermott said in the statement. "He's worked so hard to get ready for this season, and to see him suffer another setback is heartbreaking. I've been with him at the hospital and Jacob's spirits are high. He remains committed to getting back on the floor after making a full recovery."
A hospital spokesperson said Epperson was listed in fair condition Friday.
Epperson had spent the past 10 months rehabbing from knee and back surgeries. Even though the Creighton athletic training staff was slowly reintegrating him into the practice routine during the preseason, he had been showing encouraging signs of progress.
In regard to his recovery process, the routinely optimistic Epperson told The World-Herald earlier this month that he could finally see the “light at the end of the tunnel.”
During his first year at CU, Epperson underwent minor knee surgery but bounced back in time to burn his redshirt in January of the 2017-18 season, averaging 6.3 points on 69.4% shooting to help the Jays earn an NCAA tournament berth.
Epperson, a former top-100 recruit, ended up playing in Creighton's first nine games last year — tallying 4.8 points and 2.2 rebounds per outing — before deciding to have surgery. He was awarded a medical hardship waiver because of it.
But now the 7-foot Australian has suffered another injury.
And the Jays will have to continue prepping for the start of the 2019-20 season without him, which won’t be easy.
Epperson was expected to play a critical role.
Former Creighton big men Martin Krampelj and Samson Froling, both with collegiate eligibility remaining, decided to turn pro this past offseason. That left the Jays with depth concerns in the frontcourt.
CU subsequently added graduate transfer Kelvin Jones, a 6-foot-11 center from Idaho State. Jones, who joined the program in July, will play his final year of college ball this season. But sophomore Christian Bishop is the only other scholarship player on the Jays’ roster who’s taller than 6-foot-6.
Still, the Jays’ stated goal this year is to take a step forward after missing the 2019 NCAA tournament and ending up in the NIT.
The Big East coaches picked them to finish seventh in the league’s preseason poll — although the conference is expected to be much improved. CU received votes in the AP and coaches preseason polls this week.
The Jays return four starters from last year, senior Davion Mintz, junior Ty-Shon Alexander, junior Mitch Ballock and sophomore Marcus Zegarowski. Their regular season will begin Nov. 5, but they’ll first host a Nov. 1 exhibition game against McKendree at the CHI Health Center.