CARBONDALE — Thik Bol's long-awaited return from a left knee injury that sidelined him for the entire 2017-18 season is on hold again.
Bol, SIU's 6-foot-8 shot-blocking machine that was the Salukis' fourth-leading scorer in 2016-17, underwent a second surgery on the same knee Wednesday, according to a release from the school. The 202-pound senior forward will be re-evaluated in about eight weeks, which will likely knock him out from competing during the Salukis' trip to Cuba Aug. 5-11.
SIU gets 10 extra practices this summer with its 2018-19 squad to prepare for the trip, and is scheduled to play three games against players from the Cuban National Team.
Reached on Wednesday, SIU coach Barry Hinson declined to say exactly what was repaired during Bol's surgery, but did say he was optimistic about his return after the procedure.
"What I can tell you is the surgery was successful, meaning they were able to locate what was causing the issues and they were able to take care of it," he said.
Dr. J.T. Davis of The Orthopaedic Institute in Carbondale performed the surgery and said he was also optimistic about Bol's recovery, according to the release.
Bol blocked 76 shots in his first Division I season after transferring to SIU from Iowa Western Community College. That was good for the third-most blocks in a single season in school history. Bol averaged 9.1 points per game in 33 starts, shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 61.4 percent at the free-throw line. SIU's second-leading rebounder in 2016-17, Bol grabbed 224 boards (6.8 per game), including a team-high 80 at the offensive end.
Bol injured the knee before the 2017-18 season began, and had surgery in November. He recovered well enough to begin practicing with the team in late December, but right before he was scheduled to return against Drake on New Year's Eve, it flared up again. Bol was ruled out for the remainder of the season.
The Salukis hope to pair him with senior center Kavion Pippen, a 6-10 righty who made the Missouri Valley Conference All-Newcomer Team last season, for one of the best frontcourt tandems in the league. SIU returns all five starters from last season's 20-13 squad that finished second in the Valley, plus Bol and backup guard Eric McGill.
McGill, a junior college transfer from Panola (Texas) College, played in 10 games last season before breaking his hand when he fell to the SIU Arena floor against Lamar on Dec. 17, 2017. McGill was expected to get last season back as a medical redshirt and have two years of eligibility beginning this winter.
With seven seniors, and junior Aaron Cook, one of SIU's returning starters, hopes are high that the Salukis can finally end an 11-year postseason drought this season. SIU hasn't played past the MVC tournament since 2008, when it beat Oklahoma State at home in the NIT before falling at Arizona State.