PROVO — An already-thin BYU basketball frontcourt has suffered another major setback.
A source close to the Cougar basketball program told the Deseret News Monday that 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Gavin Baxter has suffered a shoulder injury that could be season-ending. He’s expected to be sidelined for several months.
A BYU official confirmed that Baxter has injured his shoulder but did not provide any further information.
The source told the Deseret News that Baxter sustained a torn labrum and dislocated his arm during a practice last week while he and a teammate battled for a rebound.
Baxter, the source said, is in the process of consulting specialists as he explores his options for surgery. Baxter has reached out to former BYU star Danny Ainge, who is the general manager and president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, as well as the Utah Jazz organization, for advice, according to the source.
Baxter averaged 4.7 points and 3.1 rebounds last year as a freshman. He played in 30 games, starting eight. He recorded a career-high 25 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Loyola Marymount.
The Cougars have been snakebitten with personnel issues in recent months. In early August, senior forward Yoeli Childs was suspended for the first nine games of the season by the NCAA. Then senior Zac Seljaas broke his foot during the team’s tour of Italy in mid-August and underwent surgery.
First-year coach Mark Pope is hopeful that Seljaas will be ready to play in the opener against Cal State Fullerton on Nov. 5.
Meanwhile, senior TJ Haws recently underwent minor knee surgery but is expected to return to action soon.
In July, guard Nick Emery announced his retirement from basketball.
With Baxter out, BYU’s depth becomes even thinner. Baxter was going to be relied on to shore up the post with Childs unavailable for the first part of the season. Baxter’s absence means 6-9 Kolby Lee and 6-7 Dalton Nixon will have to fill the void inside.
The Cougars have two other post players on the roster — UVU transfers 6-10 Wyatt Lowell and 6-11 Richard Harward, who have applied for waivers to be eligible to play this season.
In September, when asked about what he learned about his team so far as BYU’s coach, Pope said, “I know we’re going to play hard. I know we’re going to be together. The question that will define this team — how resilient and relentless are we going to be in terms of chasing what we see as our goals? How are we going to respond when things go really, really bad?”