LARAMIE — If everything goes according to plan, Wyoming could get one of its starters back for its next game.
Jake Hendricks hasn’t yet been cleared to play but is going through non-contact drills as he gets closer to returning to the court. Hendricks was the Cowboys’ third-leading scorer (11.4 points per game) and top 3-point shooter (42.5 percent) before tearing his LCL on Dec. 22 in Wyoming’s loss to UTEP in the Sun Bowl Invitational.
Wyoming, which lost for the seventh time in eight games Wednesday against Fresno State, has a week off before traveling to Air Force. Hendricks got up some shots during warmups Wednesday, and Wyoming coach Allen Edwards isn’t ruling out the possibility of him getting some minutes against the Falcons.
“He’s been shooting the basketball and doing some agility-type stuff, defensive slides and things of that nature,” said Edwards, adding Hendricks will try to progress into contact periods during practice. “This bye Saturday gives us a little bit of time. Best-case scenario, he’s ready for Air Force.”
Edwards said earlier in the week the plan was always to get the 6-foot-2 guard back on the court this season if there was no possibility for a medical redshirt. Hendricks played in 12 games with 10 starts before sustaining the injury — or 38.7 percent of Wyoming’s regular-season games. NCAA bylaws allow a medical hardship waiver to be granted to injured players as long as they haven’t played more than 30 percent of their team’s season.
Edwards, Hendricks and assistant athletic director for compliance Peter Prigge held a conference call with Hendricks’ father earlier this week to explain the situation.
“His father just wanted to make sure he couldn’t do the medical,” Edwards said. “That’s where Peter came in from compliance and just researched it a little bit and said there’s a very slim chance being that he’s played 12. The NCAA is pretty hard on 10.”
The Cowboys will take any help they can get amid a 5-16 season that’s seen injuries and other defections whittle their rotation to seven scholarship players, including just two true guards in Justin James and A.J. Banks. But Edwards said Hendricks will only return to the court when he’s ready.
“We left the meeting with me saying to Jake that I’m working off of you,” Edwards said. “You’ve got to tell me, ‘Coach, I’m ready,’ and then we’ll kind of go from there. But we have our fingers crossed for Air Force.”