Iowa State guard Naz Mitrou-Long will sit out the remainder of the season, hoping to return to the Cyclones in 2016-17 fully healthy with one year of eligibility remaining.
Long underwent arthroscopic surgery on both of his hips this offseason, and after playing in eight games through "persistent pain" the senior has decided to shut it down for the season and apply for a medical redshirt from the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility.
"Naz came to me recently and explained his desire to sit out the remainder of this season and seek a medical hardship," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said in an official release. "We support his decision as he works to get back to where he was physically prior to the injury. Naz is a terrific person and an important part of our team both on and off the court. I’m confident his teammates will come together and respond to this in a positive manner."
This is a giant setback for Iowa State, now up to No. 5 in the AP poll, No. 2 in the coaches poll and No. 4 in the CBS Sports Top 25 (and one) after its 9-0 start. Long averaged 12.0 points and 31.6 minutes in his limited action, but his value as part of this team's experienced core extends beyond those statistics.
You need to look no further than last week's furious rally from down 20 to beat Iowa to see how the Cyclones' experience feeds into a team-wide resiliency. Losing Long is a setback, though if his impact in 2015-16 was coming at the expense of his long-term health you can understand his decision.
"This was an extremely difficult decision for me," Long said. "As a player, there is nothing you want more than to help your team be successful. Following the surgery, I pushed myself incredibly hard to be ready for the season opener. As I’ve said before, I knew I might not be 100 percent, but I wanted to give it a go for my team. With that said, I feel the need to take time off to allow myself to rehab with our training staff to get back to where I can perform at my peak level on the basketball court."
While the timing of the announcement may confuse some Iowa State fans, Long's absence does open the door for Marquette transfer Deonte Burton to make an immediate impact. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Burton -- who teammate Georges Niang called a "freak of nature" -- has been ineligible for the start of the season because of transfer rules, but he'll make his debut Saturday against Northern Iowa in Des Moines, Iowa.
Burton is aggressive and physical, and loves to hang out above the rim.
With Long out, Burton may be needed to be more than just an energy and versatility player for the Cyclones. Steve Prohm has cautioned against expecting too much from Burton early, but he'll quickly join Matt Thomas and Hallice Cook as players expected to help make up Long's double-digit scoring and extended floor time.