La Salle big man Steve Zack cleared to play -- but how much?

LOS ANGELES -- Ahead of La Salle’s regional semifinal matchup against Wichita State on Thursday, the Explorers got some good news.

Steve Zack, who has missed the last six games with a sprained left foot, was cleared to play.

“That dramatically changes things,” coach John Giannini said on Wednesday.

This was unexpected, as Giannini and Zack both admitted earlier in the week that it was doubtful Zack could play on Thursday. However, he emerged toward the end of practice on Wednesday and the doctors said he was good to go. With that said, Zack hasn’t played in a month and might not be able to play extended minutes.

Zack, a 6-foot-11 center, started 19 games this season and averaged 6.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. He showed flashes of his ability throughout the season, opening the year with 19 points and eight boards against Delaware, and also going for 16 and eight against Sacred Heart.

For a team that plays four guards on the court most of the time, this is a significant boost for La Salle. Wichita State has 6-foot-8 Carl Hall and 6-foot-8 Cleanthony Early in the lineup, with 7-footer Ehimen Orukpe also getting plenty of minutes down low.

The Explorers run with four players who are 6-foot-3 or shorter, with 6-foot-8 Jerrell Wright the lone big man.

Don’t expect Zack to play too many minutes for a couple of reasons. One, La Salle’s four-guard lineup is what got the Explorers to this point, creating matchup problems and spreading opponents out. Wichita State is bigger, but it could have trouble guarding all the attacking perimeter players. Second, Zack is probably not ready for long stretches -- but having someone off the bench who can give a couple of minutes here and there is helpful.

“I think the rebounding could be the biggest issue in the game,” Giannini said. “It’s a strength for them and a weakness for us.

“He can play if he feels well enough and we put him in there.”

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