Dec. 23, 2008
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara junior forward Jesse Byrd, a starter in all 11 games and the Gauchos' leading rebounder at 7.6 per contest, will miss four-to-six weeks after suffering a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee during Saturday's game at San Diego State, head coach Bob Williams announced Tuesday.
The 6-foot-8 Byrd has been a mainstay in UCSB's lineup since the first game of the season. Not only does he lead the team in rebounding, but he also paces all regulars in field goal percentage at 58.1%. In Saturday's loss to the Aztecs, the Oakland, Calif., native scored four points and had six rebounds in 22 minutes. In the previous game at Weber State, Byrd had 10 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, it was his second double-double of the 2008-09 season.
"Jesse has been playing so hard and so well," Williams said. "Losing him just as we are getting ready to start conference play is tough. It will be difficult to replace his rebounding and scoring. I feel particularly bad for him. After sitting out last season, he was really prepared for this year and to have this happen is a major setback."
Byrd's injury occurred in the waning minutes of Saturday's game at San Diego State. He came down with one of his six rebounds and landed with all of his weight on the left leg. He remained in the game for a couple more minutes, but on the bus ride back to Santa Barbara the knee swelled up. An MRI on Monday revealed the tear and Byrd is scheduled to have surgery next week.
A transfer from the University of San Francisco, Byrd redshirted the 2007-08 campaign. He has not only proven to be an outstanding rebounder for UCSB - he is the only player on the team to collect at least five rebounds in all 11 games - but he has evolved into a solid offensive player, averaging 8.3 points per game, third on the team.
The loss of Byrd will leave the Gauchos with four players to play two frontcourt positions. In addition to senior Chris Devine, the team's leading scorer at 13.8 points per game, they will look to freshmen Jaimé Serna (4.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game) and Greg Somogyi (3.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game), and sophomore Sam Phippen (2.5 points and 1.3 rebounds per game).
"This will be an opportunity for the freshmen to step-up," Williams commented. "Chris will need to play 30 or more minutes, but Jaimé and Greg will get their chances. They have already had valuable experience, so they should be up to the challenge. Sam will also need to give us increased quality minutes."
Santa Barbara, 5-6, will play its final non-conference game on Monday, Dec. 29 when it hosts Ball State in a 7:00 p.m. game at the Thunderdome. The game will be a Coke Family Pack Night and for $40, fans can get four tickets, four hot dogs, four sodas, and four t-shirts. For more information, call 805-893-UCSB.