SEATTLE – Jernard Jarreau played in 15 games this season for the Washington Huskies before undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
The 6-foot-10 junior forward started each of those 15 games, and compiled per-game averages of 5.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 22.3 minutes played.
Modest numbers, to be sure. But Jarreau’s expected return to action for Sunday’s game at Washington State (5:30 p.m., ESPNU) has the Huskies breathing something resembling a sigh of relief.
They’ve lost seven consecutive games. They’re 14-11 overall, and 3-10 in Pac-12 play. And they can’t wait to regain the services of a tall, experienced starter whom Romar now considers the team’s best post defender.
Jarreau isn’t Superman. Romar doesn’t expect him to be. But he says there’s no doubt UW will be better off with him than without.
“Just with him practicing this week, he’s telling guys where to go, where you should be on the floor (in) situations,” Romar said Friday. “He’s a facilitator on offense. You can’t measure his impact on the game by how many points he scores, because he gets so many deflections. He’ll block a shot. He knows where we’re supposed to be on the floor, offensively and defensively. He conducts himself like a veteran. So it’s hard to measure, totally, but it’s definitely a positive.”
Jarreau was limited in practice last week, but has been participating fully since Wednesday. He had arthroscopic knee surgery on Jan. 17 after leaving UW’s 80-77 loss to Washington State with a limp. It was Jarreau’s second knee injury in as many years – last season, he tore the anterior-cruciate ligament in his right knee a little more than one minute into the Huskies’ season opener against Seattle University.
The recovery from his most recent procedure, obviously, wasn’t nearly as trying – at least from a physical perspective. The Huskies, beat up on the boards and overwhelmed defensively, missed him dearly.
“I feel good,” Jarreau said. “At this point, it’s just mental toughness and just getting through it and not thinking about it, and trying to go out there and help my team as best as I can.”
Romar said he isn’t sure how many minutes Jarreau will be able to play – “you can try to simulate game conditions in terms of your conditioning, but you can’t do it until you’re actually out there playing,” he said – but he said he will “definitely be available to play.”
Jarreau is “progressing to where he could potentially” be in the starting lineup on Sunday, Romar said.
“We have another practice (Friday) and (Saturday),” Romar said, “and we’ll see where he is.”
If he does return to the starting lineup, he would give the Huskies two starting big men for the first time since 7-foot center Robert Upshaw was dismissed on Jan. 26 for violating team rules. In six games since, UW started four guards and 6-foot-9 senior forward Shawn Kemp Jr.
“I don’t want to build Jernard up to where, ‘now we’ve got Jernard back, we’re going to go undefeated and beat everybody by 30, because he’s going to average 20 and 20.’ I’m not saying that,” Romar said. “I’m just saying you feel his absence when he’s not on the floor. You feel his absence preparing for a road game. … There are just so many different ways across the board where statistically, you may not see it or feel it, but he helps.”
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple