UPDATE (9/30/19, 6:08 p.m. MT): Baxter has opted to undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, according to a source close to the program. The procedure has a recovery time of approximately six months, which will hold him out of action for the entire 2019-20 season. Baxter will redshirt and return for the Cougars as a sophomore in the 2020-21 season. Read the original report below for additional details.
In yet another blow to a BYU basketball team that’s already suffered more than their fair share, sources close to the program tell Vanquish The Foe that sophomore forward Gavin Baxter has suffered a significant shoulder injury and is likely to miss extended time.
The injury occurred during one of the Cougars’ preseason practice sessions last week, when Baxter was jockeying for a rebound and got his arms tangled with a teammate. The result: a torn labrum and fractured bone in his right shoulder.
Baxter has multiple treatment options for the injury, each of which would sideline him for a different period of time. Because of the specific location and nature of the tear, he could opt to forgo surgery and instead attempt to rehab his labrum through physical therapy. In this scenario, Baxter would likely be away from the court for approximately two months—which would place his return to action somewhere around late November or early December.
Baxter could also opt to surgically repair the shoulder, which would provide a more direct route to fully addressing the injury, but would likely result in the former Timpview standout missing the entirety of the upcoming season and using his available redshirt to preserve eligibility.
While a treatment approach has not yet been selected, a source close to the program indicated that Baxter is considering an attempt to rehab the injury in hopes of suiting up for the Cougars this season. However, this path is not without its risks: the injury could become aggravated and other setbacks could occur, which could lengthen the needed recovery time or result in lingering pain, potentially necessitating a full surgical repair. But despite the potential drawbacks, this is likely the only path that could see Baxter on the court with his teammates at any point this season.
The injury is yet another body blow for BYU, who have already absorbed several throughout a turbulent offseason—including a nine-game NCAA suspension for Yoeli Childs, a broken foot for Zac Seljaas and a recent knee surgery for TJ Haws, plus Nick Emery’s sudden exit from the program.
The Cougars headed into the summer with high hopes for an NCAA tournament-worthy campaign, with Childs returning alongside a strong class of seniors and Utah Valley grad transfer Jake Toolson. However, with Baxter potentially out for an extended period of time and Childs now guaranteed to miss most of BYU’s nonconference schedule, expectations for the team may be tempered in some quarters.
Baxter, who was named to the WCC’s all-freshman team in the 2018-2019 season, figured to play a significant role for the Cougars in this year’s campaign—particularly in light of the team’s limited options down low. With Baxter and Childs both now likely to miss significant time, the burden of holding down the post will likely fall to sophomore big man Kolby Lee and senior glue guy Dalton Nixon in their absence.
One potential boon for BYU? The program is still awaiting word from the NCAA on possible waivers that would make UVU transfers Richard Harward and Wyatt Lowell immediately eligible. If either player were to receive clearance, they could do wonders to help bolster a thin back line for Mark Pope’s squad. However, given the school’s recent history with the NCAA, it may not be wise for Cougar fans to hold their breath.