Pitt senior forward Ryan Luther has been officially ruled out for the rest of the 2017-18 season due to a stress reaction in his right foot, according to an announcement from the university. He last appeared on court for Pitt in the renewal of the Backyard Brawl on Dec. 9, logging a double-double and leading the team with 13 points and 12 rebounds in the 69-60 loss to West Virginia.
“Ryan’s injury has not responded as well as we had hoped, and our medical team has recommended shutting him down for the remainder of the season,” Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings said. “I know Ryan is frustrated with the injuries to the foot the past two years, but everyone involved agrees that it is in his best interest to rest the foot and allow it adequate time to make a complete recovery.”
As Stallings alluded to, this is not the first time Luther has dealt with an injury to his right foot. Last season, he suffered a stress fracture in the same foot that sidelined him for 12 games. His latest ailment seems to be running a similar course, as he missed seven games prior to the announcement on Thursday, although he was initially expected to sit out just three games.
“It hurts not to be out on the court and in practice with my teammates,” Luther said. “We have a good young core of players that I believe are going to continue to improve each day. I was hopeful that the latest MRI would show solid improvement in the foot, but it was pretty clear that it has not responded well enough to return to action without the threat of it becoming a stress fracture like last season.”
Luther emerged as a leader for the Panthers after an exodus of talent forced Stallings to rebuild the team in the offseason. The senior is one of just three players who returned from last season’s roster, with the others being Jonathan Milligan and Zach Smith. Prior to his injury, he was on pace for his best season yet, averaging 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
The news could end up benefiting the program in the long run, however, as Luther noted he would be pursuing a medical hardship waiver, which if granted would allow him to redshirt and return next season.
“I am going to apply for a medical hardship and hope to remain at the University of Pittsburgh for another season,” Luther said. “I love my coaches and teammates and believe in what we are building. This university and the city of Pittsburgh are home to me. I am anxious to get healthy and look forward to doing something special here next season.”
Eligibility for a medical hardship waiver is dependent on a player participating in no more than 30 percent of a team’s games in a season, according to NCAA rules, and Luther has taken part in 10 games out of the 32 Pitt is scheduled to play. While 30 percent of 32 is 9.6, NCAA rules state that that figure gets rounded up, meaning Luther should qualify for a return.
If Luther is granted a medical hardship waiver, Pitt could be looking at a much more promising 2018-19 season, as he would be joined in the frontcourt by incoming freshman Bryce Golden, who ESPN has pegged as a four-star recruit. Former St. John’s starter Malik Ellison would also be eligible to join the backcourt, and Stallings has been beaming about his potential.
In addition to those new faces, Marcus Carr, Parker Stewart and Shamiel Stevenson will all have a full season of experience under their belts at that point, and that can only benefit them moving forward. With that said, the point of this move seems to be to cut the losses on this current disappointing season in order to put a more cohesive unit on the court in late 2018.