ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan star Mitch McGary is out indefinitely after deciding to have surgery on his lower back.
McGary's absence leaves the Wolverines in a tough spot with Big Ten play just around the corner. McGary helped Michigan reach the Final Four last season when he was a freshman, and he was a preseason All-America selection after deciding to put off the NBA and return to the Wolverines for his sophomore year.
Now Michigan's hopes for another extended NCAA tournament run have taken a hit.
"We met with a lot of people, and Mitch decided his best interest for his long-term health is to go ahead and have surgery," coach John Beilein said. "Right now he's out indefinitely. That may mean the end of the season. We do not know. It depends a lot on the surgery and the rehab."
Beilein and McGary met with reporters Friday, the day before Michigan's game against Holy Cross. McGary missed the first two games of the season because of his back problem. In eight games since then, he has averaged 9.5 points.
The 6-foot-10 McGary did not play in Michigan's 68-65 win over Stanford last weekend.
"I just tried to rehab," McGary said. "It's just kind of painful to play through it."
Michigan says the medical staff expects a full recovery for McGary, who said his back has been a problem since late August.
"I just kind of injured myself during the preseason," McGary said. "I just tried to rehab the whole time."
Beilein said Friday that surgery was an option in the immediate aftermath of the injury. Instead, McGary came back and was able to contribute. He had 15 points and 14 rebounds in a loss at Duke earlier this month.
But the Wolverines struggled inside in a loss to Arizona on Dec. 14, and McGary hasn't played since.
"The week before the Arizona game, he couldn't practice very well," Beilein said. "He didn't practice hardly at all before the Stanford game. Didn't feel that was going to change unless he had this surgery."
Michigan will now turn to a couple of experienced big men — Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford — to hold down the fort inside. Both have played plenty of minutes for the Wolverines over the years, but they'll have to avoid foul trouble. Neither will have an easy time replacing McGary's offensive ability and his aggressive rebounding around the basket.
"Jordan Morgan has won a Big Ten championship," Beilein said. "He needs minutes to get back to where he was, and he could never get that last year. So excited for him and Jon Horford, and Max (Bielfeldt) as well. The thing is now, with scout team, Max doesn't get the reps. We don't have enough players for a scout team, so it'll be hard, but at the same time, Max will have to perform. He'll play probably in every game going forward."