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Leslee Smith’s knee injury could change things for Nebraska freshman Jake Hammond

Jul 12, 2014, 6:34 PM EDT

Tim Miles AP

On Tuesday it was reported that Nebraska senior power forward Leslee Smith was expected to miss the entire 2014-15 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. Having posted averages of 5.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season, it would be easy for some to gloss over his absence as the Huskers look to earn a second consecutive NCAA tournament bid.

However with his size (6-foot-8, 255) Smith is a valuable piece for head coach Tim Miles, as he’s capable of helping Nebraska deal with some of the more physical interior players in the Big Ten.

The question for Nebraska to answer this summer is who steps up in Smith’s absence, with Nebraska needing some added interior depth to go along with returnee Walter Pitchford and graduate transfer Moses Ayegba. One option is 6-foot-10 freshman Jake Hammond, and according to Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln Journal Star Smith’s injury could potentially change things for the newcomer.

So not only does Smith’s injury mean Hammond has, on the court, lost the teammate who’s helped him most, it also could change the true freshman’s plans entirely.

“Yeah, I might not be able to redshirt this year,” said Hammond, listed at 6-foot-10 and 227 pounds. “It is something I was probably going to do. But now that he’s hurt, I don’t know. That’s up in the air still.”

It’s noted in the story that redshirting was considered an option due to Hammond’s need to become stronger, and during Nebraska’s summer program he’s gained seven pounds. The freshman year can be a tough one for college players, especially when it comes to holding one’s own in a league like the Big Ten.

But due in large part to Smith’s knee injury, these remaining months before the start of practice have become far more important for Jake Hammond than he may have anticipated.