Cal Poly

U’u out 4 to 6 weeks with broken hand

There is supposed to be an apostrophe on the back of Drake U’u’s jersey.

Just like teammate Chris O’Brien, who also transferred to the Cal Poly men’s basketball team from a Division I program prior to last season, the sophomore guard features the punctuation mark in his last name.

Unlike O’Brien, U’u (pronounced You-you) somehow didn’t get it when the shirts went off to the screen printer.

“I was thinking about getting a Sharpie even and just putting the apostrophe myself,” U’u said at Mustangs practice on Thursday. “Technically, it’s supposed to be there. I think I may have to manually do that.

“People are always asking me, ‘Do you care?’ And now, I like the apostrophe. Aside from getting this healthy, that’s my next priority.”

“This” is U’u’s injured non-shooting left hand, which is now wrapped in a hard cast, and it’s giving him 4-to-6 weeks to address the apostrophe situation before he can get back on the court.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound former Hartford transfer broke his third metacarpal fighting for a rebound toward the end of the first half in Saturday’s 72-61 loss at UCLA and missed Monday’s 51-45 loss at No. 11 San Diego State.

Battling 6-8 Bruins sophomore forward Reeves Nelson, U’u had his hand wrenched away and immediately felt a pop. He played a few more possessions dribbling almost exclusively with his right hand before realizing how swollen his left had become.

Though the injury isn’t expected to end U’u’s season, Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero isn’t expecting him back until the second half of Big West Conference play.

The Mustangs (3-6) visit Cal (5-4) on Saturday and Pepperdine (4-8) on Tuesday before opening their Big West schedule at home against Long Beach State (5-6) in the second half of a doubleheader with the women’s team Dec. 30.

U’u’s is the fourth injury/illness to hit Cal Poly this season, and there is a fifth.

The Mustangs lost projected starters Amaurys Fermin and Kyle Odister to season-ending injuries in training camp, and 6-10 redshirt freshman forward Ben Eisenhardt has been out with an infection all year.

Eisenhardt took part in a full practice for the first time Thursday, but his arrival was accompanied by the loss of 6-10 redshirt freshman center Ryan Pembleton, who came down with strep throat and could miss this week’s games.

Pembleton will travel to Berkeley, but Callero said the big man is under quarantine and might not join the team unless he is cleared to play.

The Aztecs’ close call against Cal Poly came with the asterisk that they were missing two ill starters, including their leading scorer, and it made the near-upset of a top-15 team by an unranked mid-major easier to write off.

It was a notion that Callero bristled at, knowing that his team has had to deal with its own share of tough losses.

“The game is who you have on the floor,” Callero said. “As coaches, you have to say whatever. They’re missing some guys, but so are we. We played pretty well. Don’t discredit our effort and execution with the fact that they’re missing two guys. We’re missing a few as well. Where we have been able to progress is through the fact that we don’t dwell on it.”

Averaging 2.5 points and 1.4 rebounds per game, U’u was playing 15.5 minutes per game, more than any other Cal Poly bench player, and was beginning to be used as a point forward.

With true freshman Maliik Love established as the starting point guard, U’u was becoming Callero’s favored option to bring the ball up when Love was resting to give the Mustangs a bigger body defensively.

Since U’u’s injury, true freshman Jamal Johnson has retaken the minutes at the backup point guard spot, and Callero expects true freshman Ben Kelly to pick up U’u’s minutes on the wing.

This is the third injury in as many collegiate seasons for U’u. His freshman year at Hartford was marred by a foot injury, and he was unable to practice for much of his transfer season at Cal Poly because of a sports hernia.

“In the scheme of things, I’m just fortunate it’s not my shooting hand or my ankle or a knee,” U’u said. “Right now, they think it’s going to be in a cast for four weeks and then should be good to go. It’s not season ending.

“It’s one of those things where you just have to keep pushing through and, honestly, it only makes me more hungry to come back.”