Clemson's Purnell taking positive look at Booker’s injury

Oliver Purnell is a positive kind of guy.

Sure, one of his best post players is playing through a broken left hand.

The other is questionable with a sprained left ankle.

As far as Clemson’s men’s basketball coach is concerned, it could be worse.

That’s Purnell’s stance a day after watching sophomore center Trevor Booker suffer a sprained left ankle in the Tigers’ 75-72 loss at Miami. X-rays taken Monday were negative, and he is questionable for Saturday’s 8 p.m. home game with Boston College.

“It happens sometimes. You have injuries, that kind of thing,” Purnell said. “I think of the glass as half-full. Those injuries could be more serious and we could have lost them for more time. There’s a chance we’ll get Trevor back for Boston College if not for the next game. James (Mays) missed five, six games (with a sprained hip) and now he’s playing with a fractured hand.”

Without Booker, Clemson (15-5, 3-3 ACC) loses its top low-post presence. His 12 points per game rank second on the roster, and his 8.2 rebounds per game are the Tigers’ best (third-best in the ACC). His 2.1 blocks per game also rank third in the ACC.

“It’ll be the trainers and the doctor and we’ll take a course of rehab,” Purnell said. “His rehab has already started, with icing it down and all the things they do to follow the advice by the trainer.

“I don’t know of what, if anything he can do. Jogging and running and all that stuff is out. He’ll be off the court a couple days if not more, calming down the sprain and going from there.”

Clemson’s lack of a mid-week game will help, but if Booker can’t play Saturday, junior Raymond Sykes will likely replace him in the starting lineup. Sykes stands 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, while Booker is 6-7, 240 pounds. He started six games while Mays recovered from his sprained hip in December, averaging nine points and 3.3 rebounds per game.

He averages 5.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and just over a block per game this season. He had eight points and a rebound in 23 minutes of relief duty Sunday. However, Miami outrebounded Clemson 53-37, and Purnell said Sykes must carry his weight on the boards.

“Raymond has got to do a better job rebounding for us,” he said. “When James Mays was out he did a great job stepping up, rebounding and scoring and a nice job on defense and in terms of a shot blocking presence. He would need to give that to us once again.

“If Booker is out or Booker is in, he’ll need to give us that. What percentage he’ll be back at full strength, that sort of thing, we won’t know until game-time Saturday.”

Mays has adjusted well to playing with a splinted left hand; he had 14 points and five rebounds Sunday. He broke the hand before facing North Carolina on Jan. 6, and Purnell said he expects 4-6 weeks will pass before the injury is healed. He said Mays will wear the splint “for the foreseeable future.”

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