Iowa basketball's Jack Nunge out for remainder of season with knee injury

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central
Jack Nunge left Thursday's game at Michigan with 11:49 remaining in the first half. Here, he is helped off the Crisler Center court by trainer Brad Floy, left, and coach Fran McCaffery.

The news delivered Friday was what Jack Nunge and the Iowa basketball team had feared.

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan conducted Friday in Iowa City revealed that the fourth-year sophomore has a torn meniscus in his right knee, an injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season. For the second straight offseason, Nunge will face a long recovery process.

The heartbreaking development for Nunge adds to his difficult-to-imagine year. After spending eight months recovering from ACL surgery in the same knee, Nunge’s father unexpectedly passed away just days before the Hawkeyes’ 2020-21 season. And now, he’s dealing with even more pain than anyone should have to go through.

“That kid’s been through hell. He’s one of my best friends,” Iowa teammate Jordan Bohannon said following Thursday night’s 79-57 loss at Michigan, fearing the worst for Nunge. “I can’t (imagine) what he’s going through mentally. I’ll just try to be there for him and try to keep him positive.”

Jack Nunge, left, and coach Fran McCaffery are shown in the moments after Nunge's right-knee injury suffered Thursday.

Nunge played just 77 seconds of Thursday’s game before crumpling to the Crisler Center court. The non-contact injury, while posting up for offensive position in the free-throw lane, left him on crutches afterward.

Nunge has been an invaluable player for the Hawkeyes this season. In 22 games off the bench, he averaged 7.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per outing. Those are highly productive statistics, considering he averaged just 15.9 minutes a game while serving as the top backup to all-American center Luka Garza and also as a tandem piece with Garza when coach Fran McCaffery needs extra length on the floor.

The 6-foot-11 forward recently had the best game of his Hawkeye career — 18 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in an 88-58 shellacking of Michigan State in East Lansing.

Now, he’ll be facing his second rehab on his right knee in less than a year. He tore his right ACL in a game on Nov. 24, 2019. A university release said the expected recovery time is 4-6 months, which looks promising for Nunge to be available for the start of the 2021-22 season. He will have meniscus surgery next week.

“Jack has been through so much and we all feel terrible for him,” McCaffery said in a statement. “He was really playing well and making great strides this year before another unfortunate setback.

"Jack is beloved and respected by his teammates, and everyone in our program will support Jack during his recovery. We look forward to having him back on the court next season."

Iowa (17-7 overall, 11-6 Big Ten) next plays No. 5 Ohio State (18-6, 12-6) at 3 p.m. CT Sunday in Columbus.