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Nkamhoua out for the season with an ankle injury

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sigh

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Vols’ junior forward Olivier Nkamhoua needs surgery on his ankle and is out for the rest of the season, according to Tom Satkowiak, Tennessee’s Associate Athletics Director for Communications (via 247’s Grant Ramey).

I mentioned in the South Carolina game recap that Nkamhoua’s facial expressions immediately after the injury concerned me, as it appeared like, basically, he was surprised his leg wasn’t working right.

Sean Rayford, AP

Here’s the full play — it’s never good when a player jumps and lands on another player’s feet.

It’s hard to really overstate how unfortunate this is for the Vols. Tennessee’s had trouble finding consistent play in the post all season, even with its full complement of options prior to Olivier’s injury.

Nkamhoua hadn’t quite entrenched himself as a reliable option to score in back-to-the-basket opportunities, but recently it looked like maybe the light had come on. He had 15 points in 27 minutes against Texas A&M and scored seven in the first half against South Carolina before the injury; in each game we saw at least one close-range turn-around jumper go in from near or around the paint.

It’s defensively, though, where the Vols are gonna miss Nkamhoua’s presence the most. He’d slid in to the Yves-Pons sized hole as Tennessee’s rim protector — he had two blocks against USC and three against A&M — and though Josiah-Jordan James is right there tied with Nkamhoua for the team’s leading shot-blocker on a per-game basis, James isn’t tall enough to be a shot-blocking threat near the hoop.

Overall, Nkamhoua is one of two players (Santiago Vescovi) to start every game so far this year. He’s third on the team in points, second in rebounding, first in blocks and has the highest 3-point percentage of any player with enough attempts to qualify.