IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa junior guard Matt Gatens has been the one player the Hawkeyes could count on throughout all the turmoil that's engulfed the program over the past two seasons.
Now, they'll have to start their first year under coach Fran McCaffery without him. McCaffery said Wednesday that Gatens is out indefinitely with a torn tendon in his left hand.
Gatens, the team's leading scorer last season at 12.3 points per game, injured his non-shooting hand during practice Tuesday. Gatens will have surgery Thursday, according to McCaffery, and is expected to make a full recovery.
Gatens was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick in 2009-10, leading the Hawkeyes in free-throw and 3-point shooting percentage and ranking second in steals and assists.
Iowa spokesman Matt Weitzel said McCaffery is traveling to the Big Ten's annual media day in Chicago and won't be available for further comment until Thursday.
Weitzel says it's not clear when Gatens will return, but it's not expected to be a season-ending injury.
Gatens' absence, however long it might be, will stretch a roster that's already thin.
The 6-foot-5 Gatens shuffled between every position but center in his first two years. But the Iowa City native dropped close to 20 pounds in the offseason as McCaffery plans to use him strictly as a shooting guard in his up-tempo attack.
Gatens' injury also opens the door for freshman guard/forward Devyn Marble, the son of Iowa great Roy Marble, to get more opportunities in nonconference play. The Hawkeyes could also lean more heavily on sophomore swingman Eric May, perhaps the most athletic player McCaffery has at his disposal.
Iowa finished 10-22 last season and 4-14 in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes have been slated for the Big Ten basement yet again -- and losing Gatens for an extended period will certainly lower those expectations further.