Cal center Kameron Rooks, the seven-foot junior who has been an integral part of the Bears rotation, will be unavailable for more than a month after injuring undergoing knee surgery Wednesday.
The Bears survived their first two games without him, defeating Southeastern Louisiana Sunday and Louisiana Tech in overtime Wednesday night. But it could get tougher as the Bears' front line is thin.
Rooks, who was injured late in Friday night's game against Wyoming, was on the bench Sunday. Friday he was not in the building, recovering from his arthroscopic operation.
"He's feeling good," forward Ivan Rabb said after the 68-59 victory Wednesday night.
The Bear who will be most affected by Rooks' absence is fellow center Kingsley Okoroh, who was on the floor for 40 for the 45 minutes. Forward Ivan Rabb is the only big man left in the Bears' rotation, and he picked up his third foul with 13:43 left in the second period, and his fourth six minutes later.
"I'm tired," the native of Derby England said. Before Wednesday night the most minutes he logged in a game this season was 24. "I was surprised how much I played. But now when Ivan's not in the game, we don't have other bigs so we just have to do our best to step up and reach our goal."
His endurance will be tested; he knows he will have to work to stay on the floor. "My role hasn't really changed that much, but I have to be conscious about my fouls," he said. "When I go up to block a shot, that is like a high risk of fouling. I will just have to go straight up and let it go or take a charge."
Coach Cuonzo Martin said that Rooks' absence will not only be felt during games, but between them. "It's tough, you go from the summertime into the fall, you practice like you have a good team. Kameron was part of our team. He does a great job at practice. So he's not practicing now … Now we make adjustments. We spend a lot of time on our offense, with high low action, but now some of that is gone. You still want fresh legs. We had Kam and King together. But now instead of two hours it's down to one fifteen. So you just hope they maintain the things you taught ‘em. That's a hard thing to do when you lack bodies."
Another option is redshirt freshman Roman Davis, but he played just two minutes Wednesday night.
Rooks is developing a reputation for fragility. As a freshman in 2013-2014 he played 26 of the Bears' first 28 games before missing the rest of the season with an injury to his left foot.
Before he could even get started the following year he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the same left knee that is now hurt and missed the entire season. Last year he seemed to blossom, playing 17.2 minutes a game and averaging 4.9 rebounds and 3.6 points.
He started two of the first four games this season and his numbers were up slightly, 6.8 rebounds and 6.5 points.
"I said before the season that Kam and Kingsley were the most improved players on our team," Martin said.
The initial prognosis is Rooks will be out "four to six weeks". In that event, the best scenario would have him back for the Pac-12 opener against Arizona on Dec. 30. If it is the full six weeks, he would miss at least the first four conference games and return in time for the Jan. 12 and 14 home stand against the Washington schools.
Okoroh said he received an encouraging text message from Rooks before the game. "He said for us to carry on," Okoroh said.
Martin has also been in touch with his injured player. "He's mad," the coach said. "He wants to be on the floor."