LARAMIE -- "If."

That can be a scary word, especially when it's used in the context of Graham Ike's return to the basketball court.

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It's a word Jeff Linder has often used when talking about Wyoming's 6-foot-9, 255-pound forward, who was dubbed the Preseason Mountain West Player of the Year. A lower-leg injury sidelined the Colorado product just days before the season opener. Initial figures had Ike missing the first 6-to-8 weeks of the 2022 campaign.

It's been 40 days since that news broke.

 

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"I mean, it's 'if,'" the Cowboys' third-year head coach said Wednesday. "I can't but speculate. I hope, but there's a possibility he might. I know he wants to get back and play, but there's things out of his control, my control, that we can't control."

Ike averaged 19.5 points per game last season and helped lead Wyoming to a First Four appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The junior also pulled down 9.6 rebounds per outing and was named a First-Team All-Mountain West selection.

The Cowboys are 5-5 overall this season without Ike, but have won two straight with games against Dayton and Saint Mary's remaining on the non-conference slate. Linder and Co. have used Hunter Thompson on the block. Seven-footer Nate Barnhart has played. Even true freshman Caden Powell has attempted to fill in for Ike.

Linder joked Wednesday that he compiled this competitive non-league schedule with the hopes of having Ike roaming the paint, especially Saturday's tilt with Dayton inside Chicago's United Center.

There, 6-foot-10, 255-pound Daron Holmes II awaits the Cowboys. The sophomore averages 16.6 points and nearly eight rebounds a night. He is coming off a season-best 27-point, 12-rebound performance against UNC-Asheville. Holmes has finished in double figures nine times in 11 outings for the 6-5 Flyers.

"We'll know more about it sooner than later, but in the meantime, just like with any of these deals with injuries, I mean, you just got to keep moving forward," Linder added. "You have the team that you have in front of you, and then you have to do the best you can with the group in front of you.

"But, hopefully at some point we'll get good news. Hopefully he'll be back on the floor sooner than later."

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